It could easily have wound up just like 2011, when Clay Buchholz was supposedly day-to-day, then week-to-week, and finally out for the year with a stress fracture in his back. Again, Buchholz was dealt a seemingly minor injury on June 9 in a game against the Angels when he began to feel discomfort in his collar bone. Just like 2011, he was day-to-day for a little while and a series of MRI’s showed that there was no structural damage. However, he continued to feel discomfort despite the positive MRI results, raising questions about his durability.
A couple of weeks ago, he had progressed to the point where a rehab assignment was in order and after three starts (one in Lowell, two in Pawtucket), Buchholz is finally ready to return to the Red Sox. It was reported today that Buchholz would start the series opener in Tampa Bay in a series that just weeks ago seemed crucial.
Since then, the Red Sox have seemingly ran away with the AL East (they are now 8.5 games ahead of Tampa Bay), but a healthy Buchholz would be a huge boost down the stretch. It’s hard to remember after his months of injury, but Buchholz was the best pitcher in baseball over the first 2+ months of the year, posting a 9-0 record and a 1.71 ERA.
Even without Buchholz, the Red Sox rotation has been solid though. The addition of Jake Peavy has cemented what will be a strong playoff rotation in John Lackey (9-12, 3.48), Jake Peavy (11-5, 4.01), Jon Lester (13-8, 3.88), and Felix Doubront (10-6, 4.15), but a healthy Buchholz would add the one strength that rotation lacks: an ace.
The importance of an ace in overvalued nowadays; after all, teams with aces like the Mariners, Dodgers, and Tigers have not won the World Series in recent years while teams like the Cardinals and Phillies have without true aces. Still, there’s no doubt that it is a valuable commodity even if it is not of the utmost importance. If Buchholz can be half of what he was in the first half, he will add another proven arm to the already strong rotation.