Clay Buchholz needs to pitch again this season. Not necessarily for the team, but for himself.
Rob Bradford of WEEI.com reported yesterday that Buchholz “returned from visiting Dr. James Andrews earlier Wednesday with news that he could begin a throwing program. The visit was another precautionary check-up with Dr. Andrews, whose previous examination had convinced Buchholz to receive a PRP (platelet rich plasma) injection in his ailing right elbow.”
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Buchholz was 4-1 with a 2.40 ERA in his last seven games, before going on the disabled list after his last start against the New York Yankees on July 10th.
Buchholz said, “I wasn’€™t expecting to have a procedure done. But that being said, the protocol for PRP is 4-6 weeks. Start building back up. Look at the calendar, there’€™s not a whole lot of days left. I’€™d like it to be sooner rather than later. That’€™s part of a pitcher’€™s body that if you do something too quick, something else is going to take effect from it.”
Today is Buchholz’s birthday, and the 31-year-old starter will be a free agent in 2016, but has team options in his current contract for 2016 and 2017. The problem is that the buyout to next season is only $245 thousand, making it easy for the Red Sox to get him off of their books if they think that he can’t be as effective as he once was. The two-time All-Star had a bad season, last year, when he pitched to a 8-11 record with a 5.34 ERA.
The 2015 season was to be the year of redemption, and he was progressively getting better as the season wore on. It looked like the Red Sox were going to make a comeback in the American League East standings before the All-Star break. Once Buchholz went down, the pitching from much of the rest of the staff fell short and the bats went quiet, which has led them to their 50-64 record. They are 13 games back in the division, and well-short of the wild card lead as well.
Counting relievers, Buchholz is still the second best pitcher on the roster with a 3.26 ERA. The top spot belongs to injured closer Koji Uehara with a 2.23 ERA; however, Koji is gone for the season with a fractured wrist.
With a dismal season approaching the end, one would argue that Buchholz should just worry about healing and taking it easy, so that he’s rested for next season. Yet, who’s to say Buchholz will be around in Boston for spring training? The front office is playing musical chairs; nobody is going to know who has a job, outside of David Ortiz, next year. If general manager Ben Cherington is replaced, maybe nobody is safe. The new regime may want to clean house and bring in their own personnel, agendas, and strategies. With as much bad publicity as the Red Sox got this year about their starting rotation, does anyone think that any one pitcher is safe?
It’s not like it hasn’t happened before; look at last season, when the Red Sox got rid of Jon Lester, John Lackey, and Jake Peavy, Chris Capuano, Felix Doubront, and a host of other players. Buchholz was the only member of the rotation who stayed, and that may have been a gift considering how he played that year. Maybe it’s now his time.
Even if Buchholz knows that his time has come with the Red Sox, it’s still in his best interest in pitching before the season is over. As long as the elbow heals properly. He needs to show a host of teams, as well as the Red Sox, that he’s in good condition and worth the money. The Red Sox, themselves, are in a good position with his contract, because they could either not take up Buchholz’s option and save money for another big signing or they could keep him. They also, likely, would love if Buchholz could show his old form this year because they could feel settled on him helping them next season or take up his option to hold his rights and then trade him in the off-season for a team who wants to take a chance on him.
Either way, if Buchholz wants to be playing baseball next season, then he needs to have a good start in the books before 2015 ends. If not, his future would be very uncertain. It’s murky at best, right now.
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