As frustrating as Buchholz can be, he’s likely the best choice out of this uninspiring crop of pitchers to end up with the fifth starter spot.
His spot in the rotation was already taken away from him once, after Buchholz posted a brutal 6.35 ERA through 10 starts. His ineffectiveness got him banished to the bullpen, where a sulking Buchholz hasn’t performed any better.
Buchholz actually earned the win in his first relief appearance of the season when he pitched a scoreless 10th inning against the Toronto Blue Jays. It was almost ironic that he earned a win out the bullpen after winning only 2 games all season as a starter. Any ideas that this new role may agree with him were quickly wiped out, as three days later Buchholz was knocked around for 4 runs (3 earned) in 3.1 innings against the Baltimore Orioles.
If the experiment of turning Buchholz into a long reliever doesn’t pan out, the Red Sox don’t have a lot of options left beyond designating him for assignment. One of the primary reasons why that hasn’t happened already is that the team knows they may need to turn back to Buchholz to fill a void in the rotation at some point. That point may be coming sooner than we had hoped.
At least with Buchholz we know he’s capable of pitching at this level. It certainly hasn’t happened this season, but we’ve seen it before. His stuff can be as dominant as almost anyone’s, but with him it’s all mental. When he’s focused, he can still help this team.
Did the demotion to the bullpen shatter his fragile ego beyond repair, or was it the motivation he needed to straighten himself out? The Red Sox are hoping it’s the latter.
Ideally the front office will explore the trade market to find a proven starter that can pair with David Price at the top of the rotation, rather than sorting through a pile of garbage to find the piece that stinks the least. There are bound to be some enticing options available that the Red Sox should target, but the team is intent on filling the back end of the rotation internally first, buying them more time to explore the market heading toward the trade deadline.
Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski doesn’t want to rush into making a deal out of desperation, so in the meantime they have to try to make due with the options they have already in their system. Hopefully the challenge issued by Farrell sets off a spark that ignites one of these pitchers, pushing someone to break free from the group to grab this opportunity.
Otherwise, it’s looking like Buchholz will be back in the rotation by default.
Chances at being No. 5: Better than they should be