Boston Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz is coming to terms with the fact that the Drew Pomeranz trade may bring his time with Red Sox Nation to a close.
By bringing Pomeranz to Boston for prospect Anderson Espinoza, Buchholz loses a spot in the starting rotation to prove his worth to the team. For many Red Sox fans, that worth has already been proven too many times already. After his 12-1 record in the 2013 World Series championship year, Buchholz has had three sub-par seasons, posting a combined record of 18-27.
Buchholz was pulled out of the starting rotation this season, after posting a record of 3-9, and put into the bullpen. His numbers are not completely brutal as a reliever, performing in 9.1 innings and allowing three earned runs on six hits, six walks, and seven strikeouts. His .182 opposing batting average is the second lowest in the pen, with Craig Kimbrel leading with a .178 average; the difference is that Kimbrel’s had 33 innings to do it, much more time than Buchholz.
While both Kimbrel and Carson Smith, another big-name reliever, were both brought into the club only to go out with injuries, one would have thought that Buchholz would have a chance to help by replacing them. He could do the seventh or eighth innings and then Boston’s manager John Farrell could bring in Koji Uehara to take back the closer role he once adorned. Makes sense, right?
Maybe, if it wasn’t for Boston’s president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski giving Farrell another option. A better one, in fact.
Brad Ziegler was recently acquired in a trade to eat up those innings, instead of Buchholz. Ziegler was the closer for the Arizona Diamondbacks, earning 18 saves in 20 opportunities and allowed 15 walks to 27 strikeouts in 38.1 innings of relief work. Who would Farrell really want to put into a close ballgame: a struggling starter or a proven closer?
It’s a rhetorical question, to say the least.
So much so, even Buchholz understands his situation. Ian Browne of MLB.com reported Buchholz saying, “If there’s somebody who’s not doing their job well, then they’re going to go find somebody who will and can. That’s the position I’ve put myself in and I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do. I think of myself as a starting pitcher, and that’s a crowded bunch right now.” Especially with Pomeranz now pushing Buchholz to sixth on the rotation’s depth chart.
Buchholz seemed reposed with the the lack of a definite role equating the strong possibility that his time with the Red Sox is over: “It is what it is. It’s part of the game. It’s not very often in this day and age a guy stays with the same team his whole career. If that’s their decision or their outlook on it, then that’s what it is. That’s part of the business.”
Scott Lauber of ESPN reported that “Farrell met with Buchholz on Friday and told him to be ready for anything, including the possibility that he could be reinserted into the rotation if lefty Eduardo Rodriguez falters again.” Judging by yesterday’s game against the New York Yankees, it will at least be another full rotation before Rodriguez can falter that badly, as he went into a hostile Yankee Stadium and held the opposition to a single run on four hits in seven innings.
A trade seems to be the only option that makes sense for the Red Sox. Lauber pointed out that “Buchholz can’t be sent to the minors without his consent. And the Red Sox likely would be hesitant to simply designate the 31-year-old right-hander for assignment out of fear that one of the many pitching-needy American League contenders might scoop him up.”
If Boston wants to control the last chapter in the Buchholz saga, a trade seems to be the right option. Now, the trick will be to prove to other teams needing a starting pitcher that Buchholz still has something left in the tank. Boston may still need to throw him out there to take up a few innings to give Buchholz the chance to prove that worth, whatever it may be. He’s only 31 years old, but much of Red Sox Nation has been speaking about Buchholz like he’s older than Koji with a busted limb. After his mighty climb up the pitching ladder in 2013, how must he feel knowing that the team has more faith in a 41-year-old relief pitcher, who throws a fastball that taps out at 87 mph, than him? Buchholz’s 92-mph fastball isn’t anything to praise if it doesn’t go where it’s needed, though.