Boston Red Sox: Clay Buchholz sent back to bullpen

Aug 23, 2016; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Clay Buchholz (11) throws a pitch during the first inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 23, 2016; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Clay Buchholz (11) throws a pitch during the first inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

Despite a 2.70 ERA over three spot starts, the Boston Red Sox sent Clay Buchholz back to bullpen

Throughout his career with the Boston Red Sox, Clay Buchholz has known both the heights and the depths of what it is to be a major leaguer.  He might be the only starter in major league history to pitch at least 70 innings in nine straight seasons and see his ERA fluctuate by at least a run from year to year during that stretch.  Buchholz has battled injuries throughout his career, never making 30 starts in a season.

Starting the season…

2016 will be a change for him if he can continue to avoid the disabled list this season for the first time since 2009.  2016 was more of the same inconsistent performance though, going from the depths of 6.35 ERA and a demotion to the bullpen by Memorial Day to the heights of his current hot streak, five earned runs over his last 23 innings.

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Had Buchholz pitched like he has of late to start the season he never would have put himself in the position of fighting for a starting spot.  It has only been the injuries of Eduardo Rodriguez and Steven Wright that have given him more chances.

His three starts in June were as ugly as the first ten, 14.2 innings and 10 earned runs, including five home runs, culminating in that horror show of July 2, a 21-2 drubbing by the Los Angeles Angels.  It could be argued that his defense let him down that game with a couple plays that should have been made, but he did allow two homers in that game.

Turning things around…

When Buchholz came back on July 23 to pitch a mop up inning against the Twins in a 13-2 victory at Fenway, fans who know how good he can be were rooting hard for him not to get hammered again.  He pitched a clean inning, but the next two appearances, he gave up four earned in three innings.

Another scoreless appearance followed, but what seemed to turn him around was three innings of no-hit relief on July 31, getting the win when Dustin Pedroia hit a game-winning home run with two outs in the ninth.  Three scoreless relief outings followed before his next swing through the rotation.

What Buchholz did in pitching well of late, was give Manager John Farrell a difficult decision.  Should Steven Wright return to the rotation after his shoulder injury or should Buchholz stay in the rotation?  Wright seemed to be running out of gas prior to landing on the disabled list, posting a 6.23 ERA in July.  Then, on August 3rd, he  threw a three hit shutout on the road against the Dodgers confounding all those who might have said hitters had  figured him out.

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If not for that last start, I think Buchholz might have stayed in the rotation when Wright returned from his shoulder injury,  considering how well Buchholz is pitching.  You don’t want to give a pitcher a break by an injury to his pitching shoulder but maybe the break will be good for Wright.  It gave him a chance to rest his body for the last handful of starts this season.  Wright has thrown 146.2 innings this year.  Wright’s career high is 148.2 set in 2013.  While at 32, fatigue is more of a concern than any arm injury.  Perhaps he will be energized for the playoff run after this three week break.

You also set a bad precedent with the players if someone loses their job just because they got hurt.  Considering what Wright has meant to this pitching staff this season, leading the league with four complete games, his ability to go deeper into games than Buchholz is a distinct advantage.

Should Buchholz have stayed in the rotation to continue his success?  He is pitching with a lot of confidence right now back in the rotation and the bullpen is still a new thing to him.  Some in the media floated the idea that maybe he would be an eighth inning option.

One-time Red Sox ace Curt Schilling who has often criticized Buchholz’ ability to be an ace, clearly doesn’t think it’s a good idea due to Buchholz lack of a dominant two pitch mix. Buchholz has the advantage of pennant race experience that Wright doesn’t, but the overall inconsistency in Buchholz’ career and even in this year, doesn’t make up for 23 stellar innings over the last month.

Next: Betts in Beast Mode for September

Farrell is always in the center of the hurricane of Red Sox Nation opinion. Did he make the right call putting Steven Wright back in the rotation? Let us hear your feedback.