Last March, Clay Buchholz had to search for that extra gear just to reach 91 mph on his fastball. Now?
Let’s just say it’s a new year.
Making his final start of the spring on Wednesday against the Twins, Buchholz hurled four shutout innings, allowing six hits and a walk. He struck out four, lowered his Grapefruit League ERA to 2.84, and marveled at how much better he feels now, with a fastball routinely touching 94 mph, than at this time last year.
“It’s night and day for me,” Buchholz told reporters in Fort Myers. “I was talking to John (Farrell) after I came out. Right now, whenever I feel like I need to reach back and get a little extra, it’s not in a max-effort level where I’m not staying within the delivery. That just goes to the work that I put in with the delivery this offseason and early this camp, all the bullpens and stuff. I can reach out if I’m under control. Whenever I feel like I spin off or something, I feel it and I feel like I make the adjustment better than I did a year ago.”
With that, Buchholz declared himself good to go on Monday in Philadelphia, where he’ll make the first Opening Day start of his career opposite Cole Hamels.
“I feel confident that I give the team a good chance to win when I go out there,” Buchholz said. “That’s all anybody can ask for in a starting pitcher. If you don’t have your stuff that day, find a way to get through six or seven innings and hand it over to the bullpen.”
It helps knowing the fastball will be there when needed. Buchholz estimates he didn’t reach 93-94 mph last year, “until probably after the All-Star break.”
But on Wednesday against the Twins, he believed the hardest hit ball he allowed came on a double-play grounder vs. Torii Hunter.
“I felt like the movement on each pitch was more defined today,” Buchholz said. “All the mis-hits they hit were basically sinker/cutters. Changeup. There was not a whole lot of hard contact. That’s sort of what you want when you’re out there, is contact. I think the hardest contact was Torii’s double play ball. Overall, I felt really good with everything.”
For more on Buchholz and his transformation from wide-eyed minor leaguer to Opening Day starter, check out Rob Bradford’s profile.