A big decision about Clay Buchholz's role is coming up for the Red Sox. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

A big decision about Clay Buchholz’s role is coming up for the Red Sox. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Clay Buchholz has become one of the Red Sox’ most important pitchers. So why shouldn’t he be put in what has become this team’s most unsettled spot?

After the Red Sox’ 2-1 win over the Rays Tuesday night, John Farrell wasn’t tipping his hand. Would the guy who just rattled off a 6 2/3-inning, one-run gem stay in the starting rotation, or be pushed back to the bullpen due to the return of Steven Wright?

“As far as Clay goes, this will be more conversation within,” Farrell said. “But setting that aside, he’s throwing the ball exceptionally well right now.”

He sure is. A 1.96 ERA since July 27 backs that up. And so does his 2.70 ERA in the three starts Buchholz has turned in since filling in for Wright. Watch him over the past two outings, and it’s easy to envision the righty qualified to start a postseason game.

So it would only make sense to let Buchholz keep rolling along in the starting rotation, right? Wrong.

This isn’t about whether or not he could keep having success in the starting rotation. Considering Buchholz’s history, he would seem to be primed for one of those runs he has previously executed. The track record is that when the pitcher gets going like this, he is only derailed by one thing — injuries.

The priority here is finding a lock-down eighth inning guy, and Buchholz is the best candidate for that position.

“Yeah,” said Buchholz when asked if he would embrace such a challenge. “I like competition. I like being in spots where everybody is betting against you.”

The Red Sox have very viable candidates to keep the starting rotation’s recent success trending in the right direction. When healthy, Eduardo Rodriguez and Wright have proven enough to have faith they can be leaned on.

The eighth inning? That’s another story.

Brad Ziegler needs to be put in more specific situations, and not just sent out every eighth to get three outs. Take a look at the swing lefty hitter Kevin Kiermaier put on the reliever’s one-out offering, that resulted in an absolute rocket down the right field line. He can pitch to lefties, but getting ground balls and prioritizing dominating tough righty hitters should be the priority.

There has been some rumblings about choosing to use former reliever Drew Pomeranz to high-leverage land. But considering the lefty is on a pretty good run, himself, and, unlike Buchholz, hasn’t pitched out of the bullpen this season, that seems like an unnecessary move.

Buchholz actually seemed to start thriving in his relief role, which was his existence just a few weeks ago. And when it comes to those all-important eighth-inning outs, there is something to be said for stuff, and Tuesday night’s repertoire (which included a 95 mph moving fastball) spoke volumes.

“It’s different than I thought it was going to be the first time I got sent to the bullpen,” he said. “I still think of it as a demotion, because obviously it is. But you still have to have your wits about you out there because you’re coming into scenarios inside of a game that are going to be big scenarios, important scenarios. I think it was a really good thing to see that from both sides. Having to make pitches on a moment’s notice. It has been good.”

Maybe the Red Sox prioritize drawing back on Pomeranz’s innings and his ability to get out lefties. Or perhaps they take their time with Rodriguez and give Buchholz another start to delay the decision.

But it just seems like, as we sit here, Buchholz is one of the Red Sox’ most effective pitchers. And that being the case, it sure would seem like a good idea to use someone like that in a place like the eighth inning.

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Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

A big decision about Clay Buchholz's role is coming up for the Red Sox. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

A big decision about Clay Buchholz’s role is coming up for the Red Sox. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Clay Buchholz has become one of the Red Sox’ most important pitchers. So why shouldn’t he be put in what has become this team’s most unsettled spot?

After the Red Sox’ 2-1 win over the Rays Tuesday night, John Farrell wasn’t tipping his hand. Would the guy who just rattled off a 6 2/3-inning, one-run gem stay in the starting rotation, or be pushed back to the bullpen due to the return of Steven Wright?

“As far as Clay goes, this will be more conversation within,” Farrell said. “But setting that aside, he’s throwing the ball exceptionally well right now.”

He sure is. A 1.96 ERA since July 27 backs that up. And so does his 2.70 ERA in the three starts Buchholz has turned in since filling in for Wright. Watch him over the past two outings, and it’s easy to envision the righty qualified to start a postseason game.

So it would only make sense to let Buchholz keep rolling along in the starting rotation, right? Wrong.

This isn’t about whether or not he could keep having success in the starting rotation. Considering Buchholz’s history, he would seem to be primed for one of those runs he has previously executed. The track record is that when the pitcher gets going like this, he is only derailed by one thing — injuries.

The priority here is finding a lock-down eighth inning guy, and Buchholz is the best candidate for that position.

“Yeah,” said Buchholz when asked if he would embrace such a challenge. “I like competition. I like being in spots where everybody is betting against you.”

The Red Sox have very viable candidates to keep the starting rotation’s recent success trending in the right direction. When healthy, Eduardo Rodriguez and Wright have proven enough to have faith they can be leaned on.

The eighth inning? That’s another story.

Brad Ziegler needs to be put in more specific situations, and not just sent out every eighth to get three outs. Take a look at the swing lefty hitter Kevin Kiermaier put on the reliever’s one-out offering, that resulted in an absolute rocket down the right field line. He can pitch to lefties, but getting ground balls and prioritizing dominating tough righty hitters should be the priority.

There has been some rumblings about choosing to use former reliever Drew Pomeranz to high-leverage land. But considering the lefty is on a pretty good run, himself, and, unlike Buchholz, hasn’t pitched out of the bullpen this season, that seems like an unnecessary move.

Buchholz actually seemed to start thriving in his relief role, which was his existence just a few weeks ago. And when it comes to those all-important eighth-inning outs, there is something to be said for stuff, and Tuesday night’s repertoire (which included a 95 mph moving fastball) spoke volumes.

“It’s different than I thought it was going to be the first time I got sent to the bullpen,” he said. “I still think of it as a demotion, because obviously it is. But you still have to have your wits about you out there because you’re coming into scenarios inside of a game that are going to be big scenarios, important scenarios. I think it was a really good thing to see that from both sides. Having to make pitches on a moment’s notice. It has been good.”

Maybe the Red Sox prioritize drawing back on Pomeranz’s innings and his ability to get out lefties. Or perhaps they take their time with Rodriguez and give Buchholz another start to delay the decision.

But it just seems like, as we sit here, Buchholz is one of the Red Sox’ most effective pitchers. And that being the case, it sure would seem like a good idea to use someone like that in a place like the eighth inning.

Note: There is a poll embedded within this post, please visit the site to participate in this post's poll.
Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — It was a good moment for Clay Buchholz.

Clay Buchholz has been on quite a roll. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Clay Buchholz has been on quite a roll. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — It was a good moment for Clay Buchholz.

The Red Sox starter not only could revel in his 6 1/3-inning, one-run outing against the Rays Tuesday night, but he could do so while passing on the good news to his family, which was back home in Texas. (Buchholz’s daughter had just started kindergarten the day before.) And he was living this life while sitting at the familiar Tropicana Field visitors’ clubhouse’s locker, one which he had inhabited for the majority of his time visiting as a Red Sox.

Considering his success at the home of the Rays (3-0 with a 0.54 ERA in his last five Tropicana Field starts), the scene was a familiar one for Buchholz.

Yet, as he admitted after the Red Sox’ 2-1 win, it was a moment he didn’t think would be presenting itself by the time Aug. 23 game around. At least not in a Boston uniform.

“No. I don’t think so,” said Buchholz when asked if he thought he would be pitching in a Red Sox uniform by the time Aug. 23 came around. “I wasn’t really worried about it because I know what I can do on a baseball field. I’ve done it for a long time. Sometimes you struggle and the game forces you to make adjustments that you didn’t necessarily know you needed to make. There were a couple of adjustments I needed to make. The bullpen scenario, that actually helped me out with it. Just sort of dumb it down and not over-think things I was over-thinking at the time. Just try and have fun with it again rather it be a chore every time you step out there.”

But there was Buchholz, still wearing the gray and reds. For that, he could the approach taken by Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski heading into the non-waiver trade deadline.

“We just felt his stuff was good enough to pitch at the big league level and be successful,” Dombrowski said. “It’s hard to find good big league pitchers, and he has that type of stuff. We knew we needed protection in case we had an injury. We didn’t have anybody else to protect us. So that combination was important. He’s been successful at the big league level, and our guys here had seen him be successful. We just felt he could do it again.

“We weren’t really looking to move him. You listen on anybody, but we weren’t looking to move him.”

The move has paid off for both sides.

The way Buchholz has turned things around — boasting a 1.96 ERA since July 27 — he would have been perhaps the most valuable starting pitching acquisition leading up to Aug. 1. In comparison, Matt Moore is 0-3 with a 4.70 ERA in four starts with the Giants, while Andrew Cashner hasn’t been any better for the Marlins, boasting a 5.48 ERA in five appearances. And Rich Hill won’t have pitched for the Dodgers, due to a blister, until Wednesday.

While his future role is now uncertain with Steven Wright returning to the rotation Friday night, Buchholz is simply looking to keep his momentum going. With a $13.5 million team option looming, and the chance to serve in some high-leverage capacity for this first-place team, it would behoove all parties to keep riding the righty’s current wave of success.

“Starting is all I’ve ever done,” Buchholz said. “Yeah, I’ve struggled this year quite a bit, but I’m not going to quit trying to fix what was wrong with me. We’ve got a good staff of coaches, trainers and front office, they do their job well. I told them them whenever I got the opportunity again I would make the most of it. And here we are.”

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — One out. Eighth inning. Tying run at the plate. Red Sox outfielder saves the day with a spectacular play. Sound familiar?

Joe and Tim talk with Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts after the Red Sox beat the Tampa Bay Rays 2-1
Joe and Tim talk with Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts after the Red Sox beat the Tampa Bay Rays 2-1

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — One out. Eighth inning. Tying run at the plate. Red Sox outfielder saves the day with a spectacular play. Sound familiar?

One night after Andrew Benintendi’s catch robbed Steven Souza Jr. of a home run, and the Rays the chance to draw within a run in the eighth, it was Mookie Betts’ turn to make his mark.

With the Red Sox clinging to a one-run lead, reliever Brad Ziegler allowed Kevin Kiermaier to rip a line-drive down the first base line, into the right field corner. With Kiermaier, one of the game’s fastest players, racing around the bases, Betts calmly took the carom off the padding, scooped up the ball and fired it toward third baseman Travis Shaw.

“Wow. That was unbelievable. One of the best I’ve ever seen,” said Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz after this team’s 2-1 win Tuesday night at Tropicana Field. “And you might think it was probably a bad play, but if that throw wasn’t that perfect he would have been safe. I think he did that right thing. I didn’t know he was that fast. Wow, that kid can fly. But that throw was perfect. It was unbelievable.”

“Just kind of shock over there at third base how I got thrown out,” Kiermaier said. “I watched the video after the game, and saw he made an absolutely perfect throw. … I always want to put the pressure on defense, and it’s going to take a perfect throw to throw me out. In this moment, he made an absolutely perfect throw. I would not change anything. I’d do it again. I tip my hat to him.”

Betts, who could be found working on his throwing from right field prior to batting practice, made a conscious effort to improve his outfield arm while working with former Red Sox top prospect Michael Coleman and Betts’ high school coach Mike Morrison.

As Tuesday night showed, the 23-year-old has come a long way from only being challenged on throws from second to first when turning double plays as a second baseman (which happened to be just two years ago).

“It’s different just because in the infield, you don’t have to really get on top of the ball and create as much backspin whereas in the outfield, you do,” Betts said. “I talked a lot with Jackie [Bradley] and he helped me a lot these last couple years with that, with the long toss we do in spring training where we start the day off with it.”

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Wondering why the Red Sox have won 10 of their last 12, while going 7-2 on the current road trip? Clay Buchholz offered a pretty powerful explanation Tuesday night.

Clay Buchholz turned in a gem against the Rays Tuesday night. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Clay Buchholz turned in a gem against the Rays Tuesday night. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Wondering why the Red Sox have won 10 of their last 12, while going 7-2 on the current road trip? Clay Buchholz offered a pretty powerful explanation Tuesday night.

The fill-in starter kept his good times going, this time holding the Rays to just a run over 6 1/3 innings in leading the Red Sox to a 2-1 win at Tropicana Field. Since July 27, Buchholz has totaled a 1.96 ERA, this time managing nine strikeouts along the way.

But this isn’t anything out of the norm for this team while plowing through four cities in the last nine days. The Red Sox starters have now managed a 2.45 ERA on the current trip, and that’s win Henry Owens’ eight-run misstep Sunday. In fact, just two times on the swing have Sox starters not given up one run or less.

As for Buchholz, he has officially become one of the Red Sox’ most important pitchers. In his three starts filling in for the injured Steven Wright, the righty has managed a 2.70 ERA in his three starts.

This time, the Sox starter finished with 94 pithes, the most he’s thrown since June 26.

The Red Sox bullpen managed to hold on for the win, with Robbie Ross Jr. getting the last two outs in the seventh after Red Sox manager John Farrell left Buchholz in to strikeout Steven Souza Jr. to begin the seventh.

Brad Ziegler was saved a bit in the eighth inning when Mookie Betts made one of the throws of the season, gunning down Kevin Kiermaier trying to stretch his line-drive into the right field corner into a triple with one out.

Craig Kimbrel notched his 23rd save, allowing just one baserunner via a hit batsman.

Offensively, the Red Sox did just enough, scoring a pair of runs in the third inning on David Ortiz’s RBI single, scoring Andrew Benintendi, and Betts’ single. The hit by Betts allowed for Ortiz to score when a throw to third sailed into the Red Sox’ dugout.

Tampa Bay starter Chris Archer, who was coming off 7 1/3 shutout innings, only surrendered the two runs, but was forced to exit after throwing 109 pitches through five innings.

For a complete box score, click here.

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford