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So who is Clay Buchholz, really?
Is he the guy who threw a no-hitter against the Orioles in his second Major League game, or is he the guy who went 2-9 with a staggering 6.75 ERA last season?
So far this year, Buchholz has looked more like the former, albeit against Triple A competition. With Buchholz slated to start his first game for the Sox in 2009, we will find out if his minor league success will translate to the Bigs.
On talent alone, he should be fine. Scouts confirm what we saw with our own eyes in that magical game on September 1, 2007. Buchholz has three “plus” pitches: a mid-90’s four-seam fastball, an overhand curve and a wicked straight change. So what’s the problem?
A few things about Clay Buchholz give me pause.
First off, there are lingering questions about his character. As most of us know, he was arrested for taking part in the theft of school laptops shortly before being drafted by the Red Sox in 2005. This action demonstrates a staggering lack of judgment. Think about it: he nearly derailed his professional career before it even began. In published interviews, Buchholz has professed that he learned a great deal from the “mistake.” I would certainly hope so.
Secondly, I am not sure about his “make up.” After his stunning success as a rookie in 2007, Buchholz was atrocious in 2008. He has admitted that pitching in the majors was “a lot harder than I thought it was.”
The Red Sox certainly agreed, and brought in veterans Brad Penny and John Smoltz to compete for what had been his spot in the starting rotation.
Beginning the 2009 season in Triple A seemed to work out well, as he has dominated the competition, and compiled a 7-2 record, 2.36 ERA, with a miniscule .188 batting average against. However, it should be noted that his last few outings have not been quite as impressive. Furthermore, in his biggest game of the year, a June 22 match up with Scott Kazmir (on a rehab assignment) in Durham, Buchholz lasted only 3 2/3 innings, and took the loss.
Clay Buchholz doesn’t have anything left to prove in the minor leagues. If he is going to be the top-notch pitcher that the Red Sox believe he can be, the first step is tonight. If he doesn’t pitch well, the questions about him will continue, and he will have plenty of time in Pawtucket to think about them.