Boston clears way for Buchholz

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On the surface, Tim
Wakefield
was placed on the 15-day disabled list Tuesday because of a lower
back strain.

 

Another way to see
it is that Wakefield landed on the DL because of Clay Buchholz. Call it a case
of “Clay Buchholzitis,” an injury Wakefield may have been able to overcome were it not for a promising young right-hander waiting in the wings.

 

Whichever view you
prescribe to, what’s clear is this: Buchholz has nothing left to prove at
Triple-A Pawtucket, where he’s gone 7-2 with a 2.36 ERA and an 89/30 K/BB ratio
over 99 innings. The injury provided Boston the perfect opportunity to rest one aging knuckleballer and call upon an up-and-coming 24-year-old who’s done
everything to show he belongs in Beantown, including winning
season debut last Friday, in which he held Toronto to one run over 5 2/3
innings.

 

The move raises
Buchholz’s profile from should-grab to must-grab. Sure, there are no guarantees
he’ll stick in Boston’s crowded rotation. Wakefield is due back on Aug.
2, and the club also has Daisuke Matsuzaka getting back up to speed (remember him?). But a few
strong outings from Buchholz could make sending him back down to the farm all
but impossible. And if that means finding a taker for Brad Penny before the
July 31 Trade Deadline, or bringing back Wakefield and Dice-K at a super-slow-motion
pace, the Red Sox will do what’s necessary to keep the kid around, so long as
he’s holding his own.

 

And based on
everything we’ve seen this season, Buchholz is fully capable of doing just that, even after coming up short last year.


Ironically, the no-hitter Buchholz threw two
years ago probably hurt more than it helped his development. Expectations shot through
the roof, opposing teams took notice and the early success may have gone to his head.

 

No longer burdened
by unrealistic expectations, the Texas native could take the opportunity and
run with it. Who knows? Come August, it may be Wakefield and Matsuzaka who get shut out of Boston’s rotation, not Buccholz.

 

–Alex Cushing, MLB.com

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