Buchholz willing to go elsewhere to pitch in the big leagues

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This entry was posted on 6/15/2009 12:46 AM and is filed under uncategorized.

The Red Sox are enjoying a deserved Monday off-day after a quick weekend series against the Philadelphia Phillies, and it’s expected that Sox manager Terry Francona will roll out Boston’s full starting rotation plan on Tuesday afternoon. There are a number of questions given Boston's surplus of arms and the season-long struggles of Daisuke Matsuzaka since the 2009 season whistle was blown back in April.

Will the Sox brass ask a future 42-year-old Hall of Famer in John Smoltz to pitch one more game for Triple-A Pawtucket -- even though he threw six innings in his last minor league rehab and clearly believes that he’s ready for the big leagues – to buy themselves some time?

Is Brad Penny on the trading block – and potentially at his high water mark in terms of trade value -- after putting together a 3-2 record and a 4.10 ERA in eight strong starts during the months of May and June?

Daisuke Matsuzaka has been awful all season long after missing spring training while training and participating at the World Baseball Classic, and has been knocked around to the tune of a .372 batting average against. The calls have been for the 28-year-old Japanese hurler to retreat to the bullpen or build himself back up again after a false start coming off the 15-day disabled list in late May – but that doesn’t seem likely to happen.

Despite the lack of results that Matsuzaka has enjoyed in 24 2/3 innings since coming off the DL (1-3, 6.20 ERA), he still had the talent to be an 18-game winner with a sub-3.00 ERA last season and will eventually get better this season – provided his right arm is sound -- if patience prevails.

Tim Wakefield is 8-3 with a 4.50 ERA and has been his typically streaky-yet-consistent self through his first 12 starts of the 2009 season, and even volunteered to come out of the bullpen over the last few games when Boston’s bullpen was depleted. Wakefield has been playing with a partial tear in his right shoulder for the last five seasons, but has managed the issue with shoulder strengthening exercises and a period of rest through the season.

Jon Lester and Josh Beckett have been carrying the starting rotation for the last month, and will be disrupted as minimally as possible over the next few weeks as the Sox try to shoehorn six pitchers into a five-man rotation.

That covers everybody, right?

Well, not quite.

There’s also the forgotten arm down in Pawtucket that belongs to 24-year-old Clay Buchholz. The Sox prospect crashed and burned at the big league level last season, but has been aces at Triple-A this season to the tune of a 4-0 record and a 1.75 ERA in 11 games for Pawtucket, and has held minor league hitters to a .167 batting average in 67 innings of work.

The promotion of Smoltz from Pawtucket to Boston opens up a can of worms with Buchholz, who is aching for another shot with the Sox and beginning to talk about other place “where I’ll be able play and pitch every fifth day”. Buchholz mentioned in an excellent interview with NECN’s Mike Giardi that he’s been speaking regularly with his agent over the last six weeks about the bottleneck that seems to have developed in Boston – and the fact that he’s not getting his shot. Once Smoltz enters the rotation, it will mark the second time this season that the young righty has been passed over in an opportunity that went to somebody else.

First Justin Masterson slid into the rotation when Daisuke Matsuzaka landed on the DL just weeks into the season with a strained right shoulder, and now Sox officials are reconfiguring their rotation to wedge Smoltz into a starting staff that's been fairly solid for Boston over the last six weeks.

Buchholz is in a tough spot because the Sox basically own him for the foreseeable future and don’t have to do anything unless injuries decimate them at the major league level – or they’re bowled over by a trade proposal for a team desperate to land themselves the Texas slinger with the golden right arm.

The string-bean righty was coveted by the Texas Rangers during the winter and was the main target of Club President Nolan Ryan when trade talks kicked up around catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, but the Sox interest in a young catcher has waned with Jason Varitek rebounding offensively in 2009. The Sox have made it clear they won't be dealing Buchholz unless it's a "game changing player" type deal for them.

But their prized pitching prospect doesn’t sound all that happy with what’s going on in Boston right now. Here are a few highlights from an excellent interview with Giardi that also has Buchholz talking about some “mistakes” he made along the way related to his behavior in his first go-round in Boston. Buchholz saw his stock rise to astronomical heights after he threw a no-hitter in 2007 on Sept. 1 against the Baltimore Orioles, and every step wasn’t perfect for the youngster along the way through first few moments. 

Do you feel like you’ve done all you can do and you should be headed to Boston?
I was sort of in the same position last year. Not as much or as good as I’m doing right now. But all the way up through the system in the minor leagues there wasn’t that big of a hill that I had to climb. I’m not saying or trying to say that I’m better than anybody else, but it wasn’t until I got to the big league is whenever I faced as far as when problems arose. I feel like I’m more equipped with everything that I have right now as far as the pitches and the mental aspect and (being) physically healthy to be up there and help that team. If not (the Red Sox) then I want to be in the big leagues and I do want to go somewhere where I’ll be able to play and pitch every fifth day.

Is it frustrating at all mentally where you feel like you’re ready and you can succeed? CB: Yeah. I’ve had talks with my agent for the past month-and-a-half, two months and it’s been just basically the same thing. There’s nowhere to go and it’s sort of a logjam up there. They’re doing whatever they feel is right up there (in Boston) for the team to win. Whenever they come to a problem it seems like they come up with a way to fix it without me being in the picture. It is what it is. It’s frustrating at times, but I’m going out and every fifth day here trying to help this team win and trying to get better every time I go out.

Everybody knows that this game doesn’t last forever, especially for a pitcher. More position players have their long careers, and it could be any one pitch that you throw and then you blow out and your career is over or you have a year-and-a-half setback and it’s really hard to come back from something like that. I feel like I don’t want to waste bullets here (in Pawtucket) whenever I do feel ready to actually be there and help the team win. I feel like I’m ready to go and hopefully in the next month or so I’ll get that chance.


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