Saturday, February 4, 2012

On Clay Buchholz

Clay Buchholz's back--it was at least as much a part of last season's collapse as beer, Popeye's, and apathy. But  the only talk about the starting rotation these days has been the status of Roy Oswalt and a slew of not so spry arms from the lost and found bin.

After a stress fracture which kept him out for most of the second half of last year, the status of the expected number two starter has flown under the radar this offseason. I don't think I need to mention why.

After throwing bullpen sessions in Fort Myers following the season and seeing a specialist over the winter, there has been...silence.

Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald reports that "Buchholz is healthy, but after all the time he missed last year, he’s hardly a lock to pitch 200 innings. (Asked about Beckett and Buchholz, Cherington said, 'They’ve both had really good off-seasons, and we don’t expect any issues with either of them going into camp. They’re both motivated to have a good year.')"

While that's seemingly positive--a healthy Buchholz is a happy fanbase--this is not entirely good news. Boston  needs him find his guts and toss up something close to 200 innings. An expectation which is ridiculous and unrealistic I realize. 

The 26-year old has been within shouting distance of that mark just once, throwing 173.2 innings in 2010. That's it. He hasn't topped 100 frames in any other season. So to be reasonable, barring any major injury, we might be looking at a 150 inning season at best from the number two starter. Yikes.

Where are all of these innings going to come from? Alfredo Aceves?

We've all seen the results of taking a flier on a talented retreads, a strategy the budget-conscious Cherington is employing this offseason. Bret Saberhagen, Ramon Martinez, and Steve Avery are a few that come to mind. But while they might show flashes of past brilliance, those cases rarely work in the long term. So hopes are not high in that area. Sorry Carlos Silva and Rich Harden.

In addition Daniel Bard is not going to last a month in the rotation, a case which I'll look at more in-depth before the season. Also, as much as Aceves was bullpen-Jesus for Terry Francona last year, his innings load was heavy, and the team would be lucky to get a repeat performance from the 29 year-old (though, according to, his nickname is "Ace" which is oddly encouraging,) nevermind expecting him to carry a significant load in the rotation.

So in early February, a grab bag of question marks that would make the Riddler jealous is what we're left with. Let's just hope Bobby Valentine and Co. can count on Buchholz's back in 2012.

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