It was a telling scene from last season, in the third-from-last game of 2012: Clay Buchholz took the mound in Yankee Stadium against the New York Yankees and pitched one of his worst games of the year.
Buchholz didn’t even make it through the second inning before being taken out of the game, giving up eight runs on way to his eighth loss of the year. He looked like the toll of the entire season had caught up with him and he didn’t want to be on the mound anymore.
Tonight, Buchholz takes the mound for the Boston Red Sox in Yankee Stadium against a decidedly different Yankees team with a chance at redemption.
While Jon Lester might be viewed as the ace of the Red Sox staff, it has long been said that Buchholz is the most talented pitcher on the staff. The fact that former pitching coach John Farrell is now his manager has only led people to expect 2013 to be a breakout season for the 28-year old righty.
Buchholz had his best season at the major league level in 2010, Farrell’s last season with the club as a pitching coach. Buchholz was 17-7 with a 2.33 ERA, and was every bit as good as those numbers would indicate. It was the type of season that caused the Red Sox to lock him up with a five-year extension.
This spring, Buchholz showed the form that excited Boston three years ago, pitching to a 0.79 ERA and picking up his speed on the mound to get into a better rhythm and work quicker. Buchholz looks ready to go this year and could thrive with the improved Boston defense behind him. He will also benefit from having Farrell back and the hands-on tutelage of pitching coach Juan Nieves.
The Red Sox expect to see the pitcher that they have seen during this spring, one that looks like he is on the brink of putting it all together. If Buchholz is a true No. 2 starter for the Red Sox, Boston will be able to match up with any team in the American League.
Tonight Buchholz gets a chance to take the first step from the place where he hit bottom last season.