Ever since injuring his shoulder during the midst of a career year in 2013, Boston Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz has been in a battle with his body in an effort to pitch well in 2014. Buchholz’s struggles were apparent in his first start of the 2014 season, when he was tagged for six runs on 13 hits in four innings of work against the Milwaukee Brewers on April 5. After pitching on edge during his last five starts (he re-aggravated his shoulder injury during the 2013 World Series), Buchholz needs to put his rough starts behind him if he wants to remain a force in the Red Sox rotation.
Buchholz has been one of the longest tenured starters in the Red Sox rotation since making his MLB debut in 2007. Making 122 career starts with the Red Sox, Buchholz has the tenure to be a valuable starter with a Red Sox rotation that is filled with experienced pitchers. However, injuries have prevented Buchholz from demonstrating his dominance over a longer period of time. If Buchholz wants to continue being a great starter with the Red Sox, he needs to improve his health and overcome injury deficiencies to maintain longer seasons.
Alongside Buchholz’s injury problems is the fact that many hitters are taking advantage of his off-speed offerings. On a good day, Buchholz’s fastball ranges from 91 to 94 miles per hour, topping out at 97 mph. However, his curveball and changeup have been ineffective since his shoulder injury, leading more hitters to zero in on his fastball. Essentially, Buchholz needs to concentrate on improving his other pitches in order to regain his effectiveness throughout the course of the season.
In a few years, Buchholz’s spot in the rotation may be usurped by younger starters if Buchholz does not produce over a long period of time. The Red Sox have a smorgasbord of prospects in their farm system, such as Allen Webster, Rubby de la Rosa, Brandon Workman, Anthony Ranaudo, Henry Owens and Matt Barnes that could pitch well in the big leagues. If Buchholz isn’t able to pitch consistently at the Major League level, then expect one of the younger starters to overshadow him in the rotation, making for an interesting situation until Buchholz is eligible for free agency in 2015.
In essence, Clay Buchholz needs to step it up in order to continue being a successful pitcher in the Boston Red Sox rotation. With young pitchers emerging in the minor leagues, Buchholz needs to put his inconsistencies behind him in order to focus on key games, such as his start Thursday versus the New York Yankees. If Buchholz can prove he can pitch well after undergoing shoulder procedures, then he should continue to be a solid pitcher during the 2014 season.