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Feel-good story of the spring

Fine 2010 reduced stress on Buchholz

At 26, and coming off a 17-win season, Clay Buchholz has a secure spot in the rotation. At 26, and coming off a 17-win season, Clay Buchholz has a secure spot in the rotation. (Dave Martin/Associated Press)
By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / February 13, 2011

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FORT MYERS, Fla. — There are only a handful of parking spots close to the back door of the clubhouse at the Red Sox player development complex. No scrubs are allowed there, only established players.

When Clay Buchholz pulled in Friday, he bypassed the parking lot out front and stopped a few feet from the door to unload his gear. Winning 17 games last season afforded him that perk.

As pitchers and catchers report today, Buchholz also will get the luxury of preparing for the season during spring training and not having to earn a job.

“It definitely feels different. It feels good,’’ he said yesterday. “It feels good to have a full season under my belt, feeling that I belong in this position and feeling like the team has a little bit of confidence in me going into spring training.

“I feel like confidence is a big thing, going out and thinking that every time you step on the field you have a chance to win. That’s what I did last year. If I had a bad outing, I forgot about it. I had a short memory.’’

The 26-year-old righthander was 17-7 with a 2.33 earned run average in 2010 and earned a spot on the All-Star team. Had he not missed five starts with a hamstring pull suffered while running the bases, Buchholz might have contended for the Cy Young Award.

Buchholz also became a father in August. He said the better part of the winter was spent taking care of his daughter, Colbie.

“It was fun,’’ he said. “But after the first couple of months of the offseason, I was definitely ready to get back here and get to work and try to help this team win a championship.’’

Buchholz has spoken to other starters, particularly John Lackey, about how to sustain his success.

“That’s the big thing, feeling good throughout spring training, getting work done, and then expecting big things during the season,’’ he said. “I definitely want to come into spring training ready to throw, but not particularly in midseason form at the beginning so that you burn out during the season.

“That’s how I’m going to take it this year. I’m definitely ready, I feel strong and healthy.’’

With his spot in the rotation secure, Buchholz will spend spring training building arm strength and honing his skills. One of his goals this season will be making quicker adjustments during games.

“I think I did a better job [last season] as far as mechanically doing something wrong within one pitch and coming back the next batter and fixing it. I’d like to make that a pitch-by-pitch thing,’’ he said. “If I make a mistake, then adjust to it on the next pitch instead of having to wait a batter to do it.’’

The other adjustment will be working with new pitching coach Curt Young. John Farrell, now the manager of the Toronto Blue Jays, played a large role in Buchholz’s development despite scaring him for a few years.

“John Farrell was awesome,’’ said Buchholz. “He was probably one of the big reasons why I had a lot of success last year. I finally got to talk to him and wasn’t afraid of him because he’s just a stern person, always about business. Once I broke it down and had some time to talk to him, he was awesome.

“Just talking to Curt, he’s a different personality. He’s going to fit in really well with this clubhouse.’’

For all his success last season, Buchholz is maintaining a good perspective.

“Last year was good,’’ he said. “It was a good building block. A lot of good things happened. The team played awesome behind me, which was one of the key things for me, I think.

“You can’t always have that behind you. Errors are going to be made and you’re going to give up hits and home runs. But to keep it to a minimum like it went last year, it was awesome.

“As far as numbers go, I’m not going to expect anything. Just go out and try and make a pitch and go pitch-by-pitch and go from there.’’

A number of the players headed across the state to Miami Beach to attend a retirement party for Mike Lowell . . . The first official workout for the pitchers and catchers will be Tuesday . . . Tim Wakefield, whose first spring training was in 1989, arrived at camp and played catch with Buchholz. With Jamie Moyer recovering from surgery, the 44-year-old Wakefield is the oldest active player in the game . . . Lefthander Itsuki Shoda, the Japanese Pacific League rookie of the year in 2002, will compete for a job in minor league camp. Shoda was in the Japanese minor leagues from 2006-08 before spending the last two seasons in Taiwan.

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @peteabe.

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