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Red Sox notebook

Buchholz needs to bear down

Sox starter Josh Beckett delivers to the Twins in the first inning, during which he gave up a run. Sox starter Josh Beckett delivers to the Twins in the first inning, during which he gave up a run. (Jim Mone/Associated Press)
By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / April 25, 2012
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MINNEAPOLIS - There’s no way around the truth when it comes to Clay Buchholz’s first three starts this season: He was terrible.

Buchholz allowed 17 earned runs on 23 hits and 7 walks in 17 innings. Opponents are hitting .324 against him with an OPS of 1.021.

“Been doing this for a while. You know you’re going to have some ups and downs,’’ Buchholz said Tuesday. “You’ve just got to find a way to get through it.’’

The righthander, who faces the Twins Wednesday night, has been working a lot with pitching coach Bob McClure and watching video to try to come up with a solution to his problems. The answer appears to be a simple one.

“It’s just getting the ball down in the zone, basically that’s all it is,’’ Buchholz said. “It’s nothing out of the ordinary. I think every pitcher goes through it. We’re trying to do something with the ball and it’s not really happening.’’

Buchholz allowed five home runs against the Yankees Friday, spoiling the 100th anniversary celebration for Fenway Park as the Red Sox were beaten, 6-2.

“I’ve gotten it up in the zone the last couple of starts. It’s come to hurt the team,’’ Buchholz said. “I’ve given up too many runs in the first couple of innings.’’

The Tigers scored five runs against Buchholz in the first two innings April 8. The Rays had five in the first three innings April 14, and the Yankees had three in the first two innings Friday.

“Three pretty tough lineups that I’ve had to go at,’’ Buchholz said. “That was a tough run for three games.’’

To improve the downward plane of his pitches, Buchholz is trying to find a consistent point where he releases the ball. That would serve to make his fastball better and improve the deception of his changeup.

“When my four-seamer and two-seamer are down, usually the changeup is down because it’s basically the same pitch, just a different grip,’’ he said. “It’s a step in the right direction for us. It’s a work in progress.’’

When Buchholz is going well, he will throw his changeup in fastball counts and keep hitters off balance. But he has been hesitant to throw it, knowing that a changeup high in the strike zone is easy pickings for a hitter.

“I don’t have that confidence in it right now to go out there and throw it like I have been in the past,’’ Buchholz said. “That’s what I’ve been working on the past couple of weeks, is just trying to get a feel for it and hopefully be able to have that pitch in the bag where you can be behind in the count and throw that pitch.’’

Manager Bobby Valentine said Buchholz’s changeup has looked the same this season.

“He reviewed his last game, and everyone else did, too,’’ said Valentine. “Obviously they centered a lot of balls. But he also threw a lot of quality pitches.’’

Concern for Crawford

Carl Crawford was in Boston Tuesday to get his strained left elbow checked.

“He’s been a little concerned about his elbow, so he’s probably going to get a second opinion,’’ Valentine said. “He’s feeling so good with his hitting and his wrist right now that he doesn’t want to have any setbacks.’’

Valentine said Crawford wants confirmation that it’s “just a little soreness.’’

Valentine offered few other details other than to say the injury does not appear to be major.

Wilson in relief

The Red Sox used righthander Alex Wilson in relief for Triple A Pawtucket Tuesday. He pitched the seventh inning against Scranton, allowing one run on two hits with one strikeout.

Wilson, 25, had worked only as a starter until Tuesday. A second-round pick in 2009, he has been considered a potential closer by some in the organization because of a fastball that touches 96 miles per hour and a good slider.

In the past, the Red Sox have taken weeks to prepare a starter to come out of the bullpen.

Free agency could be another avenue to improve the bullpen. The Red Sox are making inquiries about 33-year-old lefthander Mike Gonzalez, who appeared in 56 games for the Orioles and Rangers last season.

Moving on up

Daisuke Matsuzaka (right elbow) will make his next minor league rehabilitation start Saturday at Hadlock Field for Portland. He will face Reading.

Matsuzaka went four innings for Single A Salem Monday, allowing three runs on six hits. According to Valentine, Matsuzaka felt fine afterward.

Rich Hill (left elbow) pitched a scoreless inning for Pawtucket Tuesday, allowing a hit and a walk and striking out one. He is scheduled to pitch Wednesday.

Ross is clutch

Cody Ross tied Monday’s game with a home run in the seventh inning and won it with a home run in the ninth. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he is the first Red Sox player with a tying and winning home run, each in the seventh inning or later, since Dwight Evans on June 23, 1990, against the Orioles at Fenway Park. Evans had a tying solo home run in the eighth inning and a two-run walk-off homer in the 10th . . . Ryan Sweeney’s single in the first inning gave him at least one hit in 13 of the 14 games he has played this season . . . White Sox righthander Phil Humber, who threw a perfect game against Seattle Saturday, left the team in Oakland to return to Chicago for the birth of his first child. He remains scheduled to start against the Red Sox Thursday.

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

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