Theo Epstein just met in the dugout with reporters and said that shutting down rookie Clay Buchholz was “obviously not a first choice, obviously not a second choice, but a last choice. Ultimately, the decision with the medical staff was something we have to do. Clay has suffered fatigue and a weak shoulder to the point he can’t pitch successfully in October.”
The Sox GM said the only other option to shutting him down completely was to have Buchholz not throw for 10 days to two weeks, then follow with a two-week throwing progression which would have given Buchholz the opportunity to maybe throw a couple of innings in the World Series. In the end, Epstein said, the benefit of that was not worth the potential risk.
The issue surfaced, Epstein said, after Buchholz’s relief appearance in Baltimore on Sept 6. That’s why there was a long stretch before Buchholz pitched again, on Sept. 19, when he went 4 2/3 innings as a starter in Toronto.
Buchholz had a bullpen session last Sunday in Tampa, Epstein said, that “did not go very well at all.” That led to today’s announcement that he is shutting down.
Epstein stressed that Buchholz is not injured. Instead, he likened the situation to Jonathan Papelbion last September, saying that had Buchholz continued to pitch in a fatigued state, like Papelbon did, he’d risk doing damage to the shoulder.
The decision was not based simply on an innings ceiling, Epstein said. He said that there are objective measurements taken by assistant trainer Mike Reinhold, who monitors Papelbon’s shoulder, that showed the weakness and fatigue. Epstein noted that Reinhold formerly was on the staff of noted orthopedist James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala. and is an expert on shoulder and elbow issues. “He could no longer pitch,” Epstein said, “without going into a real danger zone.”
“This was the last thing we wanted to do,” Epstein said. “It was a last resort. We wracked our brains if there was any way (he could continue to pitch).”
Buchholz was on a Sox shoulder strengthening program last winter and will be placed on one again this winter. He is fortunate, Epstein said, that the risk was detected now, before an actual episode, like Josh Beckett had as a young pitcher in Florida, when he had a slightly torn labrum.
Epstein also said that people should remember Buchholz is just 23 and has not pitched as many innings as he was called upon to do this season.