ORLANDO — So it turns out Taylor Buchholz is related to Clay Buchholz. Nick Cafardo asked Clay about it last season and he said the two were distant cousins. Now they’re potentially teammates.
This could turn out to be a good move by the Sox. A sixth-round pick by the Phillies in 2000, Buchholz was rated as one of the game’s top 100 prospects by Baseball America in 2003. He was one of three players the Phillies used to acquire closer Billy Wagner from the Astros before the 2004 season.
A failed starter in Houston, Buchholz was traded to the Rockies and they turned him into a reliever. Buchholz had a 3.44 ERA over three seasons and was particularly impressive in 2008 when he had 63 appearances and a 2.17 ERA. Opponents hit only .188 against him with five home runs over 66.1 innings.
Then came Tommy John surgery. Buchholz missed all of 2009 and appeared in only 30 games (minors and majors) last season. The Rockies cut him loose, as did the Jays.
Typically, pitchers need roughly two years before they fully recover from Tommy John surgery. By the time Buchholz gets to spring training, he’ll be 20 months post surgery. The Sox are hoping the passage of time will allow him to revert to the form he showed in 2008. If not, the cost is minimal.
The Sox will go out and get a name reliever at some point. Theo Epstein all but guaranteed it the other day. But the key to bullpen building is filling in the cracks.
The Giants won the World Series with Javy Lopez, Santiago Casilla and Sergio Romo as their main set-up men in the postseason.
• Lopez has been with six organizations (two of them twice), been traded three times and claimed off waivers once.
• Casilla had a 5.96 ERA for Oakland last season and was non-tendered. The Giants signed him to a minor-league deal.
• Romo is a former 28th-round draft pick.
The point is that set-up men come out of nowhere and the trick is figuring out when they’re ready to blossom. The Sox clearly need to sign somebody with a good track record to join Jonathan Papelbon and Daniel Bard. Beyond that, it’ll be Community Auditions down in Fort Myers with guys like Buchholz, Scott Atchison, Felix Doubront, Andrew Miller and other vagabonds and characters to be determined.
One way or another, you hope that come the heart of the season, you have a bullpen that works.