There are no shortage of opinions when it comes to the struggles of embattled Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz. And Red Sox manager John Farrell and GM Ben Cherington each have their own theories on what ails the reeling right-hander.
Buchholz, who gave up four earned runs on nine hits in just 4 2/3 innings in the Red Sox 6-4 loss to the Blue Jays Wednesday night, has not been right all season although he says there is nothing wrong with him physically. In his last three outings, Buchholz has given up 29 hits and he’s sporting a hefty 6.32 ERA for the season.
Farrell said he and pitching coach Juan Nieves spent time watching film of Buchholz after last night’s loss and the two met again this morning before meeting with Buchholz. The problem as they see it is that Buchholz is having trouble repeating his delivery.
“Well we spent quite a bit of time here last night [watching film],” Farrell said. “And there are some things that we need to work on from a delivery standpoint. Physically, there’s no complaints. There’s no restrictions, and yet we’ve got get him into a position in his delivery more consistently… when he’s making mistakes, he’s been up in the strike zone or he’s been in the middle of the plate, and last night, more than we’ve seen this season, he pitched behind in the count a lot and that’s again from a lack of repeating his delivery as needed.”
Red Sox GM Ben Cherington, speaking on WEEI’s Dennis and Callahan show this morning, thinks the problem is Buchholz’s inability to throw the mix of pitches that has made him successful in the past.
“One of the things that’s made Clay so unique and special when he’s been at his best is that he has had multiple weapons and when he has that he’s very unpredictable,” Cherington said. “He has a bunch of different weapons that all move in different directions and when he has most of those working, he’s very difficult to hit because hitters can’t stay in any one spot, and even when they do, or if they do and even if they get a pitch they’re looking for, he’s got enough life, movement that it’s hard to barrel it up. I guess the only thing we see is those multiple offerings haven’t been as consistent. Maybe it’s the changeup one night, he doesn’t feel, or the curveball one night. He’s trying to find some consistency, particularly with the secondary stuff, but it’s really the mix that has made him so good and so dominant at times.
“There’s some guys that can be fastball dominant pitcher and just rely on fastball command and be effective that way. That’s not Clay, it’s never been Clay. He’s always relied a lot on his mix and for whatever reason, the mix hasn’t been there consistently as it had in the past. It does not appear to be a physical issues. He said he feels good and he’s working hard and we’ve got to try to help him find the feel for that mix. and when he does and he’s able to put more thoughts into hitter’s minds about what’s coming then we’ll start to see a better result… He knows. Obviously he knows that … nobody wants to perform more than he does.”
Farrell agreed that the ability of Buchholz to change speeds on hitters is key.
“What we’re striving for is one of the two — curveball or changeup — to create some velocity separation and disrupt timing,” Farrell said. “Right now when he’s pressed to make a pitch he has gone to a pitch that’s been hard in velocity whether it’s fastball or cutter. So we’ve got to get back to the point of being able to change speeds more consistently, and for strikes, not just to throw it for the sake of throwing it.”
Buchholz didn’t have any answers Wednesday night after picking up the loss, but said he’s got to work on his mechanics between starts.
“I’ve been messing with a couple of different things,” Buchholz said. “It’s hard to go out there and pitch a major league baseball game and think about mechanics. That’s not where you work on them. You work on them in the bullpen, and that’s what I’ve tried to do the last couple of days leading up.”