With an off night tonight for the big club, Clay Buchholz and the Pawtucket Red Sox will get top billing on NESN this evening. For those of us who have been itching to see Buchholz pitch this season having heard of his dominance in AAA, this may be the only opportunity that we get. While Buchholz might be in control in Pawtucket, his future is frustratingly out of his control.
That frustration of “wasting bullets” in Pawtucket may be eating at the talented young right hander more than we’ve been lead to believe in the public eye.
It’s no secret that (a) Clay Buchholz is dominating in the minors right now and like Daniel Bard before him, has nothing to prove in Pawtucket that he hasn’t already and (b) with John Smoltz impending return, there is no room for that talent in Boston right now.
In a recent interview with NECN’s Mike Giardi, Clay candidly admits to just how frustrating this has become for him.
I’ve had talks with my agent for the past month-and-a-half, two months and it’s been just basically the same thing. There’s nowhere to go and it’s sort of a logjam up there. They’re doing whatever they feel is right up there (in Boston) for the team to win. Whenever they come to a problem it seems like they come up with a way to fix it without me being in the picture. It is what it is. It’s frustrating at times, but I’m going out and every fifth day here trying to help this team win and trying to get better every time I go out.
Everybody knows that this game doesn’t last forever, especially for a pitcher. More position players have their long careers, and it could be any one pitch that you throw and then you blow out and your career is over or you have a year-and-a-half setback and it’s really hard to come back from something like that. I feel like I don’t want to waste bullets here (in Pawtucket) whenever I do feel ready to actually be there and help the team win. I feel like I’m ready to go and hopefully in the next month or so I’ll get that chance.
*the full interview can be seen here:
As I listen to Buchholz respond to some pointed questions from Giardi, I can’t help but have mixed emotions. First, he’s obviously frustrated with performing well but not having the chance to pitch in front of the Fenway Faithful. I can understand and as a fan encourage that combination of drive, desire, and confidence that would yield those feelings. Clay Buchholz has done everything that he needs to do to clear his path back to Boston. The trouble isn’t with him, it is with the portfolio of pitchers the Red Sox have amassed “ahead” of him on the active roster.
At the same time, I find a few things here disconcerting. That he’s talking openly to the media about what are rightful private or “behind closed doors” with the organization feelings signifies to me that this is beginning the strike more than just any nerve with Buchholz. That he’s been talking actively with his agent for the past month and a half further solidifies that, in his eyes, this situation should come to a head on a more aggressive timeline than he’s currently been given.
This is a complicated decision for the organization with no clear right answer. If the Red Sox were to look at their staff today with nothing more than ability in mind, Daisuke Matsuzaka might be the most expendable of the bunch due to his inconsistency and the notion that instead of #1 or #2 starter stuff, he’s really plateaued as a third starter at best pitcher. Tim Wakefield may be a potential All-Star, but he also falls right into a group with Brad Penny and the question mark that is John Smoltz next in line. Ironically enough, I would put Buchholz just behind the two clear studs, Beckett and Lester, in the “ability” lineup.
But when you add context to these pitchers contracts and relative situations, the Red Sox decision becomes more than just difficult, it becomes nearly impossible. Like it or not, Daisuke Matsuzaka isn’t going anywhere, possibly not even to the DL as many might like to think. Tim Wakefield isn’t going to the bullpen and John Smoltz, while he could and is willing, probably shouldn’t. While trade rumors will continue to persist, Brad Penny may be in the process of pitching his way “into” this team’s 2009 plans instead of out of them.
What will the Red Sox do? We’ll know a little more tomorrow as Terry Francona rolls out the plan for the next week. Unfortunately for Clay, right or wrong, I don’t think his name will be a part of that short term plan.