Clay Buchholz has shown glimpses of brilliance in his young career. His last three starts since giving up an eighth inning two run home run to Akinori Iwamura in Tampa Bay after a brilliant one hitter to that point have not been that brilliant.
Since Iwamura’s game winner, Buchholz has pitched fourteen innings (including finishing off the eighth inning in Tampa), giving up twenty-three hits, ten walks, and thirteen runs while striking out sixteen. Those numbers don’t lie, Buchholz is struggling. After giving up seven runs last night, Buchholz has seen his ERA rise to 5.53.
At this point, Buchholz is giving the Red Sox very similar production to what recently dfa’d Julian Tavarez gave the Red Sox out of the fifth hole of the rotation last season. I think it is safe to say the we all expect more out of Clay.
Young talented pitchers struggling at the Major League level is no surprise. You don’t have to look much further than the struggles of Phil Hughes (now on the DL) and Ian Kennedy (working it out in AAA) in New York to see how young pitching doesn’t often excel right out of the gate. Hughes, Kennedy, and Buchholz will all have success at the Major League level. This season, they will all be inconsistent. That is what being a young pitcher results in.
The good news for the Red Sox is that they, unlike the Yankees and their young pitchers, don’t have to rely on Clay Buchholz being a consistent presence in the rotation all year long to stay on course towards a division title in 2008.
The reason? While the Yankees will fill the spots vacated by Kennedy and Hughes with the likes of Darrell Rasner and Kei Igawa (yes, there has even been a David Wells rumor floated out there), the Red Sox have a former Cy Young winner looming in Pawtucket and a borderline Hall of Famer looking to make a late season comeback. Bartolo Colon and Curt Schilling will play important roles on this baseball team at some point this season.
While Schilling still has many hurdles to clear in his comeback attempt, all reports thus far out of the Schilling camp are optimistic that he is on or ahead of expectations in his rehabilitation. But Schilling’s penning on the story of the 2008 Red Sox won’t take place until a much later chapter.
Bartolo Colon’s impact might come to pass much sooner. Before the injury to Curt Schilling, it was expected that Clay Buchholz would likely not be in the mix as one of Boston’s starting five unless forced into a spot start here or there or as the case would turn out a major injury. The Red Sox front office was willing to stretch Buchholz further this season at the Major League level than last, but they still wanted to be careful of his growing workload, limiting him to the 150 or so innings pitched mark at most.
Given that, coupled with Buchholz’ current struggles, I fully expect Bartolo Colon to make an appearance with the Major League club before the end of May. While Colon may stretch out a little before supplanting the young Buchholz in the rotation on a regular basis, I do think that skipping a few of Clay’s starts is in the organization’s plans.
With the current constitution of the Red Sox active roster, it appears that upon Colon’s activation (assuming no injuries between now and then) that either Buchholz or Craig Hansen are the likely candidates to hop the bus down to Rhode Island. With Julian Tavarez gone, the Red Sox might opt to keep Buchholz around to get some work out of the pen in long situations, especially knowing that Colon may not be able to go deep straight out of the gate.
But should Craig Hansen show himself to be a real late inning option for the Red Sox between now and then, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Buchholz get some controlled outings in AAA to keep him fresh for the stretch run.
At the end of the day, having these types of options speak volumes to the contingency planning of Theo Epstein and the Red Sox front office.
What would you like to see the Red Sox do with Bartolo Colon? Would you have him replace anyone else in the current rotation?
Paul and I will be hitting the studios tonight to record the next installment of the podcast. If you have any questions of comments to for us to read and react to on the air, feel free to leave them in the comments here.