25 March 2009
Clay Buchholz continues to make thing difficult for opposing batters and Red Sox management.
Bucky looked very sharp in today's 2-1 victory over the Reds. He went toe-to-toe with another young phenom, Johnny Cueto, for six innings full innings, allowing just three hits and one unearned run while fanning three.
Buchholz entered the game with 0.66 ERA and 12 strikeouts through 13.2 innings and this latest start is only going to make it harder for the Sox to send him to Pawtucket when the 2009 season gets underway.
Tim Wakefield, one of the guys blocking Buchholz from starting again in the major leagues, has had a rough spring, but he looked sharp against the Yankees on Sunday. Wake gave up one run on four hits and a walk through 5 2/3 innings, matching AJ Burnett pitch for pitch.
Another high note from Wake's outing was his growing relationship with new battery mate George Kottaras:
Wakefield threw only two fastballs all night and, at Kottaras's request, changed speeds effectively. Wakefield is at his best - and most difficult to catch - when he can toss glacially slow knucklers to go with his merely soft ones.
"He showed a little more assertiveness calling some slow ones," Wakefield said. "I got some strikeouts on some slow ones, mixing in different speeds on his call, not mine."
"It's good, because it gets guys out," Kottaras said. "It was active in the zone, and that's what he's trying to do."
Jon Lester pitched on Sunday, but struggled a little for the first time this spring:
With two starts left for Jon Lester, and most of the pitchers, before the regular season begins, the primary focus of this afternoon's start at the minor league complex was to continue to build Lester's pitch count. That, he did. But feeling out of rhythm and off his game, Lester allowed four earned runs on 10 hits in his six innings of work. He walked none, struck out three, and threw 91 pitches, 61 strikes.
"You don't have the intensity that you would normally for a game, but you know you have to put that aside and get your work done," Lester said. "It was a struggle today, but I got up and down six times, got my pitch count up, so I've got to look at it that way. I can't look at the results and worry about all that."
Bottom Line: The pitching staff is and will be the strength of this team if everyone stays healthy. Unlike last spring, it feels good to know that the biggest question mark in camp right now is simply who to cut from the 25-man roster.
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