20 March 2009
Clay Buchholz' young career has been a roller coatser ride. After throwing a no-hitter as a September call up in 2007, Buchholz struggled through 2008 and was eventualy demoted to Triple A. He spent this offseason fixing his mechanics and getting his mind right... and it seems to have paid off.
Buchholz started Friday's game against the Pirates having allowed just one run in 8.2 innings (3 starts) of work. Tito says his success has come from keeping the ball down in the zone, something he struggled to do in 2008, thanks to poor mechanics. Against Pittsburgh, Bucky lasted five innings and held the Bucs to four hits and one unearned run, while adding three more stikeouts - giving him a team best 12 this spring.
But despite Bucky's success this spring, he's not likely to start the 2009 season on the 25-man roster. Instead, veteran Tim Wakefield and offseason acquistions Brad Penny will round out the starting rotation... and come June, John Smoltz will be looking for starts.
Wakefield has struggled this spring (7.71 ERA, 9.1 IP, 7 BB, 6 SO) but you always roll the dice when Wake takes the mound. Given 30+ starts, Wake is almost a lock for 10-15 wins, but health has become a concern for the 42-year old. He'll also be working with a new catcher, George Kottaras, this season, but the new duo looked good in a minor league game on Thursday:
"I'm very confident," Wakefield said, of having Kottaras behind the plate. "I'm sad for Josh [who was released this week], again. It's unfortunate, but that's the business of baseball sometimes. Josh did a great job and I hope he catches on somewhere and continues his career. He's been a true professional. He did everything right here, it just didn't happen. On the other side, Georgie did a tremendous job today and I have the utmost confidence in him that he'll be able to last all season long with me."
Brad Penny has his own set of health concerns and has laredy bee set back this spring. Penny looked impressive in a minor league game against a Class A Minnesota Twins squad on Wednesday. He threw 41 pitches -- 30 for strikes -- and struck out four of the 11 batters he faced. He gave up one hit. He'll continue to build his pitch cound and shoulder strength through the rest of spring training and should make his first major league start in late March... as long as the shoulder holds up.
Smoltz is ahead of schedule and chomping at the bit... but unless another starter goes down, he'll be hard pressed to log more than 10 starts in 2009. But if any pitcher can defy the laws of physics and win 10 games in 10 starts at the age of 42, its John Smoltz.
With all these pitchers and question marks, it's anyone's guess how many starts, let alone wins each of these pitchers will get in 2009... but I like a challenge and I bet you guys do too.
So, I ask you Bottom Line readers: Who will win the most games for the Red Sox in 2009 - Tim Wakefield, Brad Penny, Clay Buchholz or John Smoltz?
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