ST PETERSBURG, FL: Pitcher Clay Buchholz #11 of the Boston Red Sox pitches against the Tampa Bay Rays during the game at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
Clay Buchholz, who had thrown an average of 104 pitches and over seven innings per start since he righted himself on May 11, was lifted after 94 pitches in Thursday night's contest against the Tampa Bay Rays. Buchholz had been effective, striking out four against two walks in seven frames, while allowing just four hits and no runs, but took himself out of the game with the Red Sox leading due to back pain.
According to Pete Abraham, Buchholz said it was just "everyday soreness," and not some kind of worrisome recurrence of his previous back problems that knocked him out for much of the 2011 season. With the Red Sox not playing for anything besides either dignity or draft position, depending on your take, there was little reason for Buchholz to push it after seven frames, 94 pitches, and with Boston already ahead. Things didn't quite work out as expected, but if Buchholz had thrown the eighth inning, the meltdown of Andrew Bailey likely still would have occurred in the ninth.
While Buchholz says it's just everyday back soreness, it's something to keep an eye on. At the least, if he did tweak something, it's near the end of the year, so he can be shut down no problem for precautionary reasons. If Buchholz is right, though, then even that won't need to occur.
Buchholz has lowered his ERA all the way from 9.09 on May 6 to 4.16 through Thursday. He's posted a 3.09 ERA in the 149 innings since that first May appearance, and has easily been Boston's most consistent and effective starter following that early bout of shaking off the rust.