For much of the 2013 season, the status of Clay Buchholz was up in the air. Now, it's October, and things haven't changed. Buchholz, who missed three months of the season with a shoulder injury, was initially projected to follow John Lackey in the series, but after a throwing session where the 29-year old righty looked shaky, manager John Farrell named Jake Peavy the Game 3 starter. Buchholz, who did not look particularly sharp in Game 2 or Game 6 against the Tigers once his pitch count climbed, has become a major question mark for the Red Sox against the Cardinals.
Despite injury and fatigue concerns, Farrell assured that Buchholz was going to pitch Game 4 in St. Louis. "Everything that he's going through right now is indicating that he will start on Sunday," Farrell said prior to Game 2 on Thursday. "There's been nothing that has happened since we spoke [Wednesday] here or with Clay that would indicate otherwise. So we fully expect him to go."
Sure, Buchholz could be capable of going in Game 4, but should he? "I couldn’t really get loose," Buchholz said. "It was a constant tightness that I felt. That’s all there is. I’m going to go. That’s my only goal, to be prepared to start on Sunday."
"That’s our goal, for me to be out there on Sunday," Buchholz said. "I’m going to do everything I can to make that happen and be well enough to go out there and give the team a chance to win," he said. "If that’s me going out there at 90 percent, I’ll go out there at 90 percent.
From a pure numbers standpoint, Buchholz isn't himself right now.
In Game 6 of the ALCS against the Tigers, Buchholz's fastball average velocity was 91.3 MPH, down from his season average of 93.1 MPH. The pure and utter dominance that Buchholz displayed is not there right now for as long as it needs to be. Buchholz's command, the main reason behind his success at the beginning of the season, has not been consistent throughout the playoffs.
"I’ve got maybe one start left. This is where you want to throw it all on the line. That’s sort of how I’m looking at it right now," Buchholz said. "I haven’t been 100 percent in a long time now."
It doesn't have to be Buchholz on the mound, even if that's the plan. While lefty Felix Doubront struggled near the end of the regular season, he was crucial to the Game 2 victory over the Tigers when he threw 1-1/3 scoreless frames, allowing the Red Sox to come back and eventually walkoff. So far in the postseason, Doubront has thrown 2-1/3 scoreless innings with one hit, two walks and one strikeout. He could likely step in for Buchholz and make the start, or, at the least, piggyback on the clearly diminished right-hander so as to get a starter's workload -- and hopefully an effective one -- out of the two arms. If Doubront can keep Boston from pushing Buchholz too far, then he should be utilized one way or another.
Maybe this is Bloody Sock 2.0 in the making, but I have no faith that Clay Buchholz is going to be sharp enough to get through five innings in his start, considering the amount of fatigue that his arm is experiencing right now. With his diminished stuff and how hard he's been hit in the playoffs once his velocity dips, it would not be in the best interest of John Farrell to start Clay Buchholz in the World Series, not when there are other starting pitching options available.
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