The Portland Sea Dogs and the New Hampshire Fisher Cats squared off on Monday, June 25, but no one really cared about the score when Red Sox star prospect Clay Buchholz was on the mound.
I was in attendance for the game and, boy, did I luck out on seeing Buchholz pitch. I worked it out in my head that it'd be Michael Bowden on Monday night, but on Saturday or Sunday, I believe, I received a Fisher Cats e-mail saying Buchholz was scheduled to pitch. Thankfully I already had my tickets because I was sure they'd be flying out the door once Sox fans knew he'd be on the hill.
My buddy and I got there early and were able to see Buchholz warm up in the bullpen. I always get tickets on the third base side so I can watch the Sea Dogs toss the ball around and interact in the dugout.
In the bullpen, Buchholz didn't look 100% sharp. He was hitting the dirt occasionally with his off-speed stuff, but his fastball was popping the catcher's mitt. It already looked like it would be a good night for the Sea Dogs.
It seems like there are some cliques in the Sea Dogs dugout. Jeff Corsaletti (who absolutely loves Over The Monster), Jed Lowrie and Jeff Natale seemed to be in each other's hip pockets for most of the night. All three, ironically, would end up performing well.
BREAKING DOWN BUCHHOLZ
Buchholz had a great performance on Monday. It's really just that simple. He went 6.1 innings, gave up four hits, one run, and struck out 11 poor, over-matched Fisher Cats. It was one of his best pitching performances of the season.
A good chunk of Buchholz's strikeouts were looking. Whatever he was throwing, the Fisher Cats didn't seem comfortable at the plate at all. His key strikeout pitch seemed to be the fastball, which seemed to be what the Cats were stuck looking at on strike three.
Buchholz's fastball topped out at 96 MPH, but he was in the 93-95 area for most of the night. His fastball didn't lose power even into the 7th inning, clocking in at 95 to the first batter. Where I was sitting I couldn't see the movement on his fastballs, but it must have moved a lot since so many were caught looking.
At some points during the night I couldn't help but laugh at the Cats swinging and missing so badly when Buchholz threw his off-speed pitches. They were so out in front of his changeup that I'm surprised the whole team didn't go on the DL with strained backs. He made them look like a 13U team all night.
His changeup was in the 78-80 MPH range, while his curveball and slider sat in the 80-82 MPH area. Needless to say, when he threw a strike at 96 and then came back with a changeup at 78, it was devastating.
He was vastly different during the game than in warm-ups. Like I said, Buchholz was hitting the dirt a lot in warm-ups. Come game time, he shook that all off and hit the strike zone a lot. I can only remember him going to a 3-1 count once for the entire game. His command of the strike zone was impressive.
Overall, I was just as impressed as I thought I'd be. He has a great fastball, really effectives off-speed pitches, and his breaking balls seem to fool the hitters. My only concern is that he'll rely on his fastball too much when he gets to AAA and to the majors. His fastball is great, but like the saying goes, all major leaguers can hit a 95 MPH fastball. I think he'll find even better success once he mixes his pitches a lot more. This game could have been a rarity, but he did use his fastball a lot on Monday.
IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO SEE A VIDEO I SHOT OF CLAY BUCHHOLZ'S WINDUP, CLICK THIS LINK: CLAY BUCHHOLZ THROWING A PITCH
SEA DOGS AT THE PLATE
The Sea Dogs' lineup was obviously stronger at the top than at the bottom:
Corsaletti found a groove and had his best game of the season. He went 4-for-5 with two runs and two stolen bases, pushing his batting average to .303 on the season. Corsaletti swings out of his cleats during most at-bats. It's not an upper-cut swing of any means, but it seems like he could drive himself into the ground like a screw if he tried just a little bit harder.
Lowrie showed the power in his bat, going 3-for-5 with two doubles, a run, and an RBI. Lowrie seemed comfortable at the plate. I think he's beginning to get into a groove. I'd like to see him in Pawtucket by year's end.
Other notables were Cory Keylor, who smacked a home run, and Jeff Natale, who went 2-for-2 with three walks and knocked in two RBI. I think Natale has a lot of potential, but I'm not sure if it's all going to pan out. He's a great OBP guy, though.