Clay Buchholz didn't get to undergo his usual throwing program before the 2014 season, and it showed. Instead, he was resting his shoulder, which had cost him significant time in the Red Sox 2013 World Series winning campaign, and this combined with the lingering injury itself made the first two months of 2014 a disaster for Buchholz. After a winter of working out with former teammate John Lackey, Red Sox legend Roger Clemens, and fellow Texan Brandon Workman at the University of Texas, though, we should probably be expecting different results going forward.
On its own, the ability to work out like normal wouldn't be all that exciting, but let's remember that Buchholz already looked much stronger and more like himself in the 2014's second half, after he returned from a stint on the disabled list. It's also encouraging to know that Buchholz's winter routine wasn't interrupted by his minor September knee surgery to repair his meniscus. Maybe the most encouraging, though, is that on the day Clemens showed up, he spoke to Buchholz about what had changed in the right-hander's delivery, and what he had to do to get back to where he was when he was so successful.
Clemens, a UT star before signing with the Red Sox, showed up one day to watch Buchholz throw and talked to him afterward.
"There were some things I already knew,'' Buchholz said of his conversation with the Rocket, "but it's crazy when somebody tells you something you've been told for a long time, they say it a little differently and it sort of clicks in your head.
Essentially, Buchholz let his problems cascade on him last year because he would begin to rush when he would get in trouble on the mound, and this resulted in his arm being "late" in the motion on far too many pitches. He spent the offseason working on correcting this, not just with current and former Sox, but also University of Texas pitching coach Skip Johnson, who helped Buchholz "[stay] on a plane through the target, instead of falling off to the first-base side.''
And hey, if you don't believe Buchholz or Gordon Edes, you should probably believe Jason Varitek, the former catcher who has a job with the Red Sox front office now for a reason. Varitek, per Edes' story, approves of how Buchholz looks early on in camp, and considering how lost Buch has been known to look on occasion before the season gets going, that's a good sign.
It's too early to just assume Buchholz will be a game-changing presence on the mound, but if injuries and an aborted throwing program were to blame for his awful start to last season, then all of this is encouraging for the future. The Red Sox need someone to step up and lead this rotation, and Buchholz, in the last guaranteed year of his deal before the Sox have to make decisions on his option years, is likely in the best position to do so.