Boston, you can relax, you won’t have to see Clay Buchholz for at least the near future.
The Red Sox announced that they have place the number five starter on the 15-day DL with a hyperextended left knee stemming from his most recent start in Atlanta, where he gave up eight walks in just three innings pitched. Many fans and talking heads called for Buchholz to not make another start following his prior outing against Toronto, but he trotted out to the rubber against Atlanta nonetheless, where he surrendered six runs on 88 pitches in three innings.
Buchholz and John Farrell partially attributed the injury to running the bases, and Buchholz claimed after the game that he “wasn’t prepared for the heat.” Well the weather in Atlanta on Monday was 83 degrees and partly cloudy, not exactly the Kalahari.
Farrell also claimed that Buchholz lost seven pounds during that start. By my math, that is one pound per 12 pitches, adding a little bit for when he tore up the base path trying to leg out a single, this guy is a warrior through and through.
These are all excuses, trying to mask what are two obvious problems in my opinion. The first one is that Buchholz is mentally fragile right now. It is obvious that he can be rattled by the minutia in a game. Not getting a call, or giving up a walk, or a base hit can snowball into big innings for Buchholz, which is partially to blame for his AL worst 7.02 ERA this season. He is often not on the same page with his catcher (and AJ Pierzynski has not been very helpful in this regard either) and he has shown very little ability to get out of jams this year. It is especially frustrating because he showed world class stuff last year and it seems to have just gone by the wayside. No amount of Bullfrog can help with that.
The second issue is Buchholz’s overall health.This is nothing that I can put my finger on specifically but when you watch the man pitch it is clear that he is just not in good condition. He seems more frail and gaunt than in years past, and he has always been a pretty skinny guy. Giving Farrell the benefit of the doubt and assuming that Buchholz actually lost seven pounds in three innings, than something is not right with the man from a health standpoint, let alone pitching ability.
Buchholz has said he needs to work on his mechanics and return to form. This is a bigger problem than just mechanics, it is a matter of getting inside a man’s head and figuring out what is really wrong deep down, mechanics are a part of it but they are obviously not the whole story.
Can this all be traced back to last year, when Buchholz was called out in Toronto for possibly (definitely) doctoring the ball? Personally I don’t think so but it is possible that he became paranoid about his delivery and his use of substances and that has led to a change in his mechanics. It can’t be ruled out.
Personally, and I know this opinion may be unpopular, I think that Buchholz needs to take a long sabbatical, until at least the All Star Break. There is no point in sending him out to the mound now as he has no control, no velocity, no discipline, and no health. The Red Sox could use a real look at Ruby De La Rosa and Allen Webster anyway so it wouldn’t be the worst thing, but Buchholz needs some time away from the game to get his head straight. Pitching can be like golf in the way that if your head is in the wrong place, it can pay to put down the clubs for a little while and hit a proverbial reset button. The time has come for Buchholz to lay down his arm (but not fall asleep on it) for the time being because he may be desperately needed for a hard fought September, and it only gets hotter in the summer.