Clay Buchholz

Observations on Games 4, 5: Clay Buchholz shines, Mookie Betts mashes, Eduardo Rodriguez sharp

John Tomase
March 07, 2015 - 11:55 am

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Observations from the Red Sox' 4-2 win over the Twins at JetBlue Park: BUCHHOLZ IN CONTROL: The story of this one was undoubtedly Clay Buchholz. The right-hander allowed a leadoff walk and nothing thereafter, striking out four in three hitless innings. His fastball opened at 91-92 mph, he kept the ball down, and he featured an excellent changeup in mowing down the Twins. With Buchholz coming off a season lost partly to injury and partly to ineffectiveness, the fact that he has hit the ground running is hugely encouraging. He has the stuff -- and track record -- to be the best pitcher on a playoff staff, though he has yet to do so consistently. At least we're off to a good start. "It's just another step," Buchholz said. "That was my first inning against major-league guys, and the goal was to go out and work on fastball command and then throw my other pitches off that. I threw some more changeups today that were like I want them, and I was able to make some adjustments out there, too." MOOKIE MAKES THINGS HAPPEN: Those who have pegged Mookie Betts as the heir apparent to Jacoby Ellsbury in terms of dynamically impacting a game atop the order had even more ammo after this one. Betts alertly breezed into second on a dropped fly ball to right, aggressively took second on a wild pitch, and tripled off the net in left before scoring a run. He was a constant threat, forcing a throw to the plate on a shallow fly out to center, just because the Twins knew they couldn't take any chances. Betts carries himself like a big leaguer and hits like one, too. This game offered a reminder of why the Red Sox have hesitated to trade him even for a pitcher like Cole Hamels. VARVARO BRINGS HEAT: Right-hander Anthony Varvaro tossed a scoreless inning, striking out one. The former Braves reliever still can't believe Atlanta didn't keep him, but he's looking like a lock to make the Red Sox this spring after going 6-4 with a 2.74 ERA over the last two years in Atlanta. Varvaro is particularly good against lefties, holding them to a .149 average and .481 OPS last year, absurdly low numbers for anyone, let alone a righty. "Where we were in the lineup, the way it stacked up, it was there for us to take a look against the left-handers," Farrell said. "Once again, he was powerful and with good late action to attack both lefties and righties." PEDROIA STILL MASHING: Second baseman Dustin Pedroia should save some for the season. He hit a long foul homer in the first before going 2-for-3. He also turned a tough double play with a leaping relay and looks ready for the season to start. After going 3-for-3 in his first action, Pedroia is hitting .833 (5-for-6) so far, with solid contact all around. "My job is to play," Pedroia said recently. "Your job is to watch." SWIHART, RODRIGUEZ HIGHLIGHT WIN IN SARASOTA: Bench coach Torey Lovullo took the rest of the split squad up to Sarasota, where the Red Sox staved off an Orioles rally in a 7-6 victory. Catcher Blake Swihart blasted a three-run homer to right, and left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez tossed three perfect innings, striking out three, against the club that traded him for left-hander Andrew Miller last July. "Can't say enough about Rodriguez," Lovullo told reporters. "Three easy innings, right through their order. I think he answered the questions about how he'd come out here today against his former team. He did a very good job." Another positive sign was outfielder/first baseman Allen Craig, who went 2-for-2 with a double, two walks and an RBI. The good results followed a game in which Craig hit a ball on the screws to center, but had nothing to show for it when it was caught. '€œPatient at-bats, he was on base four times, using all parts of the ballpark, hitting different pitches in different locations hard, staying behind the ball," Lovullo said. "Sure, it's been a work in progress for him, and it was nice to see him have this type of day. He had a good day that he's been waiting for, he's been working hard to have this type of day and I was really happy that he had it."