After his second solid outing, Clay Buchholz feels he's turned a corner: 'It's been a process'

Mike Petraglia
May 02, 2014 - 8:24 pm

With every pitch, the confidence and strength seem to be building in Clay Buchholz. That positive trend continued Friday night at Fenway Park has he held one of the more efficient and effective lineups in the American League to a season-low one run over 6 1/3 innings, allowing Dustin Pedroia and the Red Sox to put a charge into their own offense in a 7-1 win over Oakland at Fenway Park. Before his last start in Toronto, Buchholz had been struggling badly with his own internal clock, the timing in his delivery that made him an effective pitcher for the last five seasons. He had been slowing down and losing tempo badly. But, with the help and observation of pitching coach Juan Nieves, something clicked last Saturday north of the border, as he held the powerful Blue Jays to six hits and three runs over seven innings in recording his first win of the season. Friday night, Buchholz continued to show positive signs across the board. With an increase in tempo, Buchholz simultaneously showed continued arm strength, something by his own admission was lacking in his first four starts. After allowing season lows of three hits and one run, Buchholz went in-depth explaining why he feels he's turning a corner. "I felt good," Buchholz said. "It's been a process over the last start to this start. As far as arm strength, it seems to be coming along pretty well. I think that was the last phase I was getting through, was getting arm strength fully back and trusting the pitches as I throw them. "Velocity was up in Toronto. Over the past couple of years and I've pitched well there. I felt that was a good starting point for me, be out there and feel comfortable with everything. I'm not saying anything against their lineup because they're pretty powerful. But I just felt good pitching there. I don't know why but that was a good starting point for me." With his improved rhythm and tempo, Red Sox manager John Farrell can see a much more confident Buchholz on the mound. "I thought he continued the way he threw the ball the last time out in Toronto," Farrell said. "It shows good tempo. The arm strength continues to climb, and it's directly correlated to the action to his secondary pitches. That's a good-hitting team that he was able to slow down with some off-speed pitches. A solid outing again tonight. "I would say it's a continuation of the final three innings in Toronto. Each pitch had definition, in other words, his curveball had good depth, his cutter has got some power and some added tilt to it. He's just put himself in a better position in his delivery to execute pitches. He's come out of it physically in good shape. He's on a little bit of a run here." To Buchholz, it starts with feeling comfortable on the mound. While the game was played at an excruciatingly slow pace, Buchholz felt that his rhythm on the mound was actually much better and faster than his previous five outings. "It's all within the delivery," he explained. "It's something different because I've always felt like once I start my delivery everything is pretty good. But this year, it was a noticeable difference than last year whenever I was throwing at the beginning season to this point this year. It was a lot slower [this year] so I tried to pick that up and was able to grasp it a little bit better today." His best weapon Friday? The cutter, but not just inside to lefties but to both sides of the plate. "I thought his cutter was his best pitch today but he did throw his breaking ball and his changeup, which he typically does when he needs some outs and later on in the count. I thought he had a good cutter today, to both sides of the plate, actually," said A's manager Bob Melvin. Buchholz agreed. But what was fascinating was Buchholz's explanation as to why. "It was the best one I've had all year, for sure. I've been messing around with a couple of different grips and basically got back to square one with it," Buchholz said. "Over the offseason last year, I was trying to manipulate the ball rather than let it work out of my hand. I changed a couple of grips with it but tonight I basically got back to the same grip I had [before]. "It's more effective because to left-handed hitters, if you're throw it back door to them, they give up on it because they see it out of your hand as not a strike. If you're having that late movement on it, it's a strike at the last second so they have to commit to it before [they want to], and that makes your other pitches better by not having to throw balls in the strike zone to get hitters to swing at them." There had been a lot of concern about Buchholz's arm strength, especially after he was hammered for seven hits and six earned runs in just 2 1/3 innings against Baltimore on April 21. Now, after two good starts, Buchholz said he can feel the strength coming back. "Yeah, it feels a little bit more free, and I think the tempo within the delivery has a lot to do with that," Buchholz said. "Sort of being real slow, stopping, and having to start all over again, that's what I've worked [to correct] on the last eight to 10 days and it seems to be paying off a little bit. "I've looked up there a couple of times tonight and it was 91, 92 to 94. I've said it before, I rely more on movement. It's hard to go out there and try to throw as hard as you can when you rely on movement because it usually doesn't work out the way you want it to. But yeah, the arm strength is definitely coming along."