Clay Buchholz

Clay Buchholz says he's ready to take his turn helping lead a starting staff

Rob Bradford
August 25, 2014 - 9:00 am

TORONTO -- There have been times throughout Clay Buchholz's career when he was the best pitcher on the Red Sox' starting staff. But at no time was he perceived as the kind of leader all others should file in line behind. Like it or not, that dynamic suddenly has shifted. Buchholz is the last man standing in a rotation that was full of veterans. Gone are Jon Lester, John Lackey and Jake Peavy. Left behind is Buchholz, who just turned 30 years old 11 days ago, and a bunch of 20-somethings. So, with that in mind, the obvious question should be asked of the righty: Are you ready to lead a staff? "I've always been the best at what I've done. When I got to the big leagues it was the first time I wasn't the best. So I always carried myself, I'm not the most vocal person ever, but I know what I need to do to get my job done," he said during a recent sit-down at Fenway Park. "Sometimes it doesn't happen but I know my thought process was right going into it. Having those guys, the Jon Lesters and the Lacks and Peavys and [Josh] Becketts and [Curt Schillings], that definitely helps a lot because you can pick their brains and learn a lot about the game, you sort of try to take everything you can that's going to help you. I've been able to do that over the last six, seven years with a lot of great baseball minds. I feel like if that's sort of what I'm slated to do is be the veteran guy on the team and help out. "I'm feeling more and more comfortable with the role I have right now as each day goes by." There is the element of leading by example when put in the position as head of any starting staff. But there is also the reality that such a pitcher has to be consistently productive, which Buchholz is currently trying to establish after the worst season of his career. If Buchholz does rediscover success, then the conversation is pushed toward his role in the midst what has become a uncertain group of youngsters. It's a dynamic he's not unfamiliar with. "Even before Lack and Lester and Peavy left, that's a lot of years of baseball between a select number of guys. They would be sitting and watching video or something and they would ask me 'What do you see right there?' and another day I'd ask them. So everybody is helping each other, not just one person helping everybody out," he said. "It's sort of everyone going in and helping each other and I think that's what makes a pitching staff stronger than maybe it should be because the guys trust each other and you build sort of what you're trying to do. You're scouting report goes off of what other guys are saying. That's sort of how pitching can be difficult and make it a little bit easier at the same time. "It definitely helps if they're the guys that are the ones that can give you advice without it critical. I've had a good mix of just about everything. [Tim Wakefield] would be the first person to come up to me and tell me, 'Hey, this is what I see.' That helped me a lot because he's been around the game a long time. Wake pitched with Pedro [Martinez], saw him, saw Schill. He knows what he's talking about when it comes to pitching and he's one I'll always listen to even though he threw a knuckleball. He was really good a breaking down mechanics and he's helped me out this year, too. "There's definitely good to having older guys on the club. But none of these guys are here because they just got lucky. They're here because they throw good pitches and they deserve to be in the big leagues. That's first and foremost for me." Here is what Buchholz said he has learned from some of his previous mentors: JOSH BECKETT "You've got to be mean out there. I almost feel like whenever JB was at the top of his game and something was going on within an inning or within a game, it was almost like the hitter was scared of him at some point because the hitter knows that guy is not scared to throw inside. You can't just lean out over the plate can't just sit on a heater away. "I didn't really ever pitch inside before I got up here and saw him pitch with [Jason] Varitek behind the plate and how they called the game. JB is one of my good buddies now. But back then I was sort of intimidated by him just by watching how his mound presence was on the field and how he actually pitched during the games." TIM WAKEFIELD "He was the all-time veteran. That's the one guy that I think of being a veteran, going through every stage within this baseball process and converting to a pitcher and all that stuff he found a way to get 20 years in the big leagues. I think Wake was more determined than a lot of other people." CURT SCHILLING "Really really smart baseball guy. The one thing comes to mind about Schill was it doesn't matter who he was talking to he was going to tell you how it was and sometimes that's what, especially young guys, that's what they need to hear. They don't need to hear the things like, 'You're doing a good job,' when the world knows you're not doing a good job. "He's the one that comes up to you and basically gives that constructive criticism to put you back in a place to succeed rather than just snowballing and going down the hill. Schill eared me ot a couple times. It actually made me better because I wasn't going out and doing things the right way." JOHN LACKEY "He's one of my good buddies. From life in general and what he's gone through over the last four or five years and still being able to take care of business on the field. He'd be one of the first ones to the field after a day that he started, be in the gym, cardio, getting his workout in. He was always held accountable for everything he did. Until the day he's done with baseball that's how he's always going to be." JAKE PEAVY "Another guy that leaves everything on the field. Everybody can see that he didn't have the same stuff that he had six years ago. Even if he lost game it wasn't for a lack of effort. He was one of the most fierce competitors I ever got to play with. The way he did his stuff and how he prepared, I think I can compare him to Schilling as far as preparation goes. He was really really big on video and knew exactly what pitch he wanted to throw the day before to a hitter if he got in any king of situation. Taught me a lot about preparation even though it's my sixth, seventh year in the big leagues." JON LESTER "He's a horse. Every time that you watch him pitch it's like everything is perfect, on time within his delivery. Execution of pitches and then stuff overall is probably second-to-none. I've said it for the last five years I think he's the best left-handed pitcher in baseball. Hopefully we get a chance to get him back over here. But he's a true leader, true ace and I think everybody that he's been around for just a little bit of time could definitely see that."