After 78 pitches through seven strong innings on September 23, 2014, Clay Buchholz was sent back out to the mound for the eighth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays. From a pitch count standpoint, Buchholz should have had no problem going back out for the eighth inning. But after 28 pitches, Buchholz had surrendered 5 runs to the Rays, and the Sox went on to lose 6-2. It was a meaningless game and for Buchholz to suffer that sort of embarrassment just puts an exclamation point on what's been a horrible season for the right-hander.
Never mind why bother sending one of your more valuable pitchers (perhaps the most valuable pitcher the Sox have at this point!) back to the mound for an eighth inning in a meaningless game while you're up in the game. His control simply abandoned him. He walked a batter and hit two batters. Cespedes did horribly misplay a ball off of the Green Monster in left field which didn't help the cause. Why Farrell didn't immediately get him out of there is beyond me. He's had a rough enough season. I would have just let him go seven and pulled him, patted him on the back, and said get ready for your last start against the Yankees.
In his final start of the season against the Yankees, he wasn't all that great either. He surrendered four runs in six innings, although he only walked one batter and only gave up five hits, although they were hard hits. As it turns out, Craig Breslow would give up five more runs and never record an out, so it was a bit of a tough loss for Buchholz who still had a chance to win until the Yankees blew it open.
Sure, Buchholz has been an enigma for quite a long time. He's racked up tons of time on the DL. Last season, though, when he did pitch, he was brilliant. That is, until the playoffs. He was not good whatsoever. But in the 2013 season, he had a ridiculous 1.74 ERA in 16 starts. His peripheral numbers didn't quite back him up, but he was truly an ace when he was out there.
The Red Sox have some decisions to make about Buchholz. He is signed for $12 million next season, a hefty raise from the $7.7 million he's earned in 2014. He then has two options worth $13 million and $13.5 million for 2016 and 2017, respectively. Both have very inexpensive buyouts: $245,000 for 2016 and $500,000 for 2017. Whatever happens, the Red Sox will have Buchholz for $12 million in 2015, unless they trade him - and right now, who would want him?
While I'm personally high on Joe Kelly being a solid contributor to the Red Sox for 2015 and beyond, he's not an ace - at best a #2 starter, perhaps. Buchholz is the best pitcher currently on the Boston Red Sox. Matt Barnes and Henry Owens have potential, but they are unknowns. We all know Buchholz has the ability to be an ace-level starter. The Red Sox obviously won't give up on his 2015. The question is, will he rebound after all of the wear and tear on his body and his obvious lapses in control and command? Plus, he had some minor meniscus surgery on his knee shortly after his last start, which while perhaps not a big deal, could be an injury that explains some of his inconsistency this season. He did still end up pitching 170 innings, albeit of poor 5.34 ERA ball (over five runs per nine innings), but he did still get out there fairly often.
For 2015, there's not much the Sox can do but hope and pencil him into the rotation. The raise in salary doesn't help the Sox, but if he does bounce back, they have team control for at least 2 seasons. But for what little he's done for the team in 2014, it's hard to see that happening. Basically, if he can stay healthy and avoid these major pitfall innings, he should be fine. But there are no promises. The Sox just have to hope 2015 is his best year yet - they'll need it.
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