Archive for the ‘Clay Buchholz’ Category

A blessing in disguise

Yesterday when I read that Curt Schilling had an injured shoulder and was going to miss the first half of the season, I was pretty worried. I was hoping that Schill was going to have a solid final season in the major leagues and make a push for making the Hall of Fame someday. I was concerned that the Red Sox would miss his leadership. I wondered how the Red Sox rotation would fare with two young guns assuming a very important role. I was wondering if Theo Epstein blew it by not making a serious run at Johan Santana.

But then I came to my senses.

The Red Sox had the best rotation in baseball last year in spite of the elementary performance of Schilling. Schill came into spring training looking like a poor man’s Joba Chamberlain, and it showed with his injury. The once dominant fast-baller had morphed into a finesse pitcher with a weight problem. Hitters were no longer intimidated by him, which was evident by his 9-8 record. He couldn’t blow the pitches past the hitters and resorted to nibbling the corners. I was on the edge of my seat every time Schilling pitched last year, because he was always one pitch away from serving up a three run home-run. I had big hopes for Schilling this year. He seemed motivated to come to camp this year in better shape and erase the memories of his disappointing 2007 season.

With Schilling missing at least the first half of the season, this is the opportunity Clay Buchholz needs to prove why he is Boston’s top pitching prospect. Buchholz was dominant during his short stint with the Sox last year, but being that he is only 24 years old and still developing, the Sox will want to limit his innings this season. So maybe he can assume the #5 spot in the rotation until Schilling comes back, then go to a six-man rotation for the playoff run. This will give everyone a little rest and get them ready for the playoffs.

I still really like Boston’s rotation this year. Beckett will be Beckett and should chalk up another 20 wins. Dice K, with a season of experience under his belt, should take his game up a notch. Wakefield is always good for at least 12 wins. Then we have the always improving Jon Lester, and the wild card Clay Buchholz. If any of these guys falter, Boston will have some options. Kyle Snyder and Julian Tavarez are always available to start. There some kids in the minors worthy of a call-up. And if all else fails, Theo will make the deal to shore up the rotation.

We all know pitching wins games. We’ll soon see if the Sox have enough to defend their title.

My top 5 favorite games of the 2007 season.

Here are my five favorite games from the Red Sox 2007 season.

  1. The Mother’s Day miracle: Boston rallied from a five-run deficit in the bottom of the ninth inning to beat the Baltimore Orioles 6-5. What I remember about this game was Josh Beckett left the game early with a “finger” problem, and suddenly everyone’s thoughts turned to the blister problems that have plagued Beckett his entire career. Also, Jeremy Guthrie of the Orioles was shutting the Boston bats down all game, allowing 0 runs on three hits. Being that it was Mother’s Day, I turned the game off in the top of the ninth inning to take my wife out to dinner. I was shocked when I came home and saw that the Sox won.
  2. Schilling throws a one-hitter: 4o-year-old Schilling was one out away from throwing the first no-hitter of his Major League career against the Oakland A’s. After the game, Schilling admitted that he shook off Jason Varitek’s sign on the Shannon Stewart single. I may have jinxed this one. With two outs in the ninth and the no-hitter still intact, I phoned my buddy Dylan to make sure he was watching. Before he could even pick up the phone, Stewart singled. End of the no hitter. Sorry about that, Curt.
  3. Clay Buchholz throws a no-hitter: In only his second Major League start, Buchholz dazzles the Baltimore Orioles and gives Red Sox fans a glimpse into the future. I was working at the fire station during this game. It seemed like every time I tried to sit and watch the game, I would get dispatched for a call. In between taking patients to the hospital I would check the box score. I finally made it back to the station and watched from the seventh inning on. I found myself wishing for two things: not to get another alarm and for this kid to make history. Both wishes came true.
  4. Game 5, ALCS: Josh Beckett keeps the Red Sox season alive with another dominating post-season performance. This was the game that solidified Beckett as one of the greatest postseason pitchers of all time. The Red Sox were able to put a stop to Cleveland’s three-game winning streak and seize the momentum heading back to Fenway.
  5. Game 4, World Series: Jon Lester starts game four after beating cancer, allowing 0 earned runs in 5 1/3 innings. A gutsy performance from the 23-year-old. Bobby Kielty homers on the first pitch that he’s seen during the entire World Series. Mike Lowell further endears himself to Red Sox fans with a double and a home run, leading to his World Series MVP award. And Papelbon closes the door with five outs to help capture the second Red Sox World Series in four years.

These were my favorite games. Please post your comments and tell me which games were memorable for you.

Dice KO’d

Daisuke Matsuzaka has been horrible during his last two starts for the Red Sox. His ERA is an absurd 16.88 in September. After allowing 8 runs to the Baltimore Orioles last night, he looks like a shell of the pitcher who not long ago appeared to be the future ace of the Sox pitching staff.

Coming over from Japan, major leaguers had no prior experience with Dice, so the first time against these teams he was showing stuff they had never seen before. Now that he’s going through these lineups a second time, the players are getting used to him – his slow wind-up, his weird butt wiggle, the variety of off-speed pitches.

Also, Dice isn’t throwing as many first-pitch strikes as he was earlier in the season, so he’s getting into more batter counts, allowing the hitters to wait on his fastball. When Dice K isn’t locating his fastball for first-pitch strikes and keeping batters off balance with the off speed pitches, he looks downright ordinary. He’s finding out that he can’t just throw fastballs past major league hitters.

As good as Dice K was in Japan, the talent over there pales in comparison to Major League Baseball, and a drop-off in performance was to be expected. Consider this: he is technically a rookie and has 14 wins playing in the toughest division in the league. If this was anyone else, they would already have his name engraved on the Rookie of the Year award.

Another thing to consider is that Dice K was used to pitching every 6th day in Japan. Pitching every five days and routinely throwing over 100 pitches per game may be wearing him down. If I were Terry Francona, I would give him his next scheduled start off. The Sox have a comfortable lead in the standings, and some guy named Clay Buchholz who’s proved to be a pretty good pitcher is ready to take his spot in the rotation for a game.

I’m really not worried, and here’s why: Dice K is respected by his teammates and members of the organization for his tireless work ethic and loyalty to his team. He is a true professional who will make the necessary adjustments to be a big part of the Red Sox playoff run, in this season and many more to come.

The Can’t Miss Kid

Hype is a word that is thrown around a lot in sports. Teams begin hyping up their own players from the time they are drafted. Every team has the next “can’t miss” prospect. Players from the past like Brien Taylor and Todd Van Poppel were both first round “can’t miss” prospects who were crushed under the pressure created by their teams. This year, when it comes to Red Sox prospects, it appears we can actually believe the hype.

There have been some incredible stories this year about some Red Sox rookies. Everyone knows what Clay Buchholz has done in his second big-league start. Hideki Okajima made the AL All Star team and has been the ideal setup man for Jonathan Papelbon. And of course, Dustin Pedroia just keeps on hitting and gets better every game.

In Boston, there is another rookie who laughs in the face of the hype machine. Since being promoted from the Triple A Pawtucket Red Sox, outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury has turned the Major Leagues on its ear. This kid has played in only 10 big league games this year and is already showing that his days in Pawtucket are officially over. Ellsbury has played all three outfield position and has yet to commit an error, and his diving catch Monday night against the Blue Jays was a game saver. Ellsbury has also batted in several different spots in the lineup and has hit .393 with 2 home runs.

Since being drafted in the first round by Boston in 2005, Ellsbury has moved quickly through the minors, excelling at each level, even winning Boston’s Minor League Defensive Player of the Year in 2006. One scouting report compared Ellsbury to “a better version of Johnny Damon. I say a better version because he has all the same baseball talent, but a better arm, and minus the greed and ***holeness.”

There is one little problem. The Red Sox now have four starting outfielders. Who is going to be odd man out? Ellsbury isn’t going anywhere: pencil him into the Sox lineup for the next ten years. With Manny and J.D. Drew signed to outrageous contracts, it appears Coco Crisp’s days are numbered.

The Red Sox have a proud tradition of all-star outfielders. It may be time to add one more name to the list.

Reality Bites

Well, it’s back to reality for New York after losing 2 out of 3 games in Yankee Stadium to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. It’s sad times for Yankee fans when your season highlight is a 3-game sweep of the Boston Red Sox, dropping their lead to “only” 5 games.

Yankee fans can whine about having to “come down” after such an emotional series against Boston, but the facts remain. The Yankees caught the Red Sox at their most vulnerable. Boston was on the last leg of a 10-game road trip. Manny allegedly injured his oblique muscle, and J.D. Drew was sucking like his normal self. Anybody could have beat Boston those three days.

And how did both teams respond to such an “emotional” series? Philip Hughes, “Yankee Ace” of the future: 4 innings pitched with 4 earned runs in a loss against Tampa. Andy Pettite: 6 innings pitched for 11 hits and 5 earned runs (another loss). And the million-dollar man Roger Clemens put together another solid start today for a loss against Seattle (4 innings pitched, 8 hits, 5 earned runs). At the cost of only a million dollars, Clemens not only increased the Red Sox lead in the AL East but also helped Seattle inch closer to overtaking the wild card lead.

Meanwhile in Boston, the Sox have been playing kids against men and taking 2 out of 3 from Baltimore. I don’t know if anyone has heard about Clay Buchholz, the Red Sox rookie who threw a no hitter in only his second major league start, or Jon Lester, who has overcome cancer and is now 3-0 on the season, but the Sox are once again showing their superior pitching, farm system and front office. The reality is that this is just the first of many years to come of the Red Sox dominating the Yankees.

The Yankees can have their emotional series win. The Red Sox are going to have the title.

In Theo We Trust

When the 2007 MLB trade deadline came and went without the Red Sox upgrading their offense, I was more than a little disappointed. I couldn’t see why G.M. Theo Epstein wouldn’t part with a couple of promising minor leaguers to land guys like Jermaine Dye or Mark Teixiera. I mean, these guys are proven all-stars who would make any lineup better. I thought the Red Sox wanted to win this year, not hope that these “kids” will make it to the show and provide Boston with a solid lineup for years to come. I was more interested in a 2-year rent-a-player who could help the team now. It felt like playing the stock market, hoping the future would be prosperous.

I was wrong.

Throughout this season, players like Pedroia, Papelbon, Delcarmen, Lester, Ellsbury and now Buchholz haven’t just contributed to the Sox lineup, they’ve solidified it.

Let’s take a look at the potential Red Sox lineup 2 years from now and how old each player will be:

Pitchers:
Beckett 29
Dice K 29
Lester 25
Buchholz 25
Delcarmen 27
Paplebon 29

Fielders:
1B: Youkilis 30
2B: Pedroia 26
OF: Crisp 30
OF: Ellsbury 26
OF: Moss 26

This core of players has the potential to be all-stars for the next several years. Maybe there is something to be said for having players mature and progress through your farm system, instead of selling off your talent for the high-priced flavor of the month. Just ask the Yankees how that has worked out for them.

The future is now in Boston… and the future looks bright.