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Buchholz continues uneven spring

03.23.10 at 9:00 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Clay Buchholz suffered a dismal outing against the Twins on Tuesday night, getting tagged for six runs (five earned) in just 1.2 innings. He allowed four hits, walked three, hit a batter and threw three wild pitches. Of his 60 pitches, almost half (29) missed the strike zone.

Afterwards, he was stumped by the performance. He simply never got a feel for any of his pitches, bouncing both fastballs and changeups en route to the high wild pitch total.

“No explanation. I made some good pitches at certain times, but I just didn’€™t make as many good pitches as I needed to,” said Buchholz. I had to adjust for being down in the zone in the first inning. I felt like I did a good job with damage control in the first inning, only giving up the one (run). Went back out, got ahead of the first hitter, threw an alright pitch but it just caught too much plate and he hit it. In my head, I knew they were going to run because just about all of them are pretty quick on the bases. I started thinking too much about them running and making a certain pitch at a certain time. I paid for it.”

The problem of controlling opponents’ running games has been a common theme of Buchholz’ periods of struggle at the big league level. He has been prone in the past to distraction when thinking about base runners, thus diminishing his pitch-to-pitch focus. That appeared to be the case on Tuesday.

“It’€™s just sometimes when I know guys are on base who are fast, I either want to be too quick to home plate or I want to pick them off. In the past, the worst thing that could happen to me was to pick off a couple of people in a couple of games and then try to pick off everybody,” said Buchholz. “That’€™s one of the key things I need to work on. There’€™s always something, and that’€™s a big thing, because there’€™s always going to be runners on base. I feel there’€™s a couple more outings in the spring to get more comfortable with it in the season.”

Buchholz has been entirely inconsistent this spring. He has now pitched four times, struggling (two innings, five hits, three runs) in his first start against Baltimore, looking terrific against the Pirates (three shutout innings, one hit), dominating a group of Hi-A minor leaguers with four shutout innings and then, most recently, getting tagged by the Twins on Tuesday.

Buchholz now has a 10.80 ERA. That isn’t the sort of number that would be ideal on a team that features a surplus of proven major league starters. All the same, Buchholz didn’t seem to be fretting too much about whether he had put a rotation job in jeopardy through his performance.

“That’€™s not for me to decide. I definitely don’€™t want to go out and give up six runs in two innings,” he said. “There’€™s always going to be games where things don’€™t go well. I’€™ve done it in the past year but rebounded the next game, come out and had a quality start, forget about the game before.

“I think once the season gets underway and it starts, I’€™ll buckle down. I’€™ll do what I need to do to help this team win. No added pressure, no stress for the season, but I feel like I could have a good year if I do all the little things right,” he continued. “They haven’€™t said anything to me [about a role in 2010] since the first day I got here for spring training. Just basically go out, pitch like I can, throw the ball well and let the organization decide what they want to do.”

Here are a few other thoughts that Buchholz offered on his outing:

What explains your location struggles?

There were a couple pitches ‘€“ probably two or three ‘€“ that I thought were strikes that I didn’€™t get. But that’€™s definitely no excuse. I was trying to do too much. Whenever I thought I would make a good pitch, they’€™d hit it. Then I’€™d try to make it better, and that causes it to be out of the zone rather than just trusting the stuff down in the zone and getting some outs. I’€™ll get this one behind me. I’€™ve got these guys again in five days, I believe, so go back at them.

Could you tell Pedroia was injured?

I didn’€™t really look at him after the play. I was in the dugout. I knew that when he came in he was wincing a little bit. I asked him if he’€™d be alright. He said he’€™d be OK, but just precautionary I guess to get him out and take a look at it.

Were you working on anything today?

Just a good mix of pitches. I threw a lot of good changeups today. In certain situations, I needed to throw a fastball for a strike to get to a changeup and didn’€™t do that very well. But overall, the last couple of times I’€™ve been out, I felt good. Tonight was a little bit different, getting used to waiting all day to come in. I’€™m usually about going to sleep right now. It was a little bit of a change, but that’€™s how the season is ‘€“ you’€™ve got a day game and then a night game start the next time around. It’€™s just another game that I can definitely build off of. There’€™s a lot of things that I see that I can get better at.

On the balls in the dirt, what were those?

I spiked a couple fastballs and spiked a couple changeups in the first inning. It was like that in the bullpen before the game. Not really a good feel for either pitch. Trying to throw it harder, my body was trying to throw the ball harder instead of letting it go. It didn’€™t work out too well.

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