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Red Sox notes: Clay Buchholz picks up the pace; Joel Hanrahan has an ‘ugly, ugly day’

03.07.13 at 6:04 pm ET
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Mike Napoli launched a three-run homer in the Red Sox' spring training win over the Twins Thursday. (AP)

FORT MYERS, Fla. – Clay Buchholz offered good results in the box score, and on the stopwatch.

Making his third start of spring training, Buchholz allowed just two hits over three innings, striking out four in what resulted in the Red Sox’ 12-5 win over the Twins at Hammond Stadium.

But that wasn’t necessarily what was most impressive.

Buchholz was able to take the work he was doing in between appearances regarding his pace between pitches and translate it into a noticeable tempo change this time around. It resulted in the image of a pitcher in command.

“We’ve tried to shorten down the number of time in between pitches. Not so much spending his delivery, but getting back up on the mound and delivering pitch,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “It was noticeably different toay. Another thing that he did in the bullpen of late, and what we’ve seen, is kind of a refinement to his overall command and strike throwing. Again, it carried out today.”

The method they used toward finding the improvement?

“Put a stopwatch on him and let him feel it,” Farrell added. “They have to feel it. They have to feel the rhythm of the game and when things tend to slow down. Last time out, five days ago, he was 26, 28 seconds in between pitches. In the bullpen we tried to get him down to 15 seconds in between each and he was able to do that more consistently today.

“You have to have some proof and just show him, so when they feel it, they understand the timespan between each pitch.”

- The pitcher following Buchholz, Joel Hanrahan, didn’t have the same level of success.

The Sox’ closer faced six batters, allowed four singles and a walk while striking out the last batter he faced. He was charged with four runs, pushing his spring training ERA to 18.00.

“I felt like the ball was coming out of my hand pretty good, still missing that little notch of life to it but that’s something that comes with spring training,” Hanrahan explained. “Fortunately I kept the ball down or else there would have been a couple more hit on that Six Mile Cypress (road) out here. Fortunately able to keep the ball down, just missing in the middle. Unfortunately, it was an ugly, ugly day.”

Hanrahan will be leaving the team for a short while to be with his wife, who is scheduled to give birth to the couple’s baby boy Monday. (“Luckily I didn’t put her in labor,” he said. “She was at the doctor today so she couldn’t watch.”)

And while the closer’s velocity did seemingly pick up a tick – sitting at 96-97 mph – he admittedly has some work to do before April 1.

“You can make up excuses all day if you want to,” Hanrahan said. “For me, still trying to get people out and put up zeroes no matter where you’re at. Can you emulate the ninth inning in Fenway [Park] or Yankee Stadium? No, it’s just impossible to do here. But that’s something fortunately a lot of us have done before so we know how to handle it when that situation comes. It’s a little different when it’s 40,000 people and stuff like that. In spring training you’re still trying to get people out. I’m not trying to make excuses. It was a bad day.”

- Mike Napoli continues to be one of the bright spots in camp thus far, launching his second home run of the spring. The first baseman’s three-run shot cleared the left field fence and gave the Sox an 8-0 lead at the time.

He is now 4-for-7 in his three games, while playing a solid first base. (Although he did allow a foul ball to drop just before the stands in foul ground this time around.)

If you’re wondering about Napoli’s previous springs, last year he finished with a 1.065 OPS to go along with three home runs. In 123 career spring training games, the 31-year-old has hit 21 homers to go along with .960 OPS.

- This is what Farrell had to say about Daniel Bard’s one-inning, three-strikeout outing:

“Very encouraging. He’s taken the work that he’s done on the side and in the sim game into today. he stayed behind a lot of fastballs. There was improved command, improved velocity. It was a very good day for him.”

And …

“I think he was probably 95 to 97 (mph), which might be the best velocity he’s shown in a little over a year. I think setting aside the velocity, just the way he repeated his delivery was the most important thing.”

Read More: Clay Buchholz, Daniel Bard, joel hanrahan, John Farrell
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