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Allen Webster outstanding, Clay Buchholz sharp, Mike Napoli rakes as Red Sox beat Blue Jays

03.12.13 at 5:07 pm ET
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Clay Buchholz has yet to give up a run this spring (AP)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Clay Buchholz was a little bit late to the game at the start of spring training when he suffered a mild hamstring strain at the start of camp. But a brief respite from throwing at the earliest stages of camp has been just about the only thing that has gone wrong for him this spring.

The right-hander continued his strong spring training, requiring just 45 pitches (30 strikes) to blitz through four scoreless innings in which he permitted three hits while striking out one and walking none. His low-90s two-seam fastball did its job perfectly, as he elicited eight groundball outs (including a pair on a double-play) and breezed efficiently through the Blue Jays lineup (while also showing, at times, a quality changeup and curveball). In doing so, he also felt that he maintained his improved tempo on the mound, working aggressively through his outing.

“Everything’s starting to fall together,” said Buchholz. “[I was] just able to go out there and execute pitches like one after another a little bit better than the last time out and the time before that. I feel like it’s all coming together just for the spring, getting up and down a little bit more and then the next time I go out it’ll be five innings. It’s starting to feel more real right now.

“I feel comfortable with all my pitches, there’s not one particularly pitch I feel like I need to work on more than the other one,” he added. “I think I’m right where I need to be right now.”

Buchholz has now thrown 8 1/3 scoreless innings this spring, giving up six hits and two walks while striking out seven.

OTHER RED SOX NOTES

Allen Webster once again showed an outstanding pitch mix, combining a 95-96 mph fastball with a terrific swing-and-miss changeup and slider. He logged three innings, allowing one unearned run while striking out three and walking none.

“He’s pretty damn good,” said Farrell. “To have the kind of secondary weapons that he has. And what’s been impressive is young pitchers that are able to throw that changeup on a 3-2 count. He’s showing the ability to throw a breaking ball to both sides of the plate, in addition to a live fastball, heavy sink. He’s done a great job.”

One eye-opening aspect of Webster’s spring: The right-hander now has just one walk (and 14 strikeouts) in 11 innings pitched. That control stands in contrast to relatively high walk rates that he’s shown throughout his career to this point.

“You could see the athleticism in his body and delivery for sure. But the one thing [that has been different than expected] is the strike-throwing ability, particularly early in the count — that has maybe been somewhat better than anticipated,” said Farrell. “The one thing that he’s grasping is that with his stuff and the action of his two-seamer, he doesn’t have to pitch to a third of the plate. He can be more aggressive on the white part of the plate, and it’s allowed him to pitch and at least execute strike one at a higher rate. It just opens up so many more options for him. In a nutshell, it’s his ability to attack the strike zone, strike one.”

– For the offense, Mike Napoli had a strong game, slamming a single off the Wall in left field and doubling to deep center. He’s now 6-for-14 with two homers and a double.

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