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Clay Buchholz on rehab start: ‘I feel like I hadn’t pitched in two and a half months’

08.25.13 at 6:31 pm ET
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FISHKILL, N.Y. — After more than 11 weeks since his last game appearance, Clay Buchholz returned to the mound for the first time since his June 8 outing. He did not exactly resemble the pitcher who started the year with a 9-0 record and 1.71 ERA.

Buchholz faced just seven batters in the first inning, requiring 38 pitches to retire two of them while allowing three runs (one earned) on one hit (a triple) and three walks. He struck out a batter looking on a two-seam fastball that likely missed the plate. Of his 38 pitches, he threw 19 strikes and 19 balls.

Will he politic for a quick return to the big league rotation now? Hardly.

“Oh, no. I could definitely use [another]. I feel like I hadn’t pitched in two and a half months,” Buchholz acknowledged. “It’s an art. If you don’t do it for an extended period of time, you feel awkward doing it. Facing batters in game situations is completely different than facing the guys on my team. I think one more would do it if I can get up and down enough times. Obviously I’ve got to find the strike zone a little bit more often. But I think that will come.”

Buchholz didn’t get a single swing and miss, and his fastball at Dutchess Stadium registered at 88-89 mph on the stadium gun (though one talent evaluator said he was up to 90 mph). But the right-hander said that he was more focused on trying to find his mechanics and command than on totally unleashing his fastball. He did have a chance to mix in his full arsenal — by his estimate, throwing three changeups, five cutters, four curveballs along with his four- and two-seam fastballs — and, from his vantage point, the most important takeaway from his day was that he emerged without any physical concerns.

“I felt good. That was my only concern of coming out here and pitching. Physically, I felt fine — sort of did the same thing as I’ve been doing in the [simulated] games and bullpens, eased myself into it. And then there towards the end, I felt like everything was free still,” said Buchholz. “I wasn’t trying to throw as hard as I could. I was basically trying to find the zone. I was up a little bit. But I think I sort of got what I needed to. I hadn’t thrown 40 pitches together through all this stuff, so I think that was something I needed to do.”

Buchholz said that he expects to simulate the multiple innings that he did not get on Sunday once he rejoins the team at Fenway Park this week. He suggested that he “can really treat this like a bullpen [session] today,” and that he is under the impression that he’ll likely need one or two more rehab starts before he’s ready to rejoin the rotation.

“I heard something about they want me to do three, but the minor league season is only so long, so in my head, I only wanted to do two,” he said. “I’m going to treat this next bullpen that I throw as a game, probably try to throw more pitches and then go out after that.”

He lacked the sharpness of a big league ready pitcher, but to Buchholz — who flew from L.A. to New York on Saturday and then had a 90-minute drive up to the rehab start — this represented an important step forward.

“My only concern here was my body and how I felt,” he said. “I felt fine.”

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