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Before Clay Buchholz could become an effective reliever, he realized he had this one big thing to learn 08.27.16 at 1:29 pm ET
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Clay Buchholz is ready to transition back to the bullpen. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Clay Buchholz is ready to transition back to the bullpen. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Clay Buchholz didn’t believe a situation existed that he hadn’t seen as a starter. Then he moved to the bullpen and realized he was missing a big one — learning how to enter a game with runners on base.

Through conversations with his fellow relievers, Buchholz has grown to appreciate the art of stranding runners who aren’t of his making.

And as he transitions back to the bullpen with the potential of becoming a factor in the eighth inning, Buchholz believes this knowledge will be pivotal.

“You start talking more baseball stuff from the bullpen’s perspective, rather than the starting perspective,” Buchholz said. “It actually allows you to learn a little more about what you’re doing in different situations. With runners on, you come into a game, what you have to do to keep that runner form scoring, and it’s not like going into a clean inning as a starter and setting up hitters for their second, third, and fourth at-bats. You’re going in to get them out at that point in time, and you can use all your stuff to do that. It’s a side of the game that I thought I knew a little bit about, but I never really did, because I was never really in the bullpen.”

As fellow reliever Brad Ziegler noted, entering a game with a runner on first is very different from walking the leadoff hitter.

“I’ve spent my whole career getting double play balls with guys on base,” he said. “That’s a lot easier to do whenever I’ve got into the feel of the inning a little bit. I let the guy on base, but I’ve already thrown four or five pitches at that point. It’s hard to go in and try to get a ground ball on the very first pitch.”
Buchholz has a better feel for this now, and is looking forward to pitching meaningful innings after being buried during his first stint in the pen.

“It’s all role-based in the bullpen,” he said. “I didn’t really have a role down there for an extended period of time. That’s probably harder than pitching in close games. If it’s a blowout game, [Craig] Kimbrel knows he’s probably not going into that game unless he hasn’t pitched in five or six games. But in the situation I was in, I’d probably be pitching in those games. It’s hard to pitch to major league hitters when you’re down a whole lot or up a whole lot, because one, two, three runs doesn’t really mean a whole lot, but you have to treat it as if they do. It’s easy to let down.

“But pitching in situations as far as having a role, you know when you need to be ready, and you can start preparing in the innings leading up to that. It’s fun to pitch when the game’s on the line. Everybody in here is a competitor, and everybody likes going out and having some situations that it’s going to help the team win a game.”

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John Farrell on D&H: It ‘looks like Clay [Buchholz] by default’ for return to bullpen once Steven Wright, Eduardo Rodriguez are healthy 08.24.16 at 4:08 pm ET
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John Farrell

John Farrell

Red Sox manager John Farrell made his regular appearance on the Dale & Holley show with Thornton on Wednesday to discuss the starting rotation and other team news. To hear the interview, visit the D&H audio on demand page.

Clay Buchholz has made three spot starts for the Red Sox with both Steven Wright and Eduardo Rodriguez out with injuries, and he has performed well enough to put himself in the running for a permanent spot in the rotation. Farrell said “it probably looks like Clay by default” will return to the bullpen, however, once Wright and Rodriguez are healthy enough to start.

“Setting aside the decision, he’s done a heck of a job in the three starts he’s made for us,” Farrell said. “He seemingly is getting deeper into games, looks stronger as he goes. Steven Wright is going to come off of the DL Friday to make that first start against Kansas City. I think until we get to the bullpen tomorrow with Rodriguez, that will give us a better read on when he slides back in.”

Added Farrell: “The one thing we do have to contend with is with Wright coming back, we’re going to have to make room for him on the roster. If that looks as a reliever going out, then obviously there’s going to be a need in that bullpen. Those are the things that are being factored in, but nonetheless, Clay has done a heck of a job at giving us a boost, and when you look at the way the rotation has gone the last two or three times through, it’s been extremely encouraging.”

Farrell said Buchholz has been much more consistent throwing quality strikes, which has helped spark his turnaround on the mound.

“Obviously, going out of the stretch exclusively has minimized some of the movement in his delivery when he’s in the windup,” Farrell said. “It’s allowed him to make adjustments from one pitch to the next. I think just some subtle adjustments have really added to the depth to his cutter. Last night it was probably the best cutter he’s had I would say in a couple of years time. In addition to staying behind his arm and you saw the power and the velocity, he held 94 pretty much throughout. Those are the reasons why he’s been so consistent in really these three starts.”

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Read More: Andrew Benintendi, Clay Buchholz, Drew Pomeranz, eduardo rodriguez
Curt Schilling on D&C: ‘I would bet’ on Red Sox being in playoffs at 12:12 pm ET
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Curt Schilling

Curt Schilling

Former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling made his weekly appearance on Dennis & Callahan with Minihane on Wednesday morning to discuss the Red Sox’ playoff chances, Clay Buchholz’s resurgence, John Farrell’s job security and more. To hear the full conversation, go to to the D&C audio on demand page.

Through nine games of the Red Sox’ 11-game road trip, the Sox have posted a 7-2 record, which is something Schilling said is a good omen.

“I think by the end of this month you are going to know if they are in the playoffs,” he said. “I thought that this road trip, the amount of travel that they were going to have to do, the pitching had to be the thing carrying them and for the most part that is exactly what has happened. They are playing a good stretch of games on a nightmarish stretch of schedule. I like their chances, very much like their chances. If I was betting today, I would bet on them being in, but my issue gets back to you are going to play that Monday play-in game. Are you battling up to the last day of the season to get in, and if so, who is pitching that game for you? Listen, we are 5 1/2 weeks away, so anybody right now could get hot and you could say that is who I am giving the ball to, but who are you giving the ball to win that one game?

Buchholz pitched in his third spot start on Tuesday night and picked up his first win in almost a month after going 6 1/3 innings and allowing one run on five hits and two walks with nine strikeouts in a 2-1 victory over the Rays.

“The reason I think it feels like such a huge relief or a huge bump is he went into these last two starts, no one was expecting anything, right?” Schilling said of Buchholz. “We talk about seven innings and one run against Tampa as if he threw a no-no. … What happens in the postseason? How is that going to play itself out in the postseason? Is he going to be one of your three or four guys?”

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Why Clay Buchholz should head back to Red Sox bullpen at 3:07 am ET
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A big decision about Clay Buchholz's role is coming up for the Red Sox. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

A big decision about Clay Buchholz’s role is coming up for the Red Sox. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Clay Buchholz has become one of the Red Sox’ most important pitchers. So why shouldn’t he be put in what has become this team’s most unsettled spot?

After the Red Sox’ 2-1 win over the Rays Tuesday night, John Farrell wasn’t tipping his hand. Would the guy who just rattled off a 6 2/3-inning, one-run gem stay in the starting rotation or be pushed back to the bullpen due to the return of Steven Wright?

“As far as Clay goes, this will be more conversation within,” Farrell said. “But setting that aside, he’s throwing the ball exceptionally well right now.”

He sure is. A 1.96 ERA since July 27 backs that up. And so does his 2.70 ERA in the three starts Buchholz has turned in since filling in for Wright. Watch him over the past two outings, and it’s easy to envision the righty qualified to start a postseason game.

So it would only make sense to let Buchholz keep rolling along in the starting rotation, right? Wrong.

This isn’t about whether or not he could keep having success in the starting rotation. Considering Buchholz’s history, he would seem to be primed for one of those runs he has previously executed. The track record is that when the pitcher gets going like this, he is only derailed by one thing — injuries.

The priority here is finding a lock-down eighth-inning guy, and Buchholz is the best candidate for that position.

“Yeah,” Buchholz said when asked if he would embrace such a challenge. “I like competition. I like being in spots where everybody is betting against you.”

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Clay Buchholz thought he would be gone from Red Sox, but Dave Dombrowski had other ideas at 2:09 am ET
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Clay Buchholz has been on quite a roll. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Clay Buchholz has been on quite a roll. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — It was a good moment for Clay Buchholz.

The Red Sox starter not only could revel in his 6 1/3-inning, one-run outing against the Rays Tuesday night, but he could do so while passing on the good news to his family, which was back home in Texas. (Buchholz’s daughter had just started kindergarten the day before.) And he was living this life while sitting at the familiar Tropicana Field visiting clubhouse locker, one he had inhabited for the majority of his time visiting as a Red Sox.

Considering his success at the home of the Rays (3-0 with a 0.54 ERA in his last five Tropicana Field starts), the scene was a familiar one for Buchholz.

Yet, as he admitted after the Red Sox’ 2-1 win, it was a moment he didn’t think would be presenting itself by the time Aug. 23 game around. At least not in a Boston uniform.

“No. I don’t think so,” Buchholz said when asked if he thought he would be pitching in a Red Sox uniform by the time Aug. 23 came around. “I wasn’t really worried about it because I know what I can do on a baseball field. I’ve done it for a long time. Sometimes you struggle and the game forces you to make adjustments that you didn’t necessarily know you needed to make. There were a couple of adjustments I needed to make. The bullpen scenario, that actually helped me out with it. Just sort of dumb it down and not overthink things I was overthinking at the time. Just try and have fun with it again rather it be a chore every time you step out there.”

But there was Buchholz, still wearing the gray and reds. For that, he could the approach taken by Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski heading into the non-waiver trade deadline.

“We just felt his stuff was good enough to pitch at the big league level and be successful,” Dombrowski said. “It’s hard to find good big league pitchers, and he has that type of stuff. We knew we needed protection in case we had an injury. We didn’t have anybody else to protect us. So that combination was important. He’s been successful at the big league level, and our guys here had seen him be successful. We just felt he could do it again.

“We weren’t really looking to move him. You listen on anybody, but we weren’t looking to move him.”

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Closing Time: Clay Buchholz continues resurgence in Red Sox’ win over Rays 08.23.16 at 10:19 pm ET
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Clay Buchholz turned in a gem against the Rays Tuesday night. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Clay Buchholz turned in a gem against the Rays on Tuesday night. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Wondering why the Red Sox have won 10 of their last 12, while going 7-2 on the current road trip? Clay Buchholz offered a pretty powerful explanation Tuesday night.

The fill-in starter kept his good times going, this time holding the Rays to just a run over 6 1/3 innings in leading the Red Sox to a 2-1 win at Tropicana Field. Since July 27, Buchholz has totaled a 1.96 ERA, this time managing nine strikeouts along the way.

But this isn’t anything out of the norm for this team while plowing through four cities in the last nine days. The Red Sox starters have now managed a 2.45 ERA on the current trip, and that’s with Henry Owens’ eight-run misstep Sunday. In fact, just two times on the swing Sox starters have given up more than one run.

As for Buchholz, he officially has become one of the Red Sox’ most important pitchers. In his three starts filling in for the injured Steven Wright, the righty has managed a 2.70 ERA.

This time, the Sox starter finished with 94 pitches, the most he’s thrown since June 26. It put Buchholz’s record at 3-0 with an 0.54 ERA in his last five starts at Tropicana Field.

“I was always told the worm turns at some point,” the starter said. “Everybody that’s playing at this level is a good ballplayer and is here for a reason. I take pride in what I do. Good or bad, I try to know what’s going on. In this organization, doing a little bit bad is doing really bad because you hear about it from everywhere. I’ve learned to deal with that. I know I’m going to have some good outings and some bad outings, but I feel like these last two starts, I’m going forward now instead of staying in the same spot or moving backwards.”

With the win the Red Sox remain in a first-place tie with Toronto, which claimed a 7-2 win over the Angels. The Sox improved to a season-high 17 games over .500, their highest point since ending the 2013 season at 97-65.

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Red Sox lineup vs. Rays: Andrew Benintendi once again in starting lineup after catch of year at 3:21 pm ET
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The Red Sox look to stay hot vs. the Rays on Tuesday night, with Clay Buchholz on the mound.

The Sox have won six of eight on this potentially season-defining road trip. Monday’s victory over the Rays was made possible in large part by rookie outfielder Andrew Benintendi, who robbed Steven Souza of a two-run homer in the eighth with a tremendous leaping catch, chronicled by Rob Bradford.

Benintendi is once again in the starting lineup, this time in left, batting ninth, against Rays starter Chris Archer, who is attempting to avoid his 17th loss of the season.

Here’s the lineup.

Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
David Ortiz DH
Mookie Betts RF
Hanley Ramirez 1B
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
Sandy Leon C
Travis Shaw 3B
Andrew Benintendi LF

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Tuesday’s Red Sox-Rays matchups: Clay Buchholz vs. Chris Archer at 9:40 am ET
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In the second game of a four-game series against division rival Tampa Bay, the Red Sox will send Clay Buchholz to the mound to go up against Rays righty Chris Archer.

Buchholz, who is filling in for the injured Steven Wright, sits at 4-9 with a 5.42 ERA and 1.38 WHIP. He has made two consecutive starts after stringing together some successful outings coming out of the bullpen. In his last start, the 32-year-old held the Tigers to one run on six hits through six innings of work in a 4-3 Red Sox loss on Thursday. He struck out three and walked none.

“I felt good, I went with out of the stretch the whole start, less moving parts for me, just things I’ve been working on,” Buchholz said. “I feel like that keeps me over the rubber a little bit longer and enables me to command a little bit better.”

This will be the first outing against Tampa for Buchholz. The right-hander has faced the Rays 20 times in his 10-year career, totaling an 8-7 record with a 2.63 ERA. He last faced the division rival May 4 of last season, when he gave up five runs on nine hits through 6 1/3 innings in a 5-1 Boston loss.

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Red Sox notebook: E-Rod’s status, Clay Buchholz from stretch, Jonathan Papelbon’s old number 08.21.16 at 1:03 pm ET
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John Farrell

John Farrell

DETROIT — Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez remains day-to-day with a sore left hamstring, and manager John Farrell hopes he’s able to avoid the disabled list.

Speaking before Sunday’s series finale in Detroit, Farrell said the team will progress cautiously with Rodriguez, who reported last-minute discomfort at 5:45 p.m. on Saturday, just hours in advance of his scheduled start.

“We have to get him through a simulated game at this point, and hopefully that’s over the next couple of days while we’re in Tampa, just to test his hamstring more than the normal in-between side bullpens, which he threw with his normal intensity, for a side day,” Farrell said. “But where he had reluctance was thinking about and envisioning trying to be 100 percent and not having complete confidence or conviction with those pitches. With that mindset, took it out of his hands and made the adjustment for Henry [Owens] today.”

Owens had a whirlwind Saturday. The Red Sox informed him around 6 p.m. that he needed to get to Detroit. There were no late flights, so he drove to Philadelphia and flew into Detroit on Sunday morning at 6:30.

“Short notice, quick travel, 1:10 start,” Farrell said.

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Read More: Clay Buchholz, eduardo rodriguez, John Farrell, Jonathan Papelbon
Steven Wright doesn’t anticipate making start on Tuesday, but Red Sox manager John Farrell isn’t ruling it out 08.20.16 at 7:07 pm ET
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Red Sox knuckleballer Steven Wright doesn't want to pitch until he's sure his shoulder is healed. (David Butler/USA Today Sports)

Red Sox knuckleballer Steven Wright doesn’t want to pitch until he’s sure his shoulder is healed. (David Butler/USA Today Sports)

DETROIT — Red Sox knuckleballer Steven Wright does not expect to start on Tuesday when he’s eligible to come off the disabled list, but manager John Farrell isn’t closing the door.

Speaking to WEEI.com before Saturday’s game against the Tigers, Wright said he wants to be careful with his shoulder. He threw on flat ground without pain and is scheduled to throw a bullpen on Sunday.

“No, I don’t think I’ll be back Tuesday,” Wright said. “It’s one of those things, I just found out about it a couple of days ago. I know that’s the first day I’m eligible to come off the DL, but for me, because it’s my shoulder, I’m not going to rush. The last thing I want to do is try to go out there and pitch and have something really bad go wrong. Today was my second day throwing with pretty much no pain, which is great.”

Wright said his biggest test will be how he recovers on Monday. In a perfect world, he’d throw another side session on Tuesday, see how he feels on Wednesday and Thursday, and then slot back into the rotation.

Farrell isn’t ruling out a Tuesday start, however.

“I think that’ll be determined after we get through [Sunday],” Farrell said. “Might be one [bullpen], maybe two. If it is two, then we would obviously slot him in and build in another day of rest for the rotation, maybe buy an added day of rest for each guy as we’re into this consecutive stretch. If that were to be the case, we’ve also got a chance to break up the left-handers if it fits. And then look at the schedule to see what the best matchups will be along the way.”

Wright is behind on his between-starts workouts. He said he lifted upper body for the first time in two weeks on Friday.

“The biggest test is, how does it feel Monday after throwing off the mound,” Wright said. “I haven’t thrown off the mound in two weeks.”

Wright injured his shoulder diving back into second as a pinch runner in Los Angeles on Aug. 7. He has not received any shots, instead attempting to heal through rest. He said the injury is to his bursa sac, and not the more serious labrum or rotator cuff.

“I try to avoid needles in my shoulder,” Wright said.

Making a slower return more palatable for Wright is the success of right-hander Clay Buchholz, who limited the Tigers to one run in six innings on Thursday. Wright noted that Buccholz, “is throwing the hell out of the ball.”

“When you’re talking about your throwing arm, it could be the smallest thing, but if you’re not mentally confident, it’s going to affect you whether you are physically OK or not,” he said. “The two go hand in hand.”

Read More: Clay Buchholz, John Farrell, Red Sox, steven wright
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