Red Sox

Clay Buchholz explains how he handled Boston

Clay Buchholz explains how he handled Boston

PHILADELPHIA — At least for a time, Clay Buchholz was the easiest target of 2016, the easiest Red Sox pitcher for fans and media to criticize — fairly and unfairly.

A year ago on Friday, Buchholz was pitching in relief. Three scoreless innings lowered his ERA to 5.86.

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The righty put together a strong second half bouncing between the pen and the rotation, a second half that was easy to overlook. From July 27 through the end of the regular season, his ERA was 2.80. 

But no one, including him, would have been shocked if he was traded before he had a chance to redeem himself in the second half. His Red Sox time looked like it needed to end. It did over the winter in a trade with the Phillies.

Buchholz lived Boston, with all its warts and glory, for a long time. His 188 starts are 16th all-time in franchise history. Pedro Martinez made 201 starts. Jon Lester made 241.

How did Buchholz handle Boston from 2007-16? Coming back from forearm surgery, Buchholz explained his approach and experience in a conversation with CSNNE.com in the home dugout at Citizens Bank Park. 

What were the secrets for Clay Buchholz playing in Boston?

"When I was good for an extended period of time and I was bad for an extended period of time, it’s a lot easier to handle obviously when you’re good. Because there’s nobody coming at you and there’s nobody looking for answers to what’s going on or what’s wrong, or why aren’t you doing this. I guess the secret is just be really good every time you go out. I don’t think anybody can really do that, except for a select number of guys in the league. 

"It was definitely a learning curve to it. My whole motto was have a short memory with everything. With the good, you had a good start, you win a game, when you come into the field the next day, start your work for that next start rather than dwelling on that good or bad start. And that’s how I got through some of the bad times, and I was able to come back and throw the ball well. Because I didn’t, [it] was always said that I was a mental midget, or that I was weak mentally, I feel like I was one of the stronger mentally sound people in the game just because of the fact of what I had to go through, and what I put myself through on a lot of occasions. 

"You got to be a man, you got to step up, you got to talk about your start if you’re a starting pitcher and you got to address the media and all that stuff, and I think everybody knows that. But it’s the difference from there and then here [in Philadelphia] is there is maybe, there’s 25 people of media in Boston. There’s maybe six here. That number obviously makes it easier. You don’t have to talk to different people about the same stuff for three days after a start. You can do it, get it out and it’s done. But yeah I just try to take it one day at a time. I knew that there were two things that were going to happen: I’m going to go out and be good or I’m going to go out and not be so good. And the days that you’re not so good, you got to try to keep your team in the game within striking distance to score some runs and get back at it. 

"That’s all I thought about it. I didn’t ever, I tried not to let it ever affect me in a negative way. Sometimes it does, and that’s the times you have to sort of learn from what happened and how it happened and why it happened and try to break it down and not let that happen again."

Did you feel like by the end of it you kind of figured it out?

"I mean, yeah, there was a bunch of different points in time where I would revert back. I’m on a good route right now, I‘m throwing the ball good, I feel good. And, like I said, that’s when it’s easy to go through and be able to talk to people. It’s when somebody has something to say about you that you don’t necessarily believe or understand, and that gets blown up. And then you have to answer questions about it all over again. So like, it’s a recurrence. You got to — it’s a process through elimination. You got to test things out and learn how to do it and know what works best for you. Some people are better at just being a ‘yes’ guy, and telling people what they want to hear. Some guys are, they don’t know how to do that. 

"And that’s whenever you’re faced with adversity, that’s one of those times coming to play where, like I said, you have to be a man, you got to step up and do it. But, everybody’s got their boiling point and everybody has their mark where, once they cross that line, you got to try something different. Sometimes it’s negative and sometimes it’s positive. I tried to keep it positive just for the simple fact there were already enough negative things happening. Didn’t want to add any negativity to the whole ordeal. That’s basically all I did."

Did you guys talk about it behind the scenes? Would you and Jon Lester or whoever, Josh Beckett, have a conversation about how we should do this or not?

"Not so much. Everybody’s personality’s different. You know, Jon Lester was a pretty quiet guy. John Lackey wasn’t. Josh Beckett wasn’t. Curt Schilling wasn’t. So, my personality would not, you wouldn’t be able to combine my and Beckett’s or my and Curt Schilling’s personality because they’re polar opposites. So you got to be you, and you got to say what you want to say, or you got to say what you think people want to hear, and that’s the two different ways that you can go. One of ‘em is going to be a more positive way of doing it, because people are going to forget about it. And the other one, people are going to keep bringing it up, because you’re causing confrontation. That’s part of it. "

You’re not on social media for this reason?

"A lot. I mean, I have kids and stuff. I know that if I was to post to something — they already know where I’m at, they already know enough about me, and my life’s public knowledge, basically. Nobody needs to know any more about me. My wife and the kids, they do it, and I don’t agree with it. But that’s what she does so I can’t tell her not to. Yeah, that’s part of the reason. Everybody’s going to have those nights where they’re sitting at their house, just boiling in their mind. Their head’s spinning and they see somebody tweet something. The manly something to do is to tweet something back. That’s part of it. So, that’s what I’ve always tried to stay away from."

Do you miss it? Boston?

"I miss the guys. Those are my buddies, you know. You got a really good group of guys over here too, that’s what I was telling ‘em. It’s obviously more veteran-oriented over there. You got a couple young studs that are going to be around the game for a long time. So, this team’s more along the lines of building to get to that point right now. And there’s — I don’t have a doubt in my mind that they could do it. You just got a couple more pieces here and there throughout the next three years or so, three or four years, then this team could be back to where it was five years ago. 

"But I do miss the guys, it was good to see ‘em. It was time for a change for me. It was time for a change. I mean, I knew I thought I was getting traded for the last two years. So, it’s finally happened and I landed in a good group with a good group of guys that are young and they’re still feeling the big leagues out in some way. But learning how to play the game, learning what it’s about. The No. 1 thing is to win, and that’s what everybody has to have their mind focused on."

You’re the veteran now.

"I know. It’s crazy."

It’s weird?

"It is. It really is."


 

Mookie Betts hits 2 HRs to power Red Sox to 4-3 win over Blue Jays

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Mookie Betts hits 2 HRs to power Red Sox to 4-3 win over Blue Jays

TORONTO -- After six home runs in his last seven games, it seems Mookie Betts' isn't impressing his teammates anymore.

"We don't care about Mookie, we care about the Bruins," Hanley Ramirez joked in the locker room after Betts' latest offensive outburst helped the Boston Red Sox snap their season-high three-game losing streak with a 4-3 over the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday night.

Betts homered twice and drove in three runs as the Red Sox improved to 6-1 in one-run games and got their 18th win of the season, tying the franchise record for victories before May 1.

While the Red Sox outfielder has reached base in each of his last 19 games against the Blue Jays, he said he feels he is starting to tap into the power side of his game.

"I think so. A lot of learning with the new hitting [coaches], and with [new teammate] J.D. [Martinez], just putting things together," he said. "Actually learning how to use my strength versus going off ability."

Betts got the Red Sox on the scoreboard with leadoff homer in the first -- his third such shot of the season and 14th of his career --over the left-field fence. He then put the Red Sox in front for good in the seventh, taking reliever Danny Barnes (1-1) deep over the right-field wall for his eighth homer of the season, a two-run shot that also drove in Brock Holt.

Alex Cora said it is games like this that has Betts keeping the very best of company in the major leagues.

"They're special," the Red Sox manager said. "The Trouts, the Altuves, the more at-bats they get the better you feel about it,"

Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez (3-0) gave up three runs and six hits in 6 2/3 innings, throwing a season-high 106 pitches.

One night after giving up a walk-off home run to Curtis Granderson, closer Craig Kimbrel worked a 1-2-3 ninth for his sixth save of the season.

Though Boston has now won all of Rodriguez's four starts this season, after the recent losing skid, the left-hander was more than happy to give credit to the guy who jump-started the offense.

"We needed something like that, somebody to get us in front and do it like he did it today," he said.

However, Yangervis Solarte wasn't handing out much credit after the game. The third baseman's sixth home run of the season into the second deck of left field in the sixth inning gave Toronto its only lead of the game at 3-2.

"I think [Rodriguez] got lucky a couple of times and we didn't take advantage of it," he said. "I think we made the adjustment a little bit. But I think he got lucky more than us getting beat."

Aaron Sanchez lasted six innings for the Blue Jays, giving up just three hits and two runs, while striking out a season-high eight.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Red Sox: SS Xander Bogaerts might be in the Boston lineup Friday, but lost his chance for another rehab appearance with Triple-A Pawtucket's game rained out on Wednesday and the team off Thursday. Manager Alex Cora said Bogaerts would visit the doctor before making a determination on his availability. He has been out since fracturing his ankle on April 8.

Blue Jays: 3B Josh Donaldson should be ready to begin a rehab assignment later this week, according to manager John Gibbons. The former AL MVP has been out since April 10 with right shoulder inflammation. ... SS Troy Tulowitzki has been cleared to begin light baseball activities, according to a team spokesperson. Tulowitzki, currently on the 60-day DL after having bone spurs removed from both feet during spring training, will be monitored and re-evaluated after four weeks.

OUTRIGHT THIEVERY

With steals of both second and third base in the seventh inning by Andrew Benitendi, the Red Sox have now converted 20 of their last 20 stolen-base attempts against Toronto.

NOT O-K?

The Red Sox struck out 10 times and has now done so in each of their last four games, after reaching that mark just two in their first 19 contests.

HIGHLIGHT REEL

Just missing leading off the bottom of the first with a home run, Steve Pearce instead decided to make a play for second as the ball caromed off the left-field wall. But with left fielder Benitendi making a good, one-hop throw to second, only a nifty hook slide around the tag of Eduardo Nunez prevented the out.

A FOUR-GONE CONCLUSION?

Despite posting a 13-0 record when plating four or more runs, the Blue Jays dropped to 1-9 when scoring less than four.

UP NEXT

Red Sox: LHP Chris Sale (1-1, 1.86) takes the mound for the series finale looking to improve on his 4-1 record with a 0.96 ERA in seven appearances in Toronto.

Blue Jays: RHP Marco Estrada (2-1, 5.32) is looking for his first win against the Red Sox since June 5, 2016, after going 0-1 against them in four starts last season.

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Drellich: Sandy Leon, Christian Vazquez control Blake Swihart's future

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Drellich: Sandy Leon, Christian Vazquez control Blake Swihart's future

If the Red Sox really believed in Christian Vazquez and Sandy Leon long term, would Blake Swihart still be here? 

Swihart is static. There’s an idea of what he can be someday, but he’s not presently growing as a bench player. Whether his future lies with the Red Sox, then, appears to depend entirely on others: Leon and Vazquez. At some point, one of the trio needs to be moved, be it during the season or in the winter at latest.

Less than a month into 2018, Swihart is getting even fewer opportunities than anticipated. Manager Alex Cora didn’t use Swihart in the field during blowouts to start the road trip: not behind the plate, not at third base, not in left field. Some at-bats at DH were Swihart’s pittance as the Red Sox trounced the Angels.

Cora’s going out of his way to get most everyone playing time, but Swihart’s mostly spectating.

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“We’re in such a good groove on the mound, and you don't want to break the rhythm,” Cora said in Anaheim. “It’s a tough one. It’s one I’m fighting on a daily basis, and I’m trying to keep the communication there. But as a player, as a utility guy back in the day, sometimes I had great days. Some days I didn't want to see the manager. I know that. If there's a day I look and he doesn’t want to talk to me, I understand. I’ve been in his shoes before.”

Now, Cora doesn’t control the roster, Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski does. And the roster overall is doing just fine with Swihart in limited use. But there must be some sort of plan if Swihart’s going to continue in this non-role for an entire season. There has to be a pay-off for the Red Sox, considering Swihart’s trade value isn’t getting any better. What else could the Sox be thinking about, aside from uncertainty in Vazquez and Leon? (Simply hoping and praying for a better trade offer for Swihart doesn't sound reasonable.)

“I’m fighting the situation, but it’s not like we’re feeling sorry,” Cora said. “He’s part of this group and he’s important. There’s more that comes into the equation and he knows that, the way the game goes he has to be ready. A pinch-hit appearance, to run. … He has to stay sharp. He’s playing for the Boston Red Sox and he’s a part of this team.”

For now. Another five months this way sounds crazy. But maybe that’s what the Sox need to make up their minds.

Again, the evaluation at this point isn’t about Swihart. You can’t evaluate a player who is not playing. But the Sox know he has upside. The choice centers on Leon and Vazquez, whose receiving skills are lauded and appreciated by the pitching staff, but whose bats may be too weak to justify their tandem beyond this year. Or for even the length of this year. 

The Sox’ .439 OPS from their backstops was the worst in the majors entering Wednesday. They were hitting a combined .179.

Cora on WEEI’s Dale and Keefe on Wednesday that the Sox are not considering Swihart behind the plate, as of now. The Sox offense may be able to power them through 2018 without Leon or Vazquez hitting well. Perhaps with Craig Kimbrel and Drew Pomeranz looking at free agency (and at least the potential for David Price to opt out), the Sox feel 2019 is a time they could more easily work in Swihart and live with presumed growing pains behind the plate.

Cora says Swihart has handled everything well.

“Excellent,” Cora said. “Some guys, there are guys who can suck the air out of the clubhouse because of their situation, but he's the other way around. He’s catching bullpens and taking ground balls at second. … He’s showing up early. You have to give him credit, because it’s not easy.”

Credit is nice. An opportunity is what he needs. Swihart cannot earn one on his own unless one of the two catchers in front of him gets hurt or squanders his own.

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