Clay Buchholz has been the versatile horse the Red Sox needed coming down the stretch of the 2016 season. The man that many fans were trying to chase out of town with burning torches just a month ago, has settled into the role of a pitcher who will see time as a spot starter, but will spend most of his time in the bullpen.
With just 31 games left in the season, and the Red Sox trailing the Toronto Blue Jays by 2 games for the division, Buchholz has the chance to lead this team into October. Despite his 5.13 season ERA entering Monday’s appearance, Clay has posted impressive numbers over the course of the past month. Over the past 7 appearances, in 20 innings pitched, Buchholz has posted a 2.25 ERA, and a 1.05 WHIP. With the bullpen struggles throughout the entire year, is Clay the man that could step up late in the year to lock down the 8th inning?
Is he the guy to step in for an ailing starter? He is proving himself late in the season, and pitching like many thought he would when he was drafted back in 2005 as the 42nd overall pick. With such a promising and hyped up career, Clay gave us stretches of brilliance, and stretches of lackluster performances. In just his second start of his MLB career he baffled the Baltimore Orioles in route to a no-hitter. In 2010 Buchholz looked like a perennial Cy Young candidate going 17-7 with a stellar ERA of 2.33. In the championship driven 2013 season, he posted a 12-1 record, and a gaudy 1.74 ERA before going down on the DL with neck issues.
Injuries have certainly halted what could have been a future Hall of Fame career. Buchholz has been on the disabled list seven times in his ten-year career. Clay has never eclipsed the 200 innings mark, a mark that prominent pitchers pass with ease.
With the front of the rotation cemented with Price, Porcello, and Pomeranz, and the back of the rotation rounding out with Wright and Rodriguez where will Buchholz be most valuable to this team come crunch time?
As mediocre of an outing that Rodriguez turned out on Sunday night, we are reminded just how valuable Buchholz is. Buchholz will have to fill the role of starter and reliever. There is no turning back now. Unless a Rodriguez collapses in September, or if Wright’s cranky right arm continues to give him fits, Buchholz will have to settle into the relieve lifestyle. It is proving to be one of the most important roles for this playoff potential team. Whatever transpires in these final 32 games, the Red Sox will need Buchholz to step up to secure a spot in October.