Clay Buchholz dazzled Boston baseball fans in 2007 when he pitched a no-hitter in only his second major league start. Since then, the Red Sox right-hander has been searching for the late season consistency he exhibited (3-1, 1.59 ERA in 3 starts), and with it, the opportunity to pitch again in the big leagues.
The pitcher Sox fans watched in 2008 (2-9, 6.75 ERA in 15 starts) looked lost on the mound. His command was gone, but more importantly, so was the confidence and swagger that made him look like a can't miss front of the rotation pitcher, in 2007.
Last night, Buchholz pitched decently when rewarded with a spot start, after an impressive first half at AAA Pawtucket (7-2, 2.36 ERA in 16 starts). I say "decent" because his 5 2/3 innings, 4 hits, one run, with 3 walks and 3 Ks doesn't even qualify as a quality start. Yet, reading the write ups in The Globe and at MLB.com, this inconsistent big league pitcher is now "major league ready" on the basis of a start that showed flashes of the 2007 Buchholz, but also demonstrated to me that his command wasn't as sharp as I was looking for, as evidenced by 100+ pitches by the middle of the sixth. On that basis, color me unimpressed.
The stuff he had last night might make him tough against AAA hitters (which is basically what Toronto's lineup was after the five spot in the order), but put that same stuff up against a more patient club with tough outs 1-9 (think Yankees and TB Rays), and I'm not so sure the baseball scribes (hacks?) would be lauding last night's performance.
Unlike most of RSN this morning, I'm still not sold on Buchholz. I think that arm-wise, he's got real major league talent, like many pitchers with 90+ stuff. What concerns me about CB is what beats in his chest and the location of the gray matter north of that big league arm. What I saw again last night was a pitcher that, if given enough rope (a regular rotation spot), will end up hanging himself again.
Right now, Buchholz has value that could be packaged in a deal before the deadline that might bring in a veteran starter that's proven, and maybe a quality middle infielder. What might be even better is Epstein and Co. putting together something bigger and entering the Roy Halladay sweepstakes.