This week’s spotlight is on the Boston Red Sox Opening Day starter Clay Buchholz. Over the course of the last calender year, Buchholz has suddenly become the longest tenured pitcher within the Boston starting rotation. Last year at this time, the stable of arms was projected to be a core strength of the Red Sox. Now, with 80% of the staff new from a season ago, the starting five is a big question mark heading into the 2015 season. Under the Beantown microscope, Buchholz will be the guy expected to take on the workload of an ace and keep the Red Sox in the mix in a wide open AL East Division.
At this time last year, with the likes of veterans Jon Lester, John Lackey, and Jake Peavy in the mix, you knew what you were going to get every fifth day. The wild card became whether Buchholz could remain healthy and produce to his potential. Over his eight year career, the achilles heel of the 30-year old has been the ability to remain healthy over a full season. Last year, Buchholz struggled out of the gates and the Red Sox could never recover, leading to multiple trades and the restructuring of the roster. Buchholz finished 2014 with a 5.34 ERA, but did spin two complete game shutouts.
Looking at Buchholz, he has yet to turn in the workload required of an ace — 30 plus starts or 190 innings — in a season. But the right-hander has shown flashes of being that type of guy. In 2010 he was an All-Star, as well as in 2013 when he started 9-0 before sustaining an injury and missing time. Buchholz is not exactly a strikeout pitcher. He will pitch to contact, and the big factor in his success will hinge on being able to limit the big innings, in turn lowering the ERA.
Once again Buchholz will be the linchpin to Boston’s success, but this time he will be taking on a much different role. The Red Sox will have the offense to score runs and compete for a division title, but whether or not the starting staff will be able to do their part is the ultimate question. The success of Buchholz may also become a deciding factor when it comes to Boston pulling the trigger on a trade for an ace such as Cole Hamels at some point during the season. If the Red Sox are able to find success and not have to part with any of their top prospects, they will be in line for another postseason run. In the crossfire of several differences of opinions, Clay Buchholz will be in the spotlight this year to see if he can guide Red Sox Nation back to October.