FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Clay Buchholz had his best outing of the spring for the Red Sox on Friday, allowing just two hits and one run over six innings as Boston defeated Washington 7-2 in its Grapefruit League finale.
Buchholz threw 67 pitches, 44 of which were strikes, and manager Terry Francona said he threw 16 of 21 first-pitch strikes.
“He was attacking the zone and staying ahead,” Francona said of the efficient Buchholz. “He was good enough that we had to have our relievers go two outs each. That’s a good problem.”
Prior to Friday’s game, Buchholz was 1-1 with a 9.53 ERA in four appearances this spring, allowing three or more earned runs three times.
Buchholz said he was pitching to contact against the Nationals.
“It’s easy to talk about throwing the ball and letting the guys hit it,” Buchholz said. “Once you get them swinging, once you throw a couple of pitches over the plate, then sometimes they’ll go out of the zone.”
“Seems like after his [start] a couple of games ago, he’s been real good since then,” Francona said. “He’s attacking the zone down, which is really good.”
Buchholz said he felt that he did not have his typical velocity on his four-seam fastball so he instead threw mostly two-seam fastballs.
He recorded his lone strikeout when Nationals catcher Will Nieves swung early on a changeup in the fifth inning.
“I went to the two-seamer probably 90 percent of the time out there,” Buchholz said. “Whenever I threw to the right spot it caused some early contact and I got some ground balls.”
Buchholz isn't scheduled to make his regular-season debut until the Red Sox’ sixth game against Kansas City on April 11.
Francona said Buchholz may throw a simulated game Wednesday or Thursday.
“Hopefully he’s not pitching in a game [before April 11],” Francona said.
Ellsbury fine: Left fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, who missed Thursday’s game with a sore throwing arm, said he was fine after playing Friday.
He was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts and no putouts against the Nationals before being replaced by Ronald Bermudez in the fifth inning.
“It feels good,” Ellsbury said of his arm. “I just kind of wanted to make sure it was 100 percent before the season started. That’s what it is at right now.”
Embree staying behind: Reliever Alan Embree has accepted his assignment and will begin the season in the minor leagues. For now, he'll remain in Fort Myers and is scheduled to pitch at the Red Sox’ minor league complex on Saturday … Francona said that outfielder Jeremy Hermida got seven at-bats during a minor league game Friday. “Everything is fine,” Francona said. “He did real well.” … Attendance at Friday’s game was 7,387. The Red Sox have sold out 104 consecutive games at City of Palms Park dating to March 16, 2003. Every Grapefruit League game the team played in this season was a sellout … Boston closed Grapefruit League play with a 16-14-1 record.