Buchholz the man on a wire

MINNEAPOLIS -- He worked without a safety net all afternoon, the basepaths clogged with Minnesota Twins just waiting for Clay Buchholz to tumble into space.

It never happened. Buchholz willed his way through six innings, despite a second straight yield of 10 hits, plus three walks. The Twins got to him for three runs in the second, two scoring on a home run by Chris Parmelee, the other on a sacrifice fly. But that was all they scored off Buchholz, who stranded nine runners before giving way to the Sox bullpen, trailing 3-1.

But while it didn't deteriorate the way it had in his previous start in Texas, when the Rangers scored six runs by the fifth inning, Buchholz afterward had the look of a pitcher uncertain that it will get any easier anytime soon.

A guy who had toyed with hitters through his first dozen starts last season -- 9-0, 1.71 ERA -- labored through an afternoon in which he had just four swings and misses, left-handed batters swinging and missing once all afternoon.

The changeup, such a critical part of his repertoire in past seasons, he threw only once all day, and that was the pitch Parmelee crushed for a home run. The cutter got better as the game went along, and the velocity on his four-seamer crept up to an average of 92 mph-plus, but Buchholz was against the ropes all day.

That he managed to keep the Sox close was an accomplishment. That everyone, including Buchholz, is hoping to see more is obvious.

"It was all right," said Buchholz, who was not involved in the decision in Boston's 4-3 loss, his record remaining 2-3 with an unsightly 6.17 ERA. "It wasn't the best stuff I had all year, but I felt like it was good enough. They hit some good pitches. I've got to build off that."

In the meantime, he hopes to rediscover the feel for his changeup and splitter, which has deserted him so far this season. As recently as 2011, he threw his changeup 17.5 percent of the time; that number has decreased as he has relied increasingly on his cutter, but for the first time in his career it's under 10 percent.

"I've been doing it all year," he said of working without his change and split. "I've just got to find a way to find one of them. The changeup is a big pitch for me."

Buchholz has had slow starts before and turned it around. But until he does again, questions will persist whether he will ever regain the stuff he had before last season's shoulder issues shut him down for three months.