Mental breather will do him good
Clay Buchholz will be back in the Sox's rotation even if it takes a combination of Dr. Phil, Deepak Chopra and Rick Warren to reconstruct his damaged psyche.
Now, the narrative changes if Buchholz's shoulder requires the services of Dr. James Andrews, but everyone from Buchholz to John Farrell to Skip Buchholz (his dad) to Jon Lester insists that Buchholz is structurally sound. His velocity suggests the same, although Buchholz acknowledged this week that last year's three-month shutdown for shoulder problems has complicated his ability to repeat his delivery and lock in his mechanics.
That's why you see things like Monday's walkapalooza, in which Buchholz became the first Sox starter to walk eight batters in three innings or fewer. It's true, as Buchholz said, you can't be effective when your head is cluttered thinking about your mechanics instead of just relying on muscle memory. It becomes even worse when the results aren't there, and you start thinking your stuff wouldn't even play in the Park League.
Buchholz needs this time off just to get a little mental breather and figure out a few things while removed from the pressure of looking behind him and seeing that 7.02 ERA up on the scoreboard. Coming back, whether from a bad back, a cranky shoulder or a trip to the emergency room with esophagitis has been a regular part of Buchholz's routine since he has been in the majors. The Sox have long hoped that he would have become more stable by now, but that 200-inning season has remained elusive.
He's had bad stretches before and recovered. With the Sox committed to paying him $12 million next season and holding team-friendly options on the next two seasons, they will do everything they can to find a way out of his current funk. A little time off, a couple of good outings, and he could be right back on track.
Psyche will keep him sidelined
Recent history hasn't been kind to pitchers who have walked eight in three innings pitched or less in an outing.
Brandon Morrow of the Toronto Blue Jays did so against the Red Sox on April 26 and, after one more start, landed on the 60-day disabled list with a torn tendon in his pitching hand. In 2003, Jonathan Johnson of the Houston Astros also accomplished the rare feat, walking eight Red Sox batters in three innings pitched. The start would be his last at the major league level.
After Clay Buchholz walked eight batters in three innings pitched against the Atlanta Braves on Monday, he too now finds himself on this list, out at least 15 days on the DL with a hyperextended left knee. The injury won't require a stint on the 60-day DL, nor has Buchholz made his last career start, but take it as a sign that Buchholz won't be in the starting rotation come August.
Before Wednesday's game against the Braves, Red Sox manager John Farrell said Buchholz's level of confidence is "not at his peak." When Buchholz has struggled with this issue in the past, his pitches tend to miss high or lack finish, and he tends to lose concentration on the mound and make mental mistakes.
A stint on the disabled list may help Buchholz's knee, but unless something is done soon about his psyche, he'll be destined to take in games from the dugout for the third August in the past four years.