Bullpen session set for Clay Buchholz

ATLANTA -- No decision has been made on whether struggling Boston Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz will make his next start (scheduled for Saturday), manager John Farrell said Tuesday, citing a new concern that Buchholz might have hyperextended his left knee while making a pitch the day before.

Television cameras on Monday showed catcher A.J. Pierzynski going to the mound and gesturing to the dugout after Buchholz stumbled awkwardly following a pitch in the third inning. But before either Farrell or trainer Rick Jameyson started toward him, Buchholz waved them off and continued to pitch.

Farrell said running the bases in the top of the third, when Buchholz lined a single, might have been a factor. There were no visible indications afterward that the knee was an issue for the rest of Buchholz's start, which ended with no outs in the fourth and after he had walked a career-high eight batters while throwing 88 pitches.

But Farrell said the club wants to wait until Buchholz throws a bullpen session Wednesday to see whether the knee is causing any discomfort.

"We're not going to put him at any further risk, injury-wise," Farrell said.

He also mentioned that Buchholz lost 7 pounds, "which for Clay is unheard of," in Monday's heat and humidity. Presumably that was water weight, as Farrell said most pitchers load up on fluids days before a given start.

But while these newly revealed physical issues might be the justification for placing Buchholz on the 15-day disabled list, Farrell acknowledged that neither can be cited for the 29-year-old right-hander's struggles.

He has not been right since his first start of the season -- a career-high 13 hits allowed in just 4 1/3 innings against the Milwaukee Brewers on April 5 in Fenway Park -- and the problems have come to a head in his past four starts, in which he has a 9.50 ERA (19 earned runs in 18 innings) and has given up 33 hits and 15 walks.

Farrell did not employ the exact words but conceded there might be a crisis of confidence at work.

"We can't deny that," Farrell said. "We haven't made a definitive decision on his next turn through the rotation, and there's no denying what everybody sees. We're talking about a guy who was on his way potentially to a Cy Young [Award]-winning year last year, and he's only showing flashes of that, either inside a given game or a given start. And we continue to seek for some consistency in the execution of pitches which might lead to added confidence. He's not there yet."

Before Monday's start, Farrell had said Buchholz and pitching coach Juan Nieves had worked on making some mechanical adjustments, but they obviously didn't take.

Only one other major league starter this season has issued eight or more walks in three innings or fewer this season. That was Toronto's Brandon Morrow, who walked eight in 2 2/3 innings against the Red Sox on April 26.

In 1923, Sox pitcher/outfielder Lefty O'Doul posted this line: 3 IP, 11 H, 16 R, 3 ER, 8 B's, 0 K's. He's the only other Sox pitcher to walk eight batters in three innings or fewer.

Buchholz walked two of the first three Atlanta Braves batters he faced Monday but then struck out Justin Upton and Chris Johnson to escape a jam. He walked another batter in the second but again held the Braves scoreless.

"That's the thing, personally, I continue to latch on to," Farrell said, "because there have been a couple of starts where he's been very strong. Yesterday he makes an adjustment in the first inning, he carries it through the second inning, then seemingly loses it again.

"To say it's strictly mechanical or from a fundamental standpoint, I'm sure he's searching a bit mentally to find some confidence and gain some of that along the way. The thing that stands out is the eight walks, which are very uncharacteristic of Clay. That's a lot of walks for him in 20 innings, let alone three. We've got work to do."