Boston manager John Farrell announced today that the veteran right-hander will be moved to the bullpen, with Eduardo Rodriguez scheduled to step into the rotation and start Tuesday against the Orioles.
"This is something that's been done for a lot of years. A starter scuffles, they go to the bullpen to work things out. That's what we're doing with Clay," Farrell said.
Farrell stressed that this wasn't necessarily a permanent assignment for Buchholz, noting the unlikelihood of all five current Boston starters making all of their starts over the season's remaining months.
That said, Buchholz won't return to the staff until he solves the consistency issues that have plagued him all season.
"I can tell you that Clay understands the decision but probably doesn't like it, which I can respect," Farrell said. "But at the same time, the most important thing as we stand today is how he embraces this decision, how this change will work itself out. His attitude towards the move has got to be one that takes this as an opportunity to work through some of the issues. ... Shorter stints, shorter looks, maybe get him some momentum and he'll get back on track," Farrell said.
Only two of Buchholz's 179 career major league games have come as a reliever. He will be used as a multiple-inning reliever, Farrell said, "until we get some repetition and appearances out of the bullpen."
Buchholz has a 2-5 record and a 6.35 ERA through 10 starts (56 2/3 innings) this season, posting the lowest strikeout rates and the highest home runs-allowed-per-nine innings rates of his career. Only three of Buchholz's 10 outings have been quality starts, though it has seemed on several occasions as if the righty was on the verge of breaking out of his slump.
Thursday's start against the Rockies served as a microcosm of Buchholz's season. He began the game looking like the Buchholz of old by retiring the first nine Colorado batters before suddenly running into trouble the second time through the order. Seven hits (three of them homers) over the next two-plus innings later, and Buchholz's day was done in Boston's 8-2 loss.
This isn't the first time Buchholz has suffered through an inconsistent stretch, though his earlier issues have usually been related to injury, which Farrell said isn't the case this time. In past years, the Red Sox have been willing to give Buchholz more time to get back into a groove (or at least get healthy) while making regular starts, though as Pablo Sandoval can attest, the 2016 Sox will only give so much rope to struggling veterans. With Rodriguez ready after a long DL stint, Buchholz was clearly the rotation's weak link.
"Bottom line is the results. I think there's been a strong precedent set with that," Farrell said.
Rodriguez suffered a dislocated kneecap during spring training, an injury that both sidelined him for a month and heavily set back his preseason preparation. Rodriguez has made five Triple-A starts to get back into game shape, posting a 3.54 ERA over 28 innings for Pawtucket.