From here, Clay Buchholz sure looks like a keeper

BOSTON -- The Red Sox still need to take steps to address their starting rotation. Trading Clay Buchholz is not one of them.

Written off by some after posting a 5.73 ERA in his first seven starts, the Red Sox right-hander has resembled the 2013 version of Clay Buchholz before he hurt his rotator cuff. His seven strong innings against the Baltimore Orioles Wednesday night, in which he allowed a run on eight hits, lowered his ERA over his last eight starts to 2.28, which is terrific pitching by any standard.

Take a closer look at how he held the Orioles in check Wednesday:

• He threw 22 of 28 first-pitch strikes.

• He had exceptional command of both his curveball (11 of 12 for strikes) and changeup (16 of 24).

• He got 13 swings and misses, with the Orioles chasing fully a third of the pitches he threw off the plate.

• Two of his first three pitches to each batter were strikes 73 percent of the time.

"[I] was able to throw some changeups in some big spots and was able to use the cutter on both sides of the plate," Buchholz said. "They hit some balls pretty hard right at some guys and defense made the plays on them, so that always helps too."

It also helps that Buchholz is keeping the ball in the yard. He has now gone six successive starts without allowing a home run.

"Solo home runs, those are fine," Buchholz said. "The guys that are going to hit home runs off of you, I think everybody knows that. It's the situations with runners on, where I go out there and say, 'OK, this is one thing I'm not going to do is give up a home run right now.' If I walk him, I walk him, and I can live with that.

"It used to be you don't want to walk a run in with the bases loaded, but if I'm out there and got a full count and the guy's battling and fouling some pitches off, I'm not just going to throw a fastball down the middle and let him hit it. I'm going to try to get him out with a good pitch."

The Sox hold a $13 million option on Buchholz for 2016, $13.5 million for 2017. Those are team-friendly contracts in a market where aces are paid $30 million and lesser lights (read: Rick Porcello) are being paid $20 million or more. A healthy Buchholz is worth hanging onto, especially since he will only be 32 at the end of those option years.