|CLAY BUCHHOLZ Shoulder is better|
While Clay Buchholz didn't finish the season the way he would have liked - by pitching in the playoffs - he already is readying himself for another run at the major leagues.
Not that the Red Sox righthander hasn't made a strong impression already, throwing a no-hitter in his second career start. But Buchholz was shut down for the season Sept. 28 because of fatigue in his pitching shoulder.
"There have been gains from a physical standpoint," pitching coach John Farrell said yesterday. "In retrospect, looking back to what did take place, it was certainly the right decision to deactivate him, for lack of a better term, at the time. He is making progress. He's still got some work to do, particularly as we project 180-185 innings for next year. There's still some work to be done to build that foundation to endure that load."
Buchholz has spent time working out at Athletes' Performance in Pensacola, Fla., where he'll return after this week's trip to Boston to meet with Red Sox staff. He also is scheduled to come north for the rookie development program in January in Boston. Buchholz may not head to Texas to train with Josh Beckett, as had been discussed.
The improvement in Buchholz's shoulder would seem to place him among six potential starters for next season.
"From a physical standpoint, there's overall core strengthening and physical maturity that as a 23-year-old he's going to continue to grow and continue to fill out," Farrell said. "He has specific needs and the reason being that we shut [him] down late in the season to address the overall fatigue and the overall strength of his rotator cuff and all the shoulder muscles.
"From a fundamental standpoint, obviously the assortment of pitches is outstanding. I think the one area he can continue to improve upon is overall fastball command. I look back to the start that he made in Toronto [his final start, Sept. 19]. For those first four-plus innings, he was outstanding that game. He shows you the ability to do that. Now it's a matter of being as consistent as possible."
In the worksWith the season-opening trip to Japan finalized, the Red Sox have been formulating plans for their pitchers, given that spring training will be abbreviated. Farrell said the team is working on making sure the starters, especially, will be set for the season.
"It will present some obstacles for us from a scheduling standpoint," he said. "But we feel, just mapping it out already, each starter will have a minimum of four starts [in spring training]. Two starters will have started five games. So we'll get them up to five innings and 80 pitches before we break Florida. And then upon our return, there are going to be other starts to get them built up even further. Ideally, we get guys to 100 pitches at least once before the season opens, but that case isn't here this year."