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Buchholz gets a start

Outing on Friday to aid Sox rotation

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By Adam Kilgore
Globe Staff / July 13, 2009
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Clay Buchholz finished his start for the Triple A Pawtucket Red Sox yesterday like any other, just another day in a place he preferred not to be. He allowed four earned runs on eight hits in 5 1/3 innings in a loss. Could have been better. He retreated to the clubhouse thinking nothing out of the ordinary.

Before he left McCoy Stadium, Buchholz received surprising news: His next start will be with the Boston Red Sox. Buchholz will pitch the first game of the second half Friday in Toronto, Sox manager Terry Francona said. It will be Buchholz’s first major league appearance since a drubbing at the hands of the Orioles in late August last year.

With starters Tim Wakefield and Josh Beckett possibly pitching in the All-Star Game, the Red Sox wanted to clarify their rotation to start the second half. In the process, they gave Buchholz the opportunity he and a loud segment of Red Sox fans have clamored for.

“The stress of being [in Pawtucket] and all that stuff, I’ve said it a couple of times that I’ve put a lot of that on myself for the season I had last year,’’ Buchholz told the Pawtucket Times. “That’s how things go, but opportunities come up. And I’m glad I was the guy they went to for it.’’

The Sox plan for Buchholz to make one start and then resume his season in the minors. After Buchholz pitches, the rotation for the remaining two games in Toronto and three games in Texas will be, in order: Brad Penny, Jon Lester, John Smoltz, Beckett, and Wakefield.

Francona and the Sox chose Buchholz for multiple reasons. The start fell on the day he would have pitched next. Choosing a pitcher outside the regular rotation eliminates any confusion - Francona envisioned a scenario in which Smoltz decided whether he should throw a bullpen session after seeing how much Wakefield worked in tomorrow night’s Midsummer Classic.

“We are trying to incorporate rest, trying to keep everybody consistent, not one guy 10 days [off] and one guy 15,’’ Francona said. “We are real comfortable with the way this is setting up. I think there’s some validity to, give Buch the ball and go. I think it will help us all the way around.’’

After Buchholz’s disastrous two stints in the Red Sox starting rotation last season, he righted his career this spring training and in the first half of this season in the minor leagues. Buchholz is 7-2 with a 2.36 ERA and a 0.98 WHIP, second-best in the International League.

“That’s part of it,’’ Francona said. “He’s very important to what we’re doing, obviously, in the future. I don’t think that we would just do that. It lines up real well. It should benefit him and us.’’

Buchholz became a sensation at the end of 2007, firing a no-hitter in his second big-league start. After a miserable 2008 spring training, he joined the starting rotation and never recaptured his 2007 ability. His confidence crumbled, and he finished the season with Double A Portland.

This spring training, Buchholz restored his confidence, with an ERA of less than 1.00 for most of March. Yet Buchholz became frustrated at being stuck in the minors. On Friday, for one day, he will have his chance.

“I’m happy for him,’’ Beckett said. “That might give everybody an extra day of recovery time, give you that extra day of rest.’’

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