|The confidence is apparent in Red Sox righthander Clay Buchholz, who hasn’t allowed a run in nine innings this spring. (Charles Krupa/Associated Press)|
Buchholz is staying zeroed in
He’s strong again in third outing
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Clay Buchholz had some anxious days in spring training last season, when he wondered whether a bad outing might lead the Red Sox to consider somebody else for his spot in the rotation.
But the Sox never deviated from their commitment to the righthander, and Buchholz rewarded them by going 17-7 with a 2.33 earned run average.
Now he enjoys the same privilege as his friends (and golf partners) Josh Beckett, John Lackey, and Jon Lester: the opportunity to go through spring training simply to prepare for the season, not secure a job.
“It’s definitely less stressful,’’ Buchholz said. “That’s what I’ve been waiting to do the last two years.’’
Perhaps that explains his performance this spring. Buchholz has thrown nine scoreless innings in three outings, allowing five hits with two walks and six strikeouts.
He went four innings against Baltimore last night, throwing 56 pitches in a 2-1 victory before a sellout crowd of 7,406 at City of Palms Park.
The Orioles had four hits against Buchholz and advanced three runners into scoring position. But he worked out of trouble each time, using a good two-seam fastball to get ground balls.
Those challenges were welcomed.
“You don’t ever want to get in trouble, but when you do, you want to know you can get out of it,’’ Buchholz said.
J.D. Drew (2 for 2) had a solo homer, his first of the spring. The Sox won in the ninth when Yamaico Navarro was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded and no outs. It was his second walkoff RBI this week. He was diagnosed with a bruise on his left hand.
Pedroia’s progress Dustin Pedroia played in his third straight game, the first time he has done that this spring. His surgically repaired left foot has held up well. “I think he’s done terrific,’’ said manager Terry Francona. “He goes 100 miles an hour all the time and I think he’s done great. Every morning, I’m the one who hits ground balls to him so I know how he’s feeling. He’s been good about communicating.’’ Pedroia is 3 for 18 after going 0 for 3 last night. “He’s not hitting 1.000, so he’s not happy,’’ said Francona. “But he’s done really well.’’
Catching on? Jarrod Saltalamacchia was excused from the game to attend to a personal matter, leaving Jason Varitek to catch Buchholz. The Sox have expressed much faith in Saltalamacchia’s ability to handle the job with Varitek backing him up. But given that both players are injury risks, do the Red Sox have adequate depth? Paul Hoover, a 34-year-old journeyman, was signed to a minor league contract and invited to camp along with four prospects: Luis Exposito, Tim Federowicz, Ryan Lavarnway, and Mark Wagner. “We’re obviously trying to gauge where each of them are,’’ said Francona. “They’re all at different parts of their career. Hoover’s the veteran guy we’re bringing to see if he can maybe bridge the gap if early something happened. Expo and Wagner are the two most advanced as far as being in Triple A. Fed, defensively, is as good as good as any of them. Lavarnway is obviously a prospect.’’ The Sox hope either Exposito or Wagner steps forward as a legitimate option. “Wagner and Expo are the two that we probably need to figure out,’’ said Francona. “If something happened early, are they ready to help us?’’ That judgment will be made largely on defense. “If they get hits and don’t run the game, we’re going to lose,’’ Francona said.
Cameron ready Mike Cameron, who has been out for six days with tendinitis in his left knee, is scheduled to be the designated hitter for today’s game in Port Charlotte against the Rays. “I think he was fine to do it [last night],’’ said Francona, who took an extra day to make sure . . . Adrian Gonzalez took batting practice on the field for a second consecutive day. He will take today off. If there is a date set for his first game, the Sox aren’t saying. But based on how fluid his swing looked, it should be soon . . . Former Red Sox outfielders Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez are scheduled to be in the lineup for the Rays today. Ramirez is penciled in for left field and Damon as the DH.
Peter Abraham can be reached at email@example.com.