FORT MYERS, Fla. — If you were hoping Clay Buchholz showed up at spring training having packed on 20 pounds of muscle, forget it. He's 180 pounds, just like always.
Buchholz, at age 29, is comfortable pitching at that weight and is done trying to change his body. The question is learning best how to prepare his arm to pitch a full season. Buchholz has averaged 20 starts the last three seasons, missing approximately 39 starts with assorted ailments.
"This offseason has been a little bit different than in the past, not having the amount of time off," Buchholz said. "In recent years I've gotten to spring training being basically in midseason form as far as [pitching] off the mound. In speaking with the training staff, needed to take a step back from that and make sure that everything was fully recovered and not to push anything to far, too soon. It's a different route than I've gone the last four or five years coming to camp."
Buchholz says he feels strong after building up his arm strength with long toss. The righthander was 9-0 with a 1.71 earned run average in his first 12 starts last season before a seemingly minor shoulder injury turned into a three-month stint on the disabled list. It wasn't until late November that he felt normal.
Buchholz was 3-1, 1.88 in four September starts but pitched only 24 innings in those games and lacked the velocity he showed earlier in the season. His four postseason starts were uneven – he allowed 10 earned runs on 22 hits and eight walks over 20.2 innings.
He lasted only four innings in Game 4 of the World Series despite pitching on seven full days of rest.
"Getting off to a start like that, it's somewhat depressing I wasn't able to follow up," Buchholz said. "But, you know, everything taking place like it did last season, I wouldn't change anything about it. The team picked each other up whenever injuries happened and as a staff, everybody else stayed in stride."
Buchholz counted it as an accomplishment that he took the mound in September and helped the team in the postseason while dealing with the injury.
"I didn't have a choice at that point. It was go out ... obviously not at 100 percent. Playing baseball and getting to that point in the season, in a World Series, you never know how many other times you're going to be able to get to do that," he said. "Personally, that was my outlook on it. I feel like even me being at 80 percent, I could still help the team win in some ways."
Buchholz said he likes the way the Red Sox have rebuilt their farm system, expressing faith in the ability of prospects like Jackie Bradley Jr. and Xander Bogaerts to replace Jacoby Ellsbury and Stephen Drew. He's excited about defending the team's championship and obviously comfortable with John Farrell and the coaching staff.
Buchholz still looks like a college kid. But he is a father of two and a veteran of seven big league seasons. Only a handful of teammates have been with the Red Sox longer.
Is this the year his considerable talent comes together for a full season? Buchholz has the kind of talent that could produce a Cy Young Award.
"I feel like if the heath stuff can string together for a couple of seasons, I feel like I can do just about anything," Buchholz said.
See Nick Cafardo's story in the Globe on Tuesday for more on Buchholz.