10 Years In, Buchholz Finally Figured Out How to Get a Leg Up

Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Clay Buchholz (11) walks off the field after the fourth inning of baseball action against the Toronto Blue Jays in Toronto on Sunday, May 10, 2015.(Peter Power/The Canadian Press via AP)

Clay Buchholz is entering his 10th year in major league baseball. In 2012, the Red Sox righthander threw 189.1 innings, the most in his career. But reliability been hit or miss for the lanky Texan for most of his time in Boston.

Buchholz followed the 2012 performance by logging just 108.1 innings in 2013. And although he bounced back to 170.1 innings in 2014, it came with another stint on the disabled list and whopping 5.34 ERA. Buchholz got the ERA down to 3.26 last season, but the injury-plagued righthander’s innings went down along with it as he finished 2015 with just 113.1 innings pitched after an elbow injury forced him to the DL in early July.

So this is clearly the year for the 31-year-old Buchholz to bounce back to 2010 form, when he finished sixth in Cy Young voting after checking in with a 17-7 record and 2.33 ERA on 173.2 innings pitched. Right?

“The last couple of years coming in my body felt good. It’s been around the All-Star break where something unfortunate happens,” the early-arriving Buchholz told WEEI’s Rob Bradford at JetBlue Park. “Given the way it was going last year, up until that point, I was one of those runs you like to be on with your starting pitcher. Go deep into games, given your team a chance to win, not give up a whole lot of home runs, making guys earn their way on base. That’s the mental side of it. You’re out there, feeling really good and then you have something set you back and you have to learn how to handle that. Over the last couple of years I’ve learned the only thing I can do about it is try and keep that from happening.”

And it sounds like Buchholz finally realizes that having strong legs could help his stamina.

“The one thing that was different this year is that I focused more on legs this year than I have the last four or five years,” Buchholz said. “I feel like everything comes from the ground up. If my legs are in shape I don’t have to worry about my legs giving out in the first couple of bullpen. I just have to worry about arm strength, and that’s a good thing.”

Too bad he didn’t figure out the obvious “four or five years” ago.