BRADENTON, Fla. — Clay Buchholz needed only 27 pitches over three scoreless, hitless innings Sunday in the Red Sox’ 4-1 win over the Pirates.
Buchholz came away feeling not only that he economized and threw his sinker effectively, but also that he’s building for the start of the season.
“Definitely better than last time out [three hits, one run vs. Tampa Bay March 4],” he said. “I located my two-seamer. Happy with that. I felt I needed to work on a couple of more pitches. Didn’t try to overthrow.”
Buchholz, who missed three months of the 2013 season with neck/shoulder stiffness, said he didn’t bother to see how hard he was throwing. Feeling 100 percent healthy, velocity is the last thing he worries about now.
While he throws five pitches, the two-seamer, his bread and butter, is what he wanted to refine.
“It’s the one pitch I throw a lot of,” he said. “Get ground ball outs in big situations. It’s a hard pitch to get into the air, so I’m trying to refine that.”
Buchholz said he threw 40 warm-up pitches in the bullpen so he didn’t mind the low pitch count. He walked one batter, and the rest was easy.
“Clay’s not as sharp as he’d like to be,” catcher David Ross said. “That’s a good outing for the stuff he had. He got better as he went along. His stuff started to move better. The second time up from the bullpen he got a little sharper. His breaking ball was good, but didn’t use it as much. Changeup — I don’t think he had the feel for that. He mixed in sinkers, and that’s the thing he knows how to use, his sinker.”
It didn’t bother manager John Farrell so much that Buchholz had been scheduled to throw 45-50 pitches. He was more concerned with Buchholz getting up and down three times and economizing as well as he did.
Ross has great game
Ross caught flawlessly and also threw out Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer stealing.
“Buck threw me a pitch up and away; nice ball to throw on,” Ross said. “Throwing for me is a rhythm thing and you’re constantly trying to find that rhythm. To find a rhythm with the pitcher and get your timing. The guy went and I saw him and executed it. It was nice to do that.”
Ross also batted cleanup and went 1 for 3.
“Little League,” Ross said when asked when the last time he batted fourth. “I told them after my first hit that Pun [Punisher; David Ortiz’s nickname] better look out. I’m coming after his job. It’s easy hitting in that four hole. But seriously, it’s nice to get the at-bats early and three. It’s nice to be catching a day off, day on.”
Carp hits homer
Mike Carp, a possible trade chip, will continue to have the same role as last season. He broke the defensive shift with a first-inning single to an unoccupied third base and homered in the third.
“Last year was the highest number of at-bats he’d had at the major league level,” Farrell said. “He came up with a number of big hits. He and [Daniel] Nava are a couple of guys who can go to different positions.”
Carp, who DH’d (the use of the DH was approved by both teams in the National League city), improved his average to .222. He hit under .200 last spring training.
“For me, it’s about getting good at-bats and how I feel at the plate rather than results,” Carp said. “I put a good swing on the home run ball and drove it. Those feel pretty good.”
Carp has been mentioned as a possible first base target for the Pirates, but they have gotten good springs from Gaby Sanchez and Andrew Lambo. But it might have been more than a coincidence that Carp was brought on the trip.
Farrell has been impressed with veteran reliever Francisco Cordero, who earned his second save of spring training. “He’s not pitching like a guy who didn’t pitch for a year,” Farrell said. “He looks very much like the guy in Toronto, and Houston a couple of years ago. He’s made necessary adjustments. He now uses an assortment of pitches rather than just rely on velocity.” . . . Brandon Workman, who has been hit a bit this spring, has worked his way up to 50 pitches. It appears now, however, with Jake Peavy scheduled to go Thursday after recovering from his finger laceration, that Workman will have to stretch out in minor league games . . . Andrew Miller was unhittable in his one inning, striking out three in the fourth. He fanned the top of the Pirates’ order — Jaff Decker, Chris Dickerson, and Travis Snider. Miller struggled with control in his first outing, Feb. 28 vs. the Twins, when he walked three and allowed three earned runs in 1⅔ innings . . . Outfielder Bryce Brentz, who has three homers and had two hits Sunday and is now hitting .400 (8 for 20), has been very impressive, showing well-above-average power and a strong arm. Early in his career Brentz wasn’t working the count, contrary to the Red Sox’ hitting philosophy. But Sunday he drew his second walk. Farrell said he gets excited to see Brentz hit to the opposite field and work deeper counts. “It’s a matter of managing the count and putting a two-strike approach together when he gets his chance,” the manager said.
Hill throws bullpen
Lefthanded reliever Rich Hill threw 36 pitches in the bullpen in Fort Myers with pitching coach Juan Nieves watching. “Felt great,” said Hill, who arrived in camp Thursday. “It was good to get on the mound.” Hill said. He will pitch in an intrasquad game Wednesday and from there should be set to get into a regular game. He is in camp on a minor league contract . . . Righthander Matt Barnes is not on the schedule to pitch in a game this week. The Sox are being ultracautious with the former first-round pick. He has some shoulder tenderness . . . Third base coach Brian Butterfield turned 56 Sunday.Peter Abraham of the Globe Staff contributed to this report from Fort Myers, Fla.