SEATTLE — Red Sox manager John Farrell and his staff are trying to sort out the composition of the pitching staff for the next few weeks. Tough decisions, demotions, and trades are bound to take place, but it’s a given that Clay Buchholz is safe.
The former 17-game winner and two-time All-Star will begin a new chapter Wednesday night vs. Seattle in a return outing that has huge importance for him and the Red Sox.
Buchholz, who started the season 2-4, with a 7.02 ERA, said Tuesday that after a stint on the disabled list his new mechanics are now second nature and his old, bad mechanics are gone.
The proof will be in how he performs not only Wednesday night but for the remainder of the season. Last season at about this time, after a 9-0 start, Buchholz missed three months with a shoulder/neck strain that he admitted led to those bad mechanics.
Buchholz, who is returning from what was termed a hyperextended left knee, is basically replacing Rubby De La Rosa in the rotation.
De La Rosa has been very good, so there’s more pressure on the veteran Buchholz to be on top of his game.
While Jon Lester, John Lackey, and Buchholz seem safe, others may be fighting for their jobs. Brandon Workman, De La Rosa, Jake Peavy, who started Tuesday night, and Felix Doubront all seem to be fighting for survival.
Workman, who has served his six-game suspension, threw a simulated game Tuesday afternoon. Farrell said Workman will remain in the rotation and likely start Friday in New York, which means Doubront will work out of the bullpen the next two series — however he’ll make a start vs. the Cubs at Fenway Park.
The Red Sox would listen to offers for Doubront, who now seemingly finds himself as the odd man out. Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein is also a big Doubront fan and needs starting pitching. Could there be a match there? The Red Sox are in need of an outfielder.
Peavy could draw interest from a National League contender such as Atlanta, St. Louis, or Los Angeles.
Farrell was asked about the potential for a six-man rotation.
“Not opposed to it, but we have the offday to contend with on Thursday and we don’t want to get into seven days,” he said. “At least through the Cubs series we’ll look at five guys and adjust accordingly. Not trying to evade the question, but it’s not something we’ve committed to.
“Can a starter benefit from a skipped turn? All these things are being factored. Ideally we’d like get back to 13 positional players and 12 pitchers.”
As for De La Rosa, Farrell said, “Our preference would be to keep him in the rotation. As strong as he’s been and as efficient as he’s been, he’s been outstanding. He’s done everything in his ability to factor into our plans.”
It was apparent that Farrell has really agonized over what’s to come. He mentioned having to take into consideration what the veterans have done to earn their spots in the rotation. He certainly was referring to Buchholz and Peavy there.
“You’re trying to fit a certain number into a space,” said Farrell. “You have to be respectful of what guys have done at this level. It’s not cut and dried. We’re getting close to that point.
“It’s still a bottom-line game. We’re conscious of that. The easy move is to send guys with options back, but everyone can see Rubby and Brandon have performed as well as anyone on our staff. We’ve got to take a look at every possibility.”
Which also means a reliever such as Chris Capuano could be vulnerable to a designation for assignment. He’s out of options and he seems to be running out of time. Edward Mujica has a two-year contract and is likely to stay put.
Farrell is excited about getting a new and improved version of Buchholz back.
“This is a guy who is going to add depth but give us a boost,” Farrell said. “He’s in a good place. Physically, he’s ready to go. A healthy Clay Buchholz is a good thing.”
Buchholz said, “It’s tough to sit back and watch and it stinks when the team scuffling and you can’t help. I’ve been looking forward to this. I felt I needed to put the work in and I did to get better.”
Buchholz said he felt close to normal in his final rehab outing at Pawtucket. He said the new mechanics have kicked in and “I wasn’t doing any thinking. That’s what has to happen. It’s something [too much thinking] I was doing a lot of. Got three or four things going in your mind and it was a struggle, but I’ve overcome a lot.”
Buchholz objected to going on the DL and getting time off at first, but then he realized the time away was probably for the best.
“Usually, four days off between starts is good enough to clear your head,” he said. “I’ve gone through some lows in my career so far. Obviously taking a step back to take two steps forward is worth it.”
Triple A isn’t the majors, but at least Buchholz got the competitive juices flowing again.
“It’s tough to not be anxious regardless of the level you’re pitching at,” he said. “There were fans screaming and hollering at me. It’s not the exact same thing, but it’s not too far off.”
Buchholz could help lead a resurgence. Whether he wants that responsibility or not, it’s going to be attached to him.
“We got a good group of guys here,” he said. “We know the guys we’ve lost from last season, but we’ve had new guys like Brock Holt, one of the best stories in baseball. We have the ability and talent to do it.”
As for beginning a new chapter, the guitar-strumming righty said, “This season for sure. Nothing I can do about the numbers that are up there now, but go out and pitch well and go out and do it.
“We’re facing a lot of adversity. We have good group of core guys, good teammates, so we’re all pulling for each other. We have a lot of games left to play, especially in our division. A lot of games left and more than enough time to do what we need to do.”Nick Cafardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.