Job description: alleged ace of the Red Sox staff.
The way manager John Farrell bolted out of the dugout after Buchholz squandered a 4-0 lead in the third inning of Tuesday night’s 11-8 loss to the Blue Jays, you would have thought he brought a pink slip with him.
It’s like the employer who has to keep the employee on because he has no other choice. The training for the job is so tedious, it’s easier to keep the employee in place and hope he improves his job performance.
Farrell looked as frustrated as any fan in the stands, probably anyone watching on NESN, and any player watching from the dugout as he came out to get Buchholz.
Farrell could have let his “ace” get out of the third-inning jam, but he walked straight at Buchholz and wanted the ball.
Buchholz yelled as he walked off the mound. He had been given a 4-0 lead and left trailing, 5-4. Terrible. Embarrassing.
As the ace, you’re supposed to take that 4-0 lead and run with it, allow your offense to extend it. Cruise control, baby.
Suddenly the offense had to come from behind again.
Suddenly the bullpen had to be taxed again on the same day the Red Sox called up outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. and sent knuckleballer Steven Wright down so they could go back to 13 positional players.
Edward Mujica was awful, as well, with three runs allowed and two balks.
Buchholz allowed a couple of bloopers, but mostly there were well-struck balls all over the field.
“When a team gives you a four-run lead you’re supposed to come out a lot better than that,” Buchholz said. “You have to throw strikes, have them put them put the ball in play and get outs. I walk the first guy and they made solid contact and hit the ball hard. I have to do a lot better job than that.”
Buchholz looked terrific the first two innings. Three strikeouts, one hit. He got through the first seven batters just fine until . . . really? . . . the No. 8 and No. 9 hitters were too much to handle?
With that four-run lead, he walked No. 8 hitter Kevin Pillar, then allowed a single to left to Ryan Goins. Devon Travis and Josh Donaldson singled in runs, and Jose Bautista drove in another with a sacrifice fly.
“My first mistake was walking the leadoff hitter and then there were a couple of good pitches that they hit and found some holes,” Buchholz said. “Couple of good ones, couple of bad ones. That’s what hitters are supposed to do.”
Edwin Encarnacion singled in another run. After a reprieve, when Buchholz struck out Russell Martin, Michael Saunders knocked in the fifth run with another single.
Farrell came out of the dugout, ending Buchholz’s night.
“The leadoff walk set the tone for the inning,” the manager said.
What’s going on here?
Remember those “Five aces” T-shirts Buchholz made in spring training? Maybe he should make up “We’re All No. 5s” T-shirts.
It’s become the rotation from hell, the worst in the majors.
It’s the story that never ends.
Buchholz has had two true stinkers this year. He lasted 2⅔ innings Tuesday night, allowing six hits and five runs, four earned. On April 12 vs. the Yankees he went 3⅓ innings, allowing nine hits and 10 runs, nine earned.
His best outing was Opening Day vs. Philadelphia, in which he pitched seven shutout innings. Against Baltimore April 18, he allowed 11 hits, but only two runs in a 4-1 loss.
Not much has changed for Buchholz since last season. His performance is consistent in its inconsistency. Every time he pitches, we ask, “Which Clay Buchholz is showing up?”
The Red Sox don’t have many solutions. It’s hard to take players making millions of dollars out of the rotation or lineup. Buchholz is just hurting his own cause.
He has club options of $13 million for 2016 and $13.5 million for 2017 sitting there. The Red Sox could just let him go and give the slot to Brian Johnson or Eduardo Rodriguez next season. If Buchholz stays on this path, the Red Sox won’t hesitate to allow him to walk.
But the problem is now.
Pitching coach Juan Nieves is going to have to work overtime with this staff. Right now, nothing seems to be working. This was a rotation that was supposed to be capable of many quality starts. The whole premise of the team was built on the fact the lineup would produce more runs than anyone else’s and that the pitching would be good enough.
Well, so far it’s not really working out that way.
And if the starting pitching doesn’t hold up, and if bringing up youngsters doesn’t work the way they hope, then what?
They have held off on the Phillies’ Cole Hamels, and now it would seem there will be more interested suitors with St. Louis’s Adam Wainwright hurt and gone for the year; with Masahiro Tanaka’s forearm strain and disabled list time; with the Dodgers’ Brandon McCarthy out for the year with a torn UCL.
All of a sudden teams have pitching voids. There’s now competition for Hamels, even though every team likely will try the in-house route first and then realize when that doesn’t work, Philadelphia finally will be taking calls.
“We’re waiting with open arms,” said one Phillies official.
Teams are stubborn at this time of the year. They’re still holding on to their prospects tightly and hoping that either in-house candidates can solve needs or that the philosophy they started the year with eventually will take hold. It’s too early, they say.
They prefer staying the course to change. When there’s desperation or urgency, they finally make the move. And that’s where we are with a number of teams, including the Red Sox.
Buchholz likely will remain in the rotation. Buchholz, Joe Kelly, Wade Miley, Rick Porcello, and Justin Masterson are the ones the Red Sox came to the ball with, and the ones leaving with, come hell or high water.
Johnson and Rodriguez are waiting in the wings. But would the Red Sox demote any one of their starters to the bullpen to make room for one of their young guys?
The look on Farrell’s face when he came to take out Buchholz would give you reason to say yes. The cooler-heads-will-prevail part of Farrell and general manager Ben Cherington would cause you to say no.
As bad as things have gone for Buchholz and this staff, don’t expect much to change any time soon.
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