John Farrell has been managing the Red Sox long enough to understand the impact of his words to the media. So it was interesting on Sunday when he chose the occasion of his pregame press conference to make a point about Clay Buchholz.
Asked a general question about how the team played over the first month of the season, Farrell turned his answer into what amounted to a public challenge for Buchholz to perform at a higher level and show a better disposition on the mound.
“We still have room for improvement, we know that. We’ve got to get Clay going particularly,” Farrell said. “He’s an important part of our rotation; he’s an important part of this team. We’ve got to get him on track.”
Through the first 24 games of the season, the Sox were 0-5 when Buchholz started and 14-5 otherwise. That is hard to ignore, as is his 6.51 earned run average and 1.590 WHIP.
“I can’t say it’s a glaring thing from a mechanical standpoint,” Farrell said. “There are times when we’ve seen Clay execute pitches with a greater conviction to the pitch.
“There are other times where maybe he’s pitched away from contact a little bit too much and not attacked the strike zone. To me, there comes a point or an attitude on the mound that’s got to be prevalent.”
Buchholz is 15-21 with a 4.68 ERA since the start of the 2014 season. The Sox are 19-32 in the games he has started.
“We continually attempt to pick up the rhythm and pace of the game with him,” Farrell said.
Buchholz has not pitched well in April for several seasons now. He was 1-2 with a 6.66 ERA in five April starts in 2014 and 1-3 with a 5.76 ERA last season.
Buchholz never really improved in 2014. But he did last season. The righthander was 1-4 with a 6.03 ERA in his first six starts then 6-3 with a 2.20 ERA over the next 12 before he went on the disabled list for the remainder of the season in July.
Buchholz’s turn in the rotation comes up Wednesday in Chicago. With the team having a day off on Monday, altering the rotation is a possibility.
Later in the session, Farrell was asked if the Sox would stay on turn. That answer, too, came with implications.
“For now, yes,” he said.
Smith set for return
Carson Smith rejoined the team after pitching for Double A Portland on Friday and Saturday. The righthanded reliever retired all five batters he faced, striking out two.
“I felt really good. I felt just as good the second day as I did the first,” said Smith, who is on the disabled list recovering from a flexor muscle strain that happened in spring training.
The Sox plan to activate Smith from the DL on Tuesday. After Sunday night’s 8-7 victory, they optioned infielder Marco Hernandez to Pawtucket to make room.
“Because we’ve leaned on our bullpen so much, I think we’ve got to be careful that we don’t fall back into a similar situation that we’ve just been able to survive and come out of where we’ve given some ample rest,” Farrell said.
“To prioritize an extra pitcher versus a bench player, that’s an internal discussion that is ongoing right now. We’ve got to be mindful that Carson comes back to us with a limited rehab, so we’ve got to be careful on his frequency of use. It’s not being ruled out that we’d go with an extra pitcher for the short term.”
Smith could be a valuable addition. He had a 2.31 ERA in 70 appearances for the Seattle Mariners last season and averaged 11.8 strikeouts per nine innings. He gives Farrell a third set-up man to use with Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara. That should better balance the workload in the seventh and eighth innings.
Smith is eager to make an impression on his new team.
“It’s felt like an eternity, sitting there watching the games on TV,” he said. “That’s all I would do in Florida. . . . I’m ready to be back.”
David Ortiz had five home runs and 11 doubles in April. He is the first player age 40 or older to have five homers and as many as 10 doubles in any calendar month. Ortiz’s 16 extra-base hits are his most before May 1 . . . Jackie Bradley Jr. was the only major leaguer with four triples in April. The last Red Sox player to triple four times in April was Jose Offerman in 1999 . . . The Red Sox start a six-game road trip Tuesday. The team elected to travel to Chicago on Monday afternoon . . . The game started on time in spite of heavy rain falling in the hours leading up to first pitch. Dave Mellor and his grounds crew did tremendous work getting the field ready . . . The Connecticut College Shwiffs performed one of the best national anthems of the season at Fenway Park.