After Roenis Elias did so well on Friday night, allowing an awful 7 runs in 4 innings, the Red Sox still need someone to step up and fill the vacated fifth starter role.
Can Clay Buchholz take that spot? Buchholz, who jostled between Major League levels before finally solidifying himself as a key member of the Red Sox rotation, signed a contract-friendly extension back in 2011.
When he is healthy, he has proven to be one of the most dominant pitchers in Major League baseball. The reason why Red Sox fans have been frustrated with him has been his lack of mental toughness.
He does not step up his game in response to criticism and it has happened repeatedly in his time in the Major Leagues. After getting banished to the bullpen, Buchholz will finally return to the starting role against one of the game’s best in Chicago White Sox pitcher Chris Sale.
“Being in the bullpen sort of pushed my back against the wall,” said Buchholz. “Only thing I can do is fight back, go out and pitch to the best of my abilities, try to help this team win any way I can.”
The Red Sox do not need Buchholz to be their ace or even their No. 2 starter. They just need him to deliver 5-6 quality innings every start and let the bullpen handle the rest. Can he do that though?
The Red Sox believe he can.
“I still feel that he has the stuff to be a successful starting pitcher at the major league level, so we’re looking for him to come out and pitch well for us and keep us competitive on a regular basis when he takes the ball,” said Dave Dombrowski. “It’s got to start [Tuesday], though.”
The Red Sox hold a 13.5 million dollar contract option for Buchholz for next season and, if he wants to earn that money, he will pitch to his potential and hopefully help the Red Sox avoid overpaying for an ace.
The Red Sox have an opportunity for Buchholz to deliver. There is clearly pressure on him to perform individually, but organizationally the Sox do not have much to lose. It’s time to see whether Buchholz can step up and deliver his strongest pitching performance against a legitimate opponent.