Good sign for Sox as Buchholz comes out firing

Good sign for Sox as Buchholz comes out firing

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Though it's just one Grapefruit League start, the glass looks a lot fuller for the Red Sox when Clay Buchholz displays the form of an ace.

And on Saturday afternoon against the Twins, Buchholz looked remarkably similar to the righty who dominated for the first few weeks of the 2013 season before injuries derailed his progress.

Buchholz fired three no-hit innings against Minnesota in a 4-2 Boston win, walking the leadoff man and then retiring the next eight batters he faced. Of the nine outs Buchholz recorded, four came via the strikeout.

"At the end of the day, his execution was awesome," said new Red Sox backup catcher Ryan Hanigan. "Down in the zone. All his pitches were working. We used all four quite a bit. Good mix. He threw a lot of close pitches, too, that were right around the plate. Even his misses were quality. He was solid."

What impressed Hanigan the most was that Buchholz had command of everything in his repertoire so early in camp.

"Great breaking ball, good changeup, good cutter, good heater," said Hanigan. "It was all solid. It was definitely a confidence-builder, not that he needs it, but a good day for him to go out and execute for three innings."

Two years ago, when Buchholz got off to a red-hot start, the Red Sox followed suit.

"If he's hitting spots like that, there's a lot of hitters that really aren't going to have a chance," said Hanigan. "All you can do is fight him off and battle, because he's putting them in spots where there's nothing you can do, driving-the-ball-wise. He was on. He did his thing. He was great."

This spring, Buchholz is starting to set the tone as the leader of the starting rotation. To that end, he isn't going to celebrate after one quality outing in the Grapefruit League.

"Results, obviously, aren't that big of a deal in Spring Training," said Buchholz. "But you can gain some confidence from any outing you pitch in. I've still got some things to work on, too, so it's just a process of trying to keep everything moving in the right direction. I was able to execute some quality pitches today."

This was Buchholz's first start against a Major League team this spring. He threw a scoreless inning against Northeastern on Tuesday.

"Very good," Red Sox manager John Farrell said of Buchholz's effort. "Four pitches for strikes. Good command. The thing that we focus in on, when he's able to throw his changeup to right-handers, his release point has got good extension, and that was the case today."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.