FORT MYERS, Fla. -- While Clay Buchholz fired away during his bullpen session on Tuesday, David Price was on the mound right next to him going through his paces. It served as a reminder of how much things have changed for Buchholz in the span of a year.
Last year, the Red Sox didn't have an ace, and the hope was that Buchholz might emerge into one over a full season for the first time in his career. It didn't happen, and Buchholz has a more realistic goal to reach in 2016.
One of the most frequent critiques of Boston's much-improved roster is the lack of a true No. 2 starter behind Price.
That makes Buchholz's ears perk up. That is a job he's sure he can handle -- if he is able to stay healthy.
"Yeah," said Buchholz, asked if it drives him when he hears the Red Sox don't have a No. 2 starter. "I know what I can do whenever I'm on the field."
At 31 years old, this will be Buchholz's 10th season with Boston, the team that drafted and developed him. It has been a long time since he threw that no-hitter in his second Major League start in 2007. And all these years later, Buchholz is still attempting to throw 200 innings in a season for the first time. He came reasonably close twice, throwing 173 2/3 innings in 2010 and 189 1/3 innings in '12.
In hopes of at last improving his durability, Buchholz made some adjustments to his offseason routine this year.
Inspired by the advice of former teammate John Lackey, who he trains with in the offseason, Buchholz elected not to throw a bullpen session until he got to camp. The forever svelte Buchholz also gained 10 pounds, hoping that would help him maintain his body over the long grind of the spring and summer.
"I have that gene. Everybody gets mad at me," Buchholz said of his difficulty keeping weight on. "I lose weight sitting here talking to you guys. I tried that a little bit differently, but I did go a little bit heavier just to try to get more core strength than durability strength."
The one thing Buchholz proved just before he strained his right flexor muscle in July against the Yankees is that he can still pitch at an elite level. In what were Buchholz's final 11 starts of the season, he posted a 2.02 ERA. In the last five starts, he was dominant, notching a 1.05 ERA and giving up one earned run or less each time out.
"It always seems to happen like that," said Buchholz. "I'm always doing pretty good whenever something bad happens."
While Buchholz might have given himself numerical goals in the past, he has one word when asked what his goal is for 2016.
"Health," he said.
Then Buchholz elaborated.
"If I'm healthy and I'm making starts, the innings are going to be there," he said. "It's all a matter of just staying on the field and not having those big stretches of being sidelined with some kind of injury, and that's what we're going to try to stay away from this year."
Only David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia have been with the Red Sox longer than Buchholz among the active players. He has one option year left on his contract worth $13 million, and he is someone relieved that president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski picked up his option for the 2016 season.
"With Dave coming in, he's coming into basically a clean slate and there's no loyalty with a guy coming in that doesn't really know who you are," Buchholz said. "He's seen me throw a couple of times and everything, but I was drafted by Theo [Epstein] and Ben [Cherington], and I've known them my whole career. There was a sense of loyalty that went into that.
"With a new guy coming in at the head of baseball ops, he basically had the reins to do whatever he wanted to do with the team to make the team better. And I'd be lying if I didn't say there was a couple of things going through my head about being traded or being sent somewhere else or not having the option picked up."
As far as being part of a rotation led by Price, Buchholz relishes that in the same way he did when he pitched behind Jon Lester.
"I've pitched against him for a long time," Buchholz said. "Everybody that you speak to has good things to say about him, and he's a good teammate. He's a solidified guy that's going to go out there and throw you 220, 240 innings every year, and do it with a pretty good pace to it, too. He can lead by example. Everybody else can watch him do what he does and try to follow him."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.