Buchholz stays on schedule to earn job

Buchholz stays on schedule to earn job

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- With the big league team off Thursday -- its only scheduled off-day of the spring -- right-hander Clay Buchholz toiled at the player development complex on the opposite end of Edison Avenue from City of Palms Park, in a Minor League game against a Twins' high Class A squad. The work was required to keep Buchholz, who last pitched Saturday against the Pirates, on a regular five-day schedule.

He went four innings, giving up one hit, with four strikeouts and no walks. He threw 45 pitches, 31 for strikes, and threw 15 more in the bullpen after his outing.

"I tried to take it as the same outing as if I was pitching against Tampa Bay or New York or whoever," Buchholz said. "Sometimes it's good to come out here and pitch. ... But I felt really good physically -- got to use all my pitches, got through four innings and got some work in. That's basically the main reason why I threw today -- stay on five days and get the work on."

Buchholz, 25, entered this spring in a similar situation to last spring. With more starting pitchers than there were rotation spots, there was uncertainty for Buchholz. Last season, with John Smoltz and Brad Penny in the mix, Buchholz started the season with Triple-A Pawtucket.

"Last year I sort of knew that I didn't have a spot coming into Spring Training, because we had Smoltzie and BP in front of me," Buchholz said. "So it was a little different. But at the same time, I'm preparing the same, going out and trying to do the things that I work on out of the game, and I'm trying to bring them into the game. So I feel the same. It's the same goal to break camp with the team, and that's going to remain my goal for the duration of Spring Training. But nothing really different about it."

This season, with six pitchers -- Josh Beckett, Buchholz, John Lackey, Jon Lester, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Tim Wakefield -- vying for the rotation spots, Buchholz's position would appear more solidified, as Matsuzaka has been slowed by ailments this spring. Matsuzaka threw his first batting-practice session Wednesday and is unlikely to be ready for Opening Day.

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Last season, Buchholz posted a record of 7-2 with a 2.36 ERA in 16 starts for Pawtucket, with a 2.97 strikeouts-to-walks ratio. He was called up to Boston on July 17, going 7-4 (4.21 ERA) in 16 starts.

He is not letting external factors affect his preparation for this season.

"Dice is, whenever he's ready to go, he's going to be good," Buchholz said. "Obviously, he's going to be ready within the next month or so. So I can't put that in my mind as far as, 'Well, I should get the start in the first month.' And I don't know what's going to happen after that. I'm just going to go out and pitch every day, or every day they give me the ball, and try to do what I have to do to succeed and get better every time I go out. That's how I have to look at it."

To help keep himself healthy, Buchholz added almost 15 pounds to his thin 6-foot-3 frame this offseason.

"I think it's my stomach," Buchholz quipped, when asked where the added weight is.

"I feel a little bit bigger in the shoulders and a little bit in the back, too. So it's places where I could definitely use the extra weight, and I can sort of afford to lose a little bit if I had to.

"I ended the season last year at 186, and I think I came into camp at 200. I think, right now, I'm about 196, 197. I feel like [if] I hadn't lost the weight by now, it's probably going to stick on."

He expects the added weight to help him withstand the rigors of a 162-game schedule, and it hasn't affected his mechanics.

"I feel a little bit heavier. That's the only way I can describe it," he said. "I don't feel like it's given me any velocity on a fastball or any particular point. I just think it's going to make it better for me throughout the season. ... I feel smooth. I feel loose. I think it's going to help me in the long run. But right now, I don't feel any different."

And he knows there's a lot of work to be done to prepare for the season. Asked what he is working on at this point in the spring, Buchholz replied:

"There's a lot of stuff. ... I'm always going to be working on mechanic stuff. There's times during the game where I feel like I'm doing something wrong and, in my own mind, being able to fix it without having to sit down and talk to [pitching coach] John Farrell about it, saying, 'What am I doing wrong?' I can feel it. That's just from getting better and growing in the game and being a little bit more mature about it."

Maureen Mullen is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.