On May 6, Clay Buchholz faced the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park. He left that start a broken man, having given up five runs in just 3 2/3 innings and watching his league-worst ERA soar to 9.09.
Whispers about demoting Buchholz to Triple-A, or placing him on the disabled list, had become full-blown talking points.
On June 7, Buchholz will face the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park. He will enter a man with momentum, having posted a 3.98 ERA in five starts since, including an eight-inning gem in Toronto six days ago.
While another member of the rotation is the one being demoted, the vultures have left Buchholz behind. Talk surrounding the right-hander has died down, and that's a good thing.
Like a lot of pitchers, Buchholz's success hinges heavily on his fastball and changeup. When both are effective, he keeps hitters off balance. In 2010, when he nearly won the American League ERA crown, he rocked opponents back and forth with those offerings. But early in 2012 the fastball velocity was down, and often misplaced, and the changeup was erratic.
However, against Toronto his last time out, Buchholz's fastball averaged a season-high 92.74 mph, perhaps a sign of his return to full strength. Also, he has 11 swings-and-misses on his changeup in his last two starts, just one fewer than his previous nine outings combined. The arsenal has improved. It is no surprise that the results have as well.
If you are a Red Sox starter in 2012, the best you can ask for is a little peace and quiet. When Jon Lester has had his occasional blowups this year, we wondered aloud if he will ever be the dominant lefty many envisioned. Josh Beckett and Daniel Bard have had circus-like campaigns. And Buchholz was engulfed with questions amid his John Lackey-like start. The only one to cruise through the media crunch relatively unscathed has been Felix Doubront, whose one knock may be that he has yet to last seven innings in each of his 14 career starts.
For now, life in Buchholz's world is pretty quiet. Another solid start tonight against Baltimore and the volume will remain pleasantly low.