Wednesday, December 13

Mlb Biography: Clay Buchholz, Boston Red Sox

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Clay Buchholz, a right handed starting pitcher, was born August 14, 1984 in Nederland, Texas.  He grew up watching and shaping his game to the master of the no-hitter Nolan Ryan.  A multi-sport athlete, Buchholz played both baseball and football in high school.  He impressed collegiate football scouts as he ran a 4.32 second 40 yard dash.  Despite having offers to be a wide receiver at such powerhouse football schools as University of Texas, Notre Dame, Purdue, and Texas A&M, his passion was not for football, but for baseball.

Clay Buchholz chose to attend McNeese State to pursue baseball, spending time as both a pitcher and position player; he spent a year there before transferring to Angelina Junior College in Texas.  While at Angelina, Buchholz dominated inferior competition with a 1.05 ERA and 129 strikeouts in 85.2 innings.  Shooting up the draft charts, the Boston Red Sox selected him in the supplemental first round of the 2005 amateur draft – his draft pick was in place as compensation for losing Pedro Martinez through free agency.  After signing, he reported to the Lowell Spinners, Boston’s short-season A-level affiliate in the New York-Pennsylvania League.  In 41.1 innings there, he struck out 45 batters and allowed just two home runs en route to a 2.61 ERA as a 20 year old.

Clay Buchholz began 2006 in full season ball with the Greenville Drive of the South Atlantic League.  There he demonstrated consistent dominance over pro hitters, strikeout out 117 compared to just 29 walks in 103 innings with a 2.62 ERA.  His performance earned him a promotion to the advanced A-level Wilmington Blue Rocks.  After moving from the hitter friendly South Atlantic League to the pitcher friendly Carolina League, Buchholz was absolutely dominant.  In three regular season starts, he struck out 23 and allowed only 14 batters to reach base in 16 innings; his playoff start was just as dominant as he struck out ten in six innings allowing only three hits and one run.  When the dust had cleared, he had seen the last of A-ball and was named the Red Sox Minor League Pitcher of the Year

Going into the 2007 season, Clay Buchholz added some muscle and was poised to have a breakout year.  Before spring training, he was promoted to AA Portland after having spent only a few weeks at the advanced A-level.  Buchholz’s arsenal had developed into that of a potential front of the rotation major league pitcher.  His best pitch is his devastating changeup; he locates it well, it has great tailing movement, and it has a good ten-plus mile per hour differentiation from his fastball.  His fastball sits in the low to mid 90s and can reach as high as 97; he does not yet locate this pitch as consistently as he needs to, but it is much improved.  He has a 12-to-6 curveball that sits in the high 70s and has tons of movement; he locates it well and is able to throw it in any count.  Finally, his slider is his least used pitch, but it has been described as above average to plus on multiple occasions.

The 2007 season would prove to be everything Buchholz had hoped it would be.  In 86.2 innings with the Portland Sea Dogs, he struck out 116 batters, walked just 22, allowed only 55 hits, and maintained an Eastern League leading 1.77 ERA.  He earned a brief mid-season promotion to AAA Pawtucket and on August 17, Buchholz was given his first shot at the Major Leagues.  He pitched the first game of a double-header against the Los Angeles Angels, holding the team with the second best record in baseball to three earned runs in six innings, and earning a win.  After the game, he was returned to Pawtucket, but his stay would once again be short.

On September 1, 2007, in a spot start for the injured Tim Wakefield, Buchholz dazzled the Baltimore Orioles en route to a no-hitter in just his second major league start.  It marked just the second time since 1900 that a pitcher had thrown a no-hitter within his first two major league starts.

For the next two seasons, Buchholz bounced back and forth between the minors and the Red Sox.  Starting the season as a member of Boston’s pitching rotation, he struggled with his consistency throughout 2008 and, but by the second half of 2009 he once again found himself holding a stable spot in the Majors.  In 92 innings, Buchholz posted a 4.21 ERA and held batters to a .256 average, earning the third starter position in the playoffs.

Now an established member of the Red Sox’s pitching rotation, Clay Buchholz is off to a brilliant start to the 2010 season.  Through 13, Buchholz has his ERA down to 2.67 with 58 strikeouts in 84.1 innings.  He has the lowest ERA among Bostonstarters and ranks in the top five in the American League through mid-2010.

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