Curt Schilling took the mound for the Boston Red Sox in Game 6 of the 2004 American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees with approximately 55 stitches in his ankle. He bled all over his white sock throughout the game but pitched 7.0 strong innings to earn the win.
Then there is Pedro Martinez, who trotted out of the Boston bullpen in Game 5 of the 1999 American League Division Series against the Cleveland Indians. Despite a hurt back, he threw 6.0 scoreless and hitless innings to help Boston win the series.
And then there is Clay Buchholz who started Game 4 of the 2013 World Series despite experiencing a fatigued shoulder and he went on to ... well, that story still needs to be written.
Buchholz, Boston’s extremely talented but often injured right-hander, will write his own heroic or disappointing story today in Game 4 at 8:07 p.m. in St. Louis against the Cardinals.
If his comments at his press conference yesterday were of any indication, he won’t write the same heroic tale Schilling and Martinez once inked.
“Being at this level, especially on this stage, it’s tough to take yourself out of a game,” Buchholz told reporters yesterday. “I’ve never done that before. But with this scenario that’s going on right now, I’m going to tell them (Red Sox coaches and trainer) the truth. It’s not going to be one of times where you might be feeling tired, but still telling everybody that you’re good to go.
“Like I said, I’m going to compete and give my team the best chance of winning that I can, and if something does come up that I’m feeling a little rundown, then, yeah, that’s something that I’ll let them know.”
Yikes! That comment — on this stage (the World Series) — is maybe even worse than the one he made throughout his three-month disabled list stint this year when he kept telling reporters he wouldn’t pitch again until he felt 100 percent healthy.
The Red Sox All-Star right-hander spent from early June through Sept. 10 on the disabled list with shoulder discomfort.
It wasn’t until late July when Buchholz visited renowned surgeon Dr. James Andrews, who cleared him to throw, giving Buchholz peace of mind that he would not damage the shoulder if he progressed back steadily.
Buchholz’s followed Andrew’s timetable and returned Sept. 10.
But here we go all over again. Now in the World Series, Buchholz is experiencing a tired shoulder and seems to be focused more on his own discomfort than his team winning a championship.
He also told reporters yesterday: “I don’t think there is any risk there. My one thing that I have is to go and compete. Go out there for as long as (manager) John (Farrell) wants to leave me out there, and give the team a chance to win to the best of my ability. Obviously given the couple of days that I’ve been out so far, not a hundred percent. But I’ve said it a couple of times this year, I don’t think anybody, especially at this time of the season, is a hundred percent.”
Why would he pull himself from a World Series game if he doesn’t think he is risking anything by pitching, especially when he knows he isn’t 100 percent to begin with?
Maybe the shoulder is injured. Maybe he’ll need surgery this offseason. He could have a serious injury. But what if Buchholz removes himself today, the Red Sox don’t win the World Series and he doesn’t end up needing offseason surgery? Well, if that’s the case, he surely will have plenty of tough questions to answer next spring training when he meets with the media.
Things aren’t looking too positive entering tonight’s start. In each of his three postseason outings so far, Buchholz has struggled once he has reached the fifth and sixth innings.
Today certainly will go a long way in solidifying the righty’s legacy as a pitcher and a Boston athlete. After all, he might never again get this opportunity to start a World Series game.
Is he going to be Schilling/Martinez-like? Is he going to be a reflection of the Buchholz we’re already used to, the one who is considered fragile and has never started 30 or more games in one season?
We’ll see soon enough. The Red Sox better hope Buchholz writes the former.
Follow Christopher Smith on Twitter @SmittyOnMLB