Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz is in the midst of a Cy Young-caliber season with a 7-0 record, 1.73 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 73 strikeouts in 10 starts.
But maybe his most impressive accomplishment thus far: He has hurled 72.2 innings and pitched 7.0 or more innings in nine of his 10 starts.
Buchholz has been an innings eater for a Red Sox team that has needed it. But can he continue to be? Can he reach the all-important 200-inning mark?
The most he ever has pitched in a season was last year when he hurled 189.1 innings and made 29 starts.
Buchholz is tall (6-3) but skinny (190 pounds). Some call his frame “fragile.” Some say it is inevitable the 28-year-old will make at least one trip to the disabled list. After all, DL stints have interrupted each of his past three seasons.
Buchholz must pitch 200 or more innings before being considered an ace. More importantly though, he must at least get into the vicinity of 200 this year or else the Red Sox bullpen will burn out because of the way some of the other starters have struggled to go deep.
Both Buchholz and Jon Lester need to be workhorses because Ryan Dempster, Felix Doubront and John Lackey have been inconsistent.
Dempster has pitched into the seventh in just three of his first 10 starts and has pitched 5.0 or fewer innings in half his starts. Doubront has made it into the seventh inning in only two of seven starts and has pitched 5.0 innings of fewer in four starts.
Lackey made it into the seventh in just one of his first six starts entering Friday and pitched 5.0 innings or fewer in three of those outings.
Dempster has reached 200 innings in four of his past five seasons so the Red Sox hope he will begin to work deeper soon.