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Sports

May 12, 2009

Buchholz is ready and waiting for shot

PAWTUCKET, R.I. — Physically, Clay Buchholz still looks the same from the last time we met about 10 months ago.

He's tall, about 6-foot-3. He looks like a rail — his biography says 190 pounds, but 180 is probably more like it. And he still looks like a handsome teenager.

What is learned immediately is that his head has changed. Or, at least, abstract stuff that's swirling around inside.

Buchholz, now 24, is pitching for the Boston Red Sox Triple-A affilliate in Pawtucket, a place everybody that knows a stitch about baseball knows he doesn't belong.

Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein knows it. Pawtucket manager Ron Johnson knows it. The last place Columbus Clippers know it. And yes, even Buchholz knows it.

Buchholz is now 2-0 with the PawSox with a 1.33 ERA. Even those numbers mask his mastery, which has included 26 strikeouts and only 12 hits allowed over 27 innings.

If not for the Red Sox desire to bring him along slowly — he threw only 86 pitches during a seven-inning, eight-strikeout, one-hit, no-run effort on Friday in Columbus — he might be 4-0.

The record doesn't matter. The logjam in Boston, which apparently is directly related to Buchholz, does.

"I was the reason they got insurance," said Buchholz, referring to additions of starting pitchers Brad Penny and John Smoltz. "I know that. I didn't give them the confidence in me last year. So this is where I'm supposed to be for now. I am not going to complain. I only want to get better."

If those words sound good, but ring hollow, think again.

Buchholz has been the good soldier from Day 1, at least in Pawtucket.

"I can't say enough good things about Clay," said Pawtucket manager Ron Johnson, who immediately grabbed a chart on his desk with Buchholz's name on it. "I'll go back to his first game in Buffalo (on April 12). He only pitched 32âÑ3 innings and threw 82 pitches. But he threw about 15 or 16 two-strike foul balls. I went out to take him out, thinking he might be a little upset, and he looked at me and said, 'Let's get 'em next time.' That's his mentality. He has a job to do here (in Pawtucket)."

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