Clay Buchholz hasn’t thrown a pitch in a game since June 8. That’s over two months ago. 70 days, to be exact. Buchholz was 28-years old went he tossed his last pitch against the Angels back in the early part of the summer. The slender right hander will eventually take the mound again in 2013, and when he does, he will do so as a 29-year old.
It’s been awhile.
Before Buchholz went on the shelf, the Red Sox were 38-25. Since June 9, they’ve have gone 34-27. The Red Sox were in first place when Buchholz was injured in early June. They’re in first place as of Saturday afternoon. Buchholz’ teammates have picked him up. They did more than just weather the proverbial storm. Imagine if the Red Sox fell precipitously standings during Buchholz’ absence. Let’s say they tanked. It would’ve gotten ugly. The silly summer-long sports talk radio comparisons between Buchholz and the always tough-as-nails Patrice Bergeron and the laundry list of injuries he played with during the Stanley Cup playoffs would have been replaced with much more venomous rants, blaming the righty for refusing to pitch at less than 100 percent.
Sure, Buchholz has been and will be the butt of a few jokes. He hasn’t helped himself throughout this process, either. When a pitcher feels discomfort (not to be confused with general soreness) in his shoulder, it’s unreasonable to ask him to pitch until he feels completely healthy. It’s probably not unreasonable to ask him to refrain from vocalizing that to the media. Nevertheless, throughout this nine week process, Buchholz has been adamant that he wants to be 100 percent the next time he toes the rubber.
I don’t blame Buchholz for wanting and waiting to pitch until he feels totally healthy. His arm is his meal ticket, and it’s not like he’s saving his bullets for a huge payday either. He isn’t facing free agency for quite some time. Buchholz is a pitcher with a big arm who doesn’t have the frame to match it. He needs to feel healthy and confident when he pitches. It’s understandable.
So here we are. A clean bill of structural health from Dr. James Andrews has provided Buchholz with the necessary peace of mind he needed. Since then, he’s completed a couple of solid bullpen sessions. The plan is to throw another high intensity bullpen on Saturday before facing teammates in a simulated game. From there, the righty will head out on a minor league rehab assignment for a start or two. After that, barring any setbacks, Buchholz will be ready to rejoin the Red Sox rotation.
And he owes his teammates a big ‘thank you.’
I’m not looking for Buchholz to go around the Red Sox clubhouse shaking his teammates’ hands for picking him up during his absence. I am, however, expecting him to pitch well. He has the ability to help carry the Red Sox to an American League East title. He elevates them from a playoff contender to a legitimate World Series contender.
I don’t see Buchholz filling out any thank you cards to anyone, but if he can recapture his early season form for two months, no one will remember the nearly three months he missed.
That would serve as the best ‘thank you’ of all.