Clay Buchholz

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The 2013 Red Sox baseball season may come down to Clay Buchholz. There has been a lot of negative talk about Clay; people wonder why he took so long to return. Let me give you my take.

Begin by noting that Clay went on the disable list in July of 2011 with what eventually proved to be a stress fracture in his lower back. This event led to the collapse of a team that, although well in the wild card lead at the time, was really hanging by a thread due to injuries in the pitching staff. Terry Francona’s artful manipulation of the rotation and use of the bullpen (and timely call-ups of pitchers from Pawtucket) had made the team seem much stronger than it actually was. When Clay went down, that was the final straw.

Now, a stress fracture in the lower back is not a very common injury for a major league pitcher, and it is reasonable to assume that there was something seriously wrong with his pitching mechanics that led to the injury. In fact, he had this way of arching has back, and snapping forward to get extra velocity on his fastball that always had made me uncomfortable watching. He spent most of 2012  recovering, and looking for a way to throw that would not re-injure his back.

In the spring of 2013, he seemed to have found it, and got off to a spectacular start, before sustaining another injury, this time to his neck and shoulder. Clearly, he had shifted the stress from his back to his shoulder, and introduced a new host of problems. To his credit, rather than trying to rush back into action, he has been working to find a way to fix his pitching mechanics so that he could continue to throw the pitches he wanted to throw without further injury. It was a long and difficult process.

Now he is back, and it’s so far, so good. Clay is the linchpin to Red Sox success this year. If he is pitching well, and soundly, he completes an awesome starting foursome for the postseason. A healthy and strong Clay Buchholz, combined with Jon Lester, the miraculously rehabilitated John Lackey, and Ben Cherrington’s brilliant mid-season acquisition, Jake Peavy, make me see a team that, at the beginning of the year was regarded as a last place team by most “experts”, now is the odds-on favorite to go all the way.

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