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BOSTON (CBS) – After a very strong spring, Clay Buchholz is looking forward to his first start of the 2013 season as the Red Sox continue their three-game set against the New York Yankees on Wednesday night.
With a very up-and-down 2012 campaign behind him, Buchholz is taking a new approach each time he steps on the mound.
“Just have fun with it,” he told WBZ-TV’s Dan Roche from the Yankee Stadium locker room. “I’m excited to get the first night game of the season, and it’s here in (Yankee Stadium) so it’s obviously a pretty special place. I’m ready to go; felt good all spring and I’m ready to carry that over.”
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Like most of his current teammates, Buchholz is hoping to put 2012 behind him. He finished the season with a winning record at 11-8, but his 4.56 ERA was his highest since his first year in the majors and he surrendered a career-high 26 homers in his 29 starts.
This spring, Buchholz focused on being ready for the regular season instead of singling out one pitch to work on, and is no longer set on striking everyone out. He was pleased with the location of both his four-seam and two-seam fastballs on both sides of the plate, and his 3-0, 0.79 ERA back that up.
As he gets older and slowly becomes a veteran, Buchholz is transforming himself into a pitcher and not just a thrower. A strikeout machine in the minors, Buchholz has seen his K totals dip in the majors. He struck out a career-high 129 batters last season, but the transformation from thrower to pitcher hasn’t been easy at times for the 28-year-old hurler.
“It was a big change for me, not striking a lot of guys out,” said Buchholz, who struck out 511 batters over 449.1 innings of minor league work. “I struck a lot of guys out in the minors, but I haven’t done that as much in the big leagues.”
“But I’ve developed a pitch I can throw in any count and can get some movement on it, and you can get some weak contact and swings and misses,” he said. “It’s definitely changed a little bit, but you still have that fire in your belly when the game starts and you want to try to get everyone out. It makes the game a little easier knowing you can make a pitch and don’t need them to swing and miss all the time.”
Now he starts a new season against a foe that has gotten to him quite a bit over his six-year career. Buchholz is just 2-5 with a 7.19 ERA against the Yanks in nine career starts, and was hit hard to the tune of eight earned runs over 1.2 innings pitched in his only start in the new stadium last season. Against the Yankees at Fenway, Buchholz gave up five solo homers.
Lucky for him, the Yankees who took him deep that April evening in Boston are either no longer on the team or find themselves on the disabled list.
With a new season comes new expectations for both Buchholz and the team. After their dreadful campaign in 2012 and collapse of 2011, those expectations are relatively low among the fans and media, but not for Buchholz.
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While everyone else has them at the bottom of the division, Buchholz thinks it’s the perfect time for he and the Sox to rise.
“Under the radar is the way to go,” he said. “It takes some pressure off everybody; you don’t have to go out there and press and think that I have to do this or have to do that. Just let the game come to you, do the little things right, and if everybody does that everything else will follow right behind it.”
It sounds certainly sounds like Buchholz is ready to “just have fun with it” once again.