Sunday, September 27, 2009

Buchholz still cruising along

Clay Buchholz knows his right arm is in uncharted territory.

When he makes his second-to-last start of the season on Tuesday against the Blue Jays, he'll already have 183 innings under his belt -- far more than his previous career high. Two years ago, even as the Red Sox were making a charge to the World Series, the Red Sox cut the righty off just shy of 150 innings. A year ago, even as he was fighting through the worst season of his career, he didn't get much beyond the 150-inning plateau.

If all goes well for the Red Sox in October, though, he'll make at least five more starts -- two more this season and at least one in each round of the playoffs. He very easily could blow way past 200 innings. For an arm as young as his -- he turned 25 in August -- he's getting into dangerous waters.

Buchholz hasn't given much thought to easing up on the throttle.

"I actually feel really good physically right now," he said. "That hadn't come into my mind, to take anything off or back off."

No kidding. He has an incredible 1.32 ERA in his last six starts. In that span, only Cy Young lock Zack Greinke has better numbers:

Aug. 27-Sept. 27
Greinke, 0.26 ERA
Buchholz, 1.32
CC Sabathia, 1.50
Ted Lilly, 1.54
Felix Hernandez, 1.57

But given the rate at which pitchers get hurt, it's interesting the Red Sox haven't yet decided to ease his workload. He threw 109 pitches in 6 2/3 innings against the Royals earlier this ewek and hasn't thrown fewer than 90 pitches since the Orioles knocked him out in the fifth inning on Aug. 2.

Buchholz will get something of a breather when he, in all likelihood, pitches the Red Sox season finale against Cleveland on Oct. 4. He said he'll pitch with a short leash in that game, likely throwing 75 or 80 pitches before coming out of the game.

"I talked to John (Farrell) yesterday," Buchholz said, "and he asked me how many innings I threw in Triple-A. I think it was right around 100" -- it actually was 99 -- "and that puts me around 175 now. I feel good. It doesn't feel like a foreign area. As long as my body feels good, we can keep doing what we've been doing."

The mission won't change much, either.

"Just to stay on the same track I've been on as far as first-pitch strikes and location and command of the fastball and being able to go to offspeed pitches in counts where I'm in favor," he said. "The big key for me is just throwing the fastball on both sides of the plate and getting early outs."

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