Buchholz working on the mental game

Nobody has ever questioned the gift that Clay Buchholz has in his right arm, from the mid 90s fastball to that sweeping curveball to the changeup that freezes hitters. But obviously something led to his 2-9 record and 6.75 ERA last year, during his stints in the Major Leagues. It was the mental side, which Buchholz acknowledged in a session with the media on Thursday, official reporting day here at Spring Training.

“You live and learn, and I learned a lot from last year,” Buchholz said. “It’s definitely
mental. Physically I worked pretty hard this offseason, throwing a lot more. I
feel like I’m in better shape. The mental side of it, I’ve always heard, it’s
90 percent mental and 10 percent physical. I know have the athletic ability to
do it but if you don’t have the right frame of mind to go about it, I don’t
think you’ll succeed so that was a big part of it this offseason.”

To get a handle on the mental aspect, Buchholz met with former Major Leaguer Bob Tewksbury, who is the sports psychology coach for the Red Sox.

“I
had a couple of meetings with Mr. Tewksbury, and he just helped me on some
little things to go out there and think about,” Buchholz said. “If you have negative thoughts
going through your head when you’re on the mound during a game, you sort of
have to step off the mound, take a breath and try to make a pitch instead of
worrying about the next batter the inning before. That was my deal last year.”

What will Buchholz’s deal be this year? The Red Sox have Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Tim Wakefield and Brad Penny slated for the rotation and John Smoltz pegged for a spot once he is given medical clearance.

Buchholz isn’t thinking about that right now. He’s just thinking about getting his own game back on track. Last year was an utter nightmare. It’s hard to forget the sight of Buchholz just completely losing it at Camden Yards that night in August in what proved to be his final Major League start of the season. From there, he went to Double-A, and then to the Arizona Fall League. This from the kid who tossed a no-hitter the previous September.

 “I’d get in a jam last year and I’d try to make a pitch perfect instead of just
making a pitch and that’s where I got behind in the count all of last year.
that was exactly my mindset in the bullpen that I just threw. Really easy and
try to hit the third of the plate, instead of right on the black, and that’s how
I’m going to go about it.”

In other news, knuckleballer Tim Wakefield held court with the media this morning and expressed optimism about working with Josh Bard again.

“I
said that three years ago that I never had somebody work as hard as he did to
try to catch me and do the right things,” Wakefield said. “He was truly a professional — his attitude
and his preparation for the way he went about his work and I look forward to
working with him again.”

Theo Epstein and Terry Francona will do their annual opening of camp address to the media at noon. It won’t be the same this year without the annual question of asking whether Manny is expected to arrive in camp on time.

Lastly, please e-mail me a few more questions at ian.browne@mlb.com. I’m hoping to post an in-box — formerly known as mailbag — by tomorrow.

All for now.

Ian.

35 Comments

I’m guessing Buchholz will start the year in A.A.A. If there are injuries on the pitching staff he could start the year in Boston. Either way I believe Buchholz will contribute too the Red Sox in 2009 and beyond. Theo and the Red Sox should be patient with young pitching.
Buchholz did have some decent starts last year but obviously overall he got beat like an egg. It was the first time in his career where he struggled. In my opinion, you find about more of a person when things go south. It sounds too me that Buchholz has the right frame of mind coming into Spring Training. A year ago at this time, he might have been a little cocky.

Bob Tewksbury was a guy that threw strike after strike. Tewksbury was a soft tosser. If he was a lefty they would call him crafty. lol. Tewksbury from N.H. Always good too here folks from the N.E. area doing well.

Garry…

Don’t you think Farrell has done a good job as pitching coach? Lester certainly came on strong last year and Farrell should get some credit for that. Also Masterson did quite well as well. Beckett was top notch in 2007, Farrell deserves some props. You mentioned Hansen, last time I heard he was getting lit up with the Pirates. I don’t think it is fair when you say you judge a pitching coach on failures. Too me that is pick and choose. I think Farrell deserves credit for pitchers that have done well under his tutelage. From what I have read/heard Farrell is a guy that is very respected in the game of baseball. I’m not sure if he would make a good manager, most pitching coaches fail when it comes too that. Roger Craig was one of the few that have done well. I’m sure there are a couple others but can’t remember who them. As a Red Sox fan I am happy that he is still the pitching coach with the Red Sox.

I am probably 1 vs 100 here but there is just something about Clay Buchholz that scares me. I know he’s got the physical end of things (mechanics, armstrength etc) and I know he’s working on the mental/emotional side of it. But there is some feeling I have that I just can’t shake when it comes to him, I’m just not sure what it is. Maybe its the fact that some of our other young pitchers just seem to handle themselves better/differently than Clay or maybe the fame (pressure) that came with the no-hitter just went to his head? I don’t know … Time will tell. And as I always say “Please go out there and prove me wrong!!”

Ellen,

I agree with you when you say Buchholz doesn’t seem too handle himself like some of the other young players on the Sox. I think Buchholz could learn alot from young players on the team like Lester and Masterson. Lester and Masterson are mature beyond there years and Buchholz seems like he is still in that high school faze! Then again who am I too question someone’s maturity. My girlfriend took the remote control from me the other night and I cried and ran into my room and locked the door. LOL!! I guess she wanted too watch Desperate Housewife’s or something like that.

I see I was too optimistic about whether Congress would ask to talk to A-Rod (as in “I am optimistic Congress will screw up”. Or, “I am optimistic that the Yanks will sign Tex and mess with Red Sox fans’ heads”). We’ll see…
Garry, I hate to take issue with out “resident historian” but I am going to, anyway. It seems we had a similar discussion with Judge a month or so ago, regarding Tito and how well he has done managing players. “Is it the players, or is it Tito?” A lot of us (not you, necessarily) got on Judge’s case about whether Tito was being judged on the team’s failures, while not giving him due credit for the team’s successes. I hear an echo of it here with Farrell. We can certainly debate whether Buchholz, or Hansen, or others shoud have turned out differenly. It is difficult, though, to believe he does not deserve credit for the way Lester, Pap, and Masterson, among others (here again, Wake may be considered!), as Brian suggested. I think Brian (and Ian) is exactly right that Farrell deserves that credit–and Brad Penny certainly seems to agree. We’ll see how he does. But I think we need to be a little more consistent here–not every failure is the coach’s fault, and not every success is the coach’s trophy. It usually is somewhere in between.
As far as Buchholz is concerned, SI did an article last year on him, and Ellsbury. They concurred that there is very little debate about Buch’s talent. (It appeared last year during ST–I can get the exact date, if anyone wants to look it up). SI reported that Buch got into some off-the-field trouble that could have landed him in jail, or at least Juvie. (I can get more specific, or you can check out SI’s article). The Red Sox took a chance on him, and it appeared for a while like he might take off. But whatever may be the status of his “going on the straight and narrow” now, it appears that the same cockiness that got him into trouble there, may be (and I think it is) affecting how “coachable” he is on the mound. Maybe he’s learning, maybe not. But if so, it is the hard way.
It is difficult (and unfair) to pin Buchholz’ failures, I think, on Farrell alone. Buch has to shoulder some responsibility. Hansen may be a different matter, maybe not. Lopez (and to a lesser degree, DelCarmen) has been discussed (and still not traded–DARN!!) quite a bit, and I still don’t see the cows coming home, yet, so I suspect we’ll discuss him some more. I still think Lopez has been the biggest bust on the staff, more than Buchholz, more than DelCarmen, more than Aardsma. I think that has as much to do with his stuff as it does with Farrell, or Tito.
One other point. I think the article Ian did on Farrell, and on the Red Sox’ shoulder rehab program, should give us some confidence–it certainly did Brad Penny. Good job, Ian. GO SOX!

REPEAT FROM PRIOR THREAD
No one mentioned what Smoltz will add as a pseudo coach. Got to feel good about what value those over 40 guys (including Wakefield) will contribute!

Ellen, Brian, and Greg,
The burning question I have about Buchholz is does he still date Penthouse Pets? And do what you want with the word burning here! LOL! I’d much rather see him on the mound than Penny!!!

Another unmentioned factor is the bullpen coach. The last name I heard for the Sox is Gary Tuck. Ian, how about a little insight here!

Greg1969…

The only trouble I know that Buchholz got into was stealing laptops before the draft. He slipped right into the Red Sox hands. Pedro signed with the Mets and that pick turned out too be Buchholz. One thing I have read about Buchholz is he is very fast. Only Ellsbury is faster, perhaps Balldelli as well.

I think the guy that has been the biggest bust on the staff is Delcarmen. Delcarmen is the box of chocolates of the Red Sox. Quoting the ” Great Forrest Gump”. He looks like the best reliever one game and 24 hours later he looks like he never pitched before. Delcarmen is very inconsisent. He has the stuff but obviously he struggles between the ears. If Delcarmen continues too be inconsisent he’ll be pitching elsewhere.

Aardsma is a guy that will always be who he is. A guy that throws hard but will have control problems. I have always said, what good is a 96 m.p.h. fastball if you can’t locate it. Aardsma drove Francona/Farrell totally nuts last year. Not too mention the fielder’s.

Guys like Lopez I am not a fan of. I have never liked specialists in the bullpen. I want guys that can get both righties and lefties out. Ramirez struggled against lefties last year while in K.C. I hope he turns it around this year. One thing I am happy about this season is the Red Sox bullpen. It is a strength entering Spring Training, that wasn’t the case last year. Last season…stiffs like Corey, Snyder, Timlin…among others were around. I don’t see any pitcher that resembles those guys. Amen!

Yes, Brian, that was the trouble Buch got into. He stole laptops from his mother’s school (!). And he almost went to jail for it. As you might have been able to tell, I am not sure Buch will be cut out mentally for the game. I hope (BOY, do I hope!) that I am wrong–his stuff was/is ELECTRIC!
I am not a fan of either DelCarmen or Lopez. I just think Lopez is the bigger bust. But I will grant you that DelCarmen is nothing to get excited about.
But Farrell, like Tito, is working with the tools he has in the toolbox, as I’ve said before. So maybe, with scouting or drafting (which is a crap-shoot, anyway), we need to re-think the potential we see in some of these prospects.
I HATE the concept of the “specialty pitcher”–I could not agree with you more (that is one thing I think is flawed with the NL–they rely on these specialty pitchers even more than in the AL, and their relief corps pay the price). I wish we would think in terms of pitchers who are not “specialists” at ANYTHING except getting hitters out from BOTH sides of the plate. Otherwise, we just get another Lopez or DelCarmen. Timlin did do some things right, though–he was very helpful to us in our two WS runs. But he was not good last year–he stayed on one year too long!

You’re right about that, Kramer. I have mentioned Smoltz’ role as a coach/mentor elsewhere. I think he will be invaluable for that reason alone.

Greg…

Quite true when you say Francona/Farrell are working with the tools they have. Certainly some quality tools in Boston.
I believe Lopez was picked up when Boston gave Riske too Chicago. Delcarmen is one of the few holdovers from the Duquette era. If Delcarmen pitches like he has in the last couple of years, he’ll be elsewhere. Lopez was very effective against lefties last year. In 2007 he couldn’t get any lefty out, he did well against righties. Go figure!

When it comes too scouting the Red Sox over the last few years have done quite well. Theo and the scouts are on the same page. I have always said, they are winning and developing at the same time. Alot of teams can’t do any of it. Of course Boston has the $$$$$ and there are no excuses when it comes too putting a solid team on the field every year.

Greg,
Here are some numbers on Abreu’s declining bat:
Player – OBP – SLG – AVG – AB/R – AB/RBI – AB/SO
Abreu Career – 0.405 – 0.498 – 0.300 – 5.53 – 5.99 – 4.62
Abreu 2008 – 0.371 – 0.471 – 0.296 – 6.09 – 6.09 – 5.59

Not worth 16$Million in today’s economy!

Kramer, you actually think the ECONOMY is going to affect BASEBALL???? Especially in HOLLYWOOD and DISNEYLAND???? Hmmm…;)
Brian, I checked Lopez’ player page, and it indicated that we signed him as a FA in 06 after he was with the D-Backs and Rockies in 05. I’m not sure that was one of our best acquisitions. ;/

Kramer, if Buch still does date the Penthouse Pets, it appears that they might be sent to the Outhouse (if not the Pound), because Buch has to be careful not to land in the Doghouse!! ;)

1st off, with all the guys on the Sox, the Penthouse Pet picked Buchholz??? Was she the Blind Penthouse Pet?? Somehow I just cant see that being for anything… but.. well you know where I’m going with that.
I think that Smoltz will bring a real “mentor”-ing factor to the
younger players on the team, he could have a very stabilizing (sp) effect on players like Buchholz. hey all you oldies like me.. we are good for something!!!!

Hey, hey,hey, Ellen, be careful about what you say about the blind! My wife, after all (this is true) is blind. Wait a minute, she picked me though…;)

Buchholz will need all the mentoring he can get. We’ll see how coachable he really is, then.

oops, sorry!! I feel REALLY BLONDE right now… but youre right.. she did pick you and I think that makes her one sharp woman!!!

Hey guys, this Yankee fan was on Julia’s blog the other day… she had to set him straight on blog behavior (correct/incorrect).. careful.. remember Fagan

Like Ellen, there is something about Buchholz that bothers me. He asks like a “deer in the headlights” sometimes when he is on the mound. I hope he can get his head together – the kid really has talent!

Julia
http://werbiefitz.mlblogs.com/

No sweat, Ellen. I just gotta pull your leg! ;) It is true, though–she can’t see a thing!

Sorry, Ellen, I don’t know about Fagan, except from Oliver Twist. ;) Sounds like he must have been an adventure. Then yet, I am not sure I need to know.

Greg, Sure she can see.. she sees with her heart! And she obviously saw good things in you!!
Regarding Fagan, He was our Resident Blog Troll. Assumed several different identities and made Brownie Point and Feinsands Yankee Blog a miserable place to be some times. We have a much better, tighter group now. (the music begins… “WE ARE FAMILY.. I got all my bloggers with me!!”)
WOOOOOOOOOO-WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!
SPRING TRAINING IS HERE!!! YIPEEEEE!

Sounds a little like GSJAYS the other day, Ellen, except he has not hidden his identity. He has posted on several blogs. OK, thanks.
And don’t worry about blind jokes, either–we’ve got our own!

GSJays has been on here quite a while..

How fortunate we are, no? Hmmm…

I myself have never had any bad words with him. I guess we all have differeing opinions from time to time. Just wait till the season heats up… Sometimes things get really interesting here!! We are family!!!! haha!! We’re as dysfunctional as the Bundys!!!!

Greg1969..

Lopez was dealt too Boston back in June of 2006. Red Sox gave up David Riske…. he came too Boston in the Coco Crisp trade. Riske had a very brief career with the Red Sox and that was a good thing.

I find it interesting that the women on here do not like Buchholz, once again things that make me go hmmmmmm. LOL!!

Kramer,

I agree Abreu is not a 16 million dollar player but for 5 million and incentives a good deal for the Angels.

Now Brian… I didnt say I didnt like him..lol I’m just damned scared of him after his performance(s) last year…really scared of him. Some guys (oops theres my political incorrectness showing again) just dont mature… I hope that I’m wrong because Clay Boy has immense talent… But he just strikes me as a guy who is either going to take a long time to mature or wont mature at all! I just think h e needs a boot up the butt and to get his priorities straight and thats something that only time will tell if he can do that…

I’m far more amazed at the achievements of Lester, Papelbon and Masterson than I am disappointed with Buchholz. Having been in my early 20’s once and having been well……shall we say….wayward?, yea, wayward that’s it! I can relate more to a young kid who struggles than I can to someone who is mature and poised at a very young age. I have profound respect and admiration for the Lesters and Mastersons but I find it difficult to relate to those guys. I’d probably be hanging with Micheal Phelps. So I say give Buchholz a chance, girls. Let him mature a little and then we’ll see what he can do. Don’t be too judgmental yet.

fyi the side panels of all MLBlogs are being looked into, hopefully the issue will be resolved asap. was a glitch in the global app on our Movable Type platform. hang in there if you’re looking for links/etc. if you see the side panel in working condition, then never mind, it’s resolved.

Mark/MLB.com
http://mlblogs.mlblogs.com

I remember David Riske. I didn’t see a note about that trade on Lopez’ player page, but I’ll certainly take your word for it. And no, Riske was nothing special either. (Wasn’t that a movie once, “Riske Business”–starred Tom Cruise, I think ;)? ).

Just a thought on Delcarmen……he appeared to be turning things around at the end of last season. I am not giving up on him just yet although he does have Jeckyl and Hyde syndrome. If he can get in a groove he can be dominating. Hansen just never really got started and it was definitely time for him to go. Hopefully Delcarmen can be consistent over the course of the year because he is valuable when he’s right. Now…..has anyone heard about Lowell’s health? He is the X-Factor at this point. It will be tough going if he starts getting nagging injuries over the course of the season.

I was very critical of Buchholz last year, not so much directed at him but at Francona for keeping him in the rotation for so loooooooong which caused among other things the division championship.
I am willing to see how Buchholz can do in the ST, AAA and eventually with Red Sox later in the season. Perhaps we should send Delcarman to work with Bob Tewsbury who said 90% of the game is mental.

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