Will Buchholz pitch again in 2011?
As the Red Sox formally addressed Clay Buchholz’s condition on Tuesday — confirming a report earlier this week that he has a stress fracture in his back — the one thing everyone wanted to know is this: Can the ultra-talented righty pitch again in 2011?
“I think there’s absolutely a chance,” said Red Sox medical director Tom Gill. “I just don’t know how big that chance is. I think that there’s a great chance he would be healed by then, so to speak. Or that the fracture would be stable by then. The question is, how much time does Clay then need to get Major League ready? You have to remember, Pawtucket, their season is over before the postseason. So that’s going to be kind of an internal baseball decision and working with Clay, how much time he needs to get back. After he’s medically cleared, he then has to get baseball cleared.”
Obviously the Red Sox’s chances to win a World Series go down at least a little without Buchholz. He was one of the best No. 3 starters in the game, and pitching means so much in October.
How closely can Erik Bedard come to resembling Buchholz? Can Theo Epstein find another starter through waivers in August? Can Andrew Miller finally put it together? What will John Lackey be going forward?
Offensively, the Red Sox have more than enough to make it through the rest of the season. But their success in October will hinge on how they pitch.
As for Buchholz, he was obviously disappointed that his season is now hanging by a thread.
“All along, I knew something was there, so, yeah, it’s good to go to a guy and have him be so forward with it and have him say it’s not a career-threatening thing and it’s not even a season-ending thing for me,” Buchholz said. “That’s a sigh of relief knowing that it’s almost been two months but at least I know there’s something there and I’m not just a big wuss.”
What is ahead for Buchholz is a five-step program that figures to be as monotonous as it is necessary if he’s to have any hope of pitching again this season.
“I’ve just looked at it briefly with [trainer] Mike [Reinold],” Buchholz said. “It’s a core stabilization and back stabilization type of exercise that can be over in a month and a half or it could take a little bit longer. I think there’s going to be a whole re-evaluation after a month of that program with Mike and the other guys in there, and we’ll go from there.”
The red flag was the side session that the Red Sox carefully built Buchholz up to pitching on July 25, and things still didn’t feel all the way back.
“Pitching that day was tolerable, ” Buchholz said. ” It didn’t feel 100 percent, but it felt 75 or 80 percent. The last 10 pitches I threw, I threw them at a pretty good effort level. After that was over with, I was pretty excited about that, knowing I could pitch with that kind of pain. The next morning, I woke up and it was back to the way it was in Tampa. It got aggravated from that, and that’s why I realized that it was going to take even longer than what I expected it to take after all the other expectations.”
Could Buchholz make a grand re-entry in October?
“Yeah, if there was a timetable, the postseason would be where I’d want to come back. That makes the most sense to me as far as being able to help this club,” said Buchholz.
Buchholz is determined to pitch again before Spring Training.
“Knowing that I can come back and play this season and potentially help this club win and get to the World Series again, that’s what I’m striving for right now,” Buchholz said.