Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Buchholz in the Bullpen

Yes, I know I’m a bit late to the game here. But, I’ve been trying to wait and see just how this was all going to play out. I’m still not sure I know, but here it goes anyway.

As you’re all well aware, Clay Buchholz was demoted to the bullpen recently. It came as a bit of a surprise to me. Oh sure, he hasn’t exactly been pitching well. But, I didn’t think the Sox would put him in the pen.

For one thing, a good starter is more valuable to the team than a good reliever. The Red Sox management has often answered questions about struggling players by saying that the best thing for the team is to get that player performing well. Not replace him with an inferior player. I fully expected this to be the case with Clay. The Sox would realize that the best thing for the Red Sox is to get Clay back to pitching to his peak levels. Sending him to the bullpen doesn’t help achieve that. If anything it probably makes it more difficult.

That’s the confusing thing to me. What’s the plan now?

Could Clay become a good relief pitcher? Absolutely. Baseball history is littered with mediocre starters becoming elite relievers. Whether it’s the fact that you need fewer pitchers in the pen, or the fact that you only need to stay together mechanically for a shorter timeframe. It’s certainly plausible that Clay takes this new role and runs with it. He put in a good inning the first chance he got, after all. In addition, the fact that Clay volunteered to pitcher earlier than the coaching staff thought he would is a good sign of him accepting the role. (Although, it did smell a bit of the Red Sox going out of their way to make a guy that the media has been killing look good.)

But, that’s sort of another issue. Whether Clay can pitch from the pen isn’t as important as the question of whether he should.

Have they given up on Clay as a starter? Because the longer he pitches as a reliever, the longer it’s going to take him to work back into the rotation. Are they expecting him to prove himself in the pen and earn his spot back? How would that go, exactly? Much like when they claimed Panda could earn his spot back, hard to earn your spot when you’re not playing enough to perform well. If Clay pitches ten scoreless innings out of the pen, does that mean he earns his starting job back…or that he’s perfectly suited to be a reliever?

Did Clay have trade value? Because he doesn’t have any now. Anyone who was thinking the could fix him isn’t going to try anymore. Even if they knew his problem, stretching him back out into a starting role would take too long to make it worth their time. So, does this move mean the Sox tried to trade him somewhere, and struck out everywhere?

You’d think, then, that this is a season-long commitment from them. Unless more injuries strike, Clay is going to be in the pen. He’ll be the long guy/ mop up guy. I’d say it’s a waste of his talent, but he wasn’t getting the most out of it anyway.

As long as the pitchers currently in the rotation perform well, it doesn’t really matter where Clay is. If you have five pitchers doing well, he wasn’t going to help them anyway. And maybe that’s what the Red Sox assume is going to happen.

I was just surprised.

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