Buchholz focuses on finishing kick

March, 28, 2010
FORT MYERS, Fla. – Right-hander Clay Buchholz, who hoped to come back strong from his previous outing in which he lasted just 1 2/3 innings and allowed five earned runs against the Minnesota Twins, looked like he was heading down a similar path today, once again facing the Twins.

Buchholz gave up four runs in the first two innings – two coming on Joe Mauer’s two-run homer in the first – before settling down.

Buccholz’s final line looked like this: 4 2/3 innings, five hits, four earned runs, no walks, seven strikeouts.

“The way it ended was what I was excited about. I think I only threw 35, 36 pitches in the last three innings that I was out there,” he said. “It was definitely a step in the right direction for the season and my confidence.”

Buchholz said the key turning point came in the third inning when he induced Mauer into a groundout to shortstop. He felt his fastball location was better in the final 2 2/3 innings, which helped him get ahead in the count. He also talked about “thinking negatively” early in his start, which was a result of him thinking about results before delivering to the plate.

Buchholz, whose ERA this spring is now 9.53, threw 87 pitches Sunday, 53 for strikes.

"I thought he did a great job of adjusting," manager Terry Francona said. "He started out and there was some pretty solid contact. The fastball was up a little bit. Then he made the adjustment and drove the fastball down, which sets up the rest of his pitches."

As for the mental aspect of Buchholz's turnaround, Francona said: "I think sometimes he tries to be too fine and then he gets himself down in the count, or he's thinking about other things. When he just attacks the strike zone down, things usually have a way of working out, without having to think about 50 different things. When he simplifies it, his stuff is so good."

QUICK HITS: The Red Sox cranked out 16 hits in their 11-5 victory over the Twins. David Ortiz and Tug Hulett blasted three-run homers. ... With the victory, the Red Sox capture their fourth straight Mayor's Cup over the Twins. ... Closer Jonathan Papelbon got the final out of the eighth before pitching the full ninth, with Francona saying he wanted Papelbon to experience that type of situation. Papelbon had an errant pickoff throw, but said he feels good about where he is at this point. "I'm able to throw all my pitches in all counts, and go after hitters," he said.

Mike Reiss

ESPN Staff Writer



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