After frustrating Toronto hitters for years as a member of the Boston Red Sox, Clay Buchholz had a strong Blue Jays debut
It was a late free agent signing for the Blue Jays. First reported on Feb 28, 2019, it became official on March 5, 2019, well in to the Grapefruit League season. Toronto had come to terms with veteran free agent RHP Clay Buchholz on a one year, $3 million dollar contract. While it may have looked like the Jays already had enough starting pitching options between established veterans Stroman, Sanchez, Shoemaker, and Richard, second-year MLB pitcher Borucki, and talented rookies Reid-Foley, Pannone and Thornton, baseball people will tell you that a team can never have too much pitching.
Left-handed hurlers Ryan Borucki and Clayton Richard have yet to throw a pitch for the Jays in the regular season due to injuries. Rookie Sean Reid-Foley still needs to improve his pitch command to be successful in MLB. The fifth spot in the rotation is wide open.
The 34-year-old Buchholz, whose 2018 campaign ended early on September 15th due to injury, also started 2019 on the IL. After one less than stellar outing for the AAA Buffalo Bisons during which he surrendered 4 HRs in 5 innings, the 13-year veteran pronounced himself ready to join the big club. How would he do, facing the red hot, first place Tampa Bay Rays who currently sit fifth in the AL with 70 runs scored and crossing home plate 11 times just a day earlier? Not to mention his mound opponent was 2018 AL Cy Young award winner Blake Snell.
Buchholz did not disappoint. He pitched six innings, giving up one run (earned) on six hits, with no walks and two strikeouts. He threw 45 of his 69 total pitches for strikes. It’s unfortunate that he had to settle for a no-decision in an eventual 3-1 Jays win. Toronto’soffensee couldn’t get any runs against Snell who, perhaps surprisingly, was pulled after throwing 82 pitches in 6 innings. The Jays capitalized on the chance to face the Rays’ bullpen, making the most of 5 hits to squeeze out 3 runs for the victory.
Some people point to the fact that his pitches topped out in the high 80s as a concern. Now in his mid-30s, Buchholz is one of many pitchers who has had to reinvent himself in order to continue to be successful. He has a good mix of tools, with a fastball, cutter, curveball and changeup. He relies on command, changing speeds and mixing his pitches to get major league hitters out.
Buchholz has certainly seen ups and downs in his career. He pitched a no hitter in only his second MLB start back on September 1, 2007. He was an all star in 2010 and 2013, both with the Boston Red Sox who he was with from 2007-2016. He has also had injuries and the aforementioned drop in velocity.
It’s puzzling to think that the Blue Jays were the only MLB organization to offer the free agent pitcher a contract. Were organizations scared off by his age and declining velocity, or the injury that ended his 2018 campaign? This is the same pitcher who had a 7-2 record and a 2.01 era in 16 games with the Arizona Diamondback just last year, which was good for a 3.8 WAR per fangraphs. Already he has a 0.3 WAR from his single outing in 2019. His contract – a steal in MLB terms – is looking like a genius move by the front office.
*Featured Image Credit: DaveMe Images
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