Red Sox notebook: Unsure of Clay Buchholz’ role

July 22, 2016

At first, John Farrell might have been afraid to speak the truth about how far Clay Buchholz has fallen on the Red Sox’ depth chart.

But after Buchholz was one of two relievers left unused next to Noe Ramirez, a minor league call-up, during the Sox’ 11-7 win over the Giants on Wednesday, a game that required six innings out of the bullpen, Farrell couldn’t hide his feelings about Buchholz’ standing with the team.

Asked yesterday afternoon why he didn’t use the 31-year-old right-hander as a long man when Drew Pomeranz was pulled with nobody out and the Red Sox leading 8-5 in the fourth inning, Farrell gasped, “If we’re down 8-3, he’s probably the guy. But when you’re up 8-5, and with the number of guys that were available last night …”

Buchholz isn’t the long man. He’s the mop-up man. And until last night, he hadn’t pitched since making a start on July 2.

“You know, I’ll be honest with you, if we’re sitting in this situation today (and Buchholz pitched on Wednesday), you possibly are asking, ‘Why did you use Clay if the game turned the other way and not use your other guys?’?” Farrell said.

“He’s in a tough spot. I’ll be candid: I don’t want to say it’s purgatory, but as far as baseball goes he’s in a difficult spot because of a four-day layoff over the break. We’ve played very good winning baseball. We’ve gotten starts deeper into ballgames where the bullpen has been rested and that’s where the decisions have been made.”

With the game comfortably in hand, Buchholz finally took the mound in the ninth inning of the Sox’ 13-2 win over the Twins last night and threw a scoreless inning while allowing a ground-rule double.

“Being new to the whole bullpen deal, I don’t really have a role down there,” Buchholz said. “It’s not like I’m a seventh-, eighth-, or ninth-inning guy. I haven’t gotten up to pitch for a while. Just tried to throw bullpens during the game.

“That’s what I’ve been doing whenever anyone has been seeing me up there. I just get up there, try to throw some pitches to stay as sharp as I can. It was good to get back out there. Hopefully I can move forward a little bit now.”

Buchholz threw 17 pitches, 13 for strikes, while his fastball touched 95.5 mph. It was the hardest pitch he’s thrown all season, according to Brooks Baseball.

“I’ve been throwing, I just hadn’t been pitching,” he said. “Obviously, throwing bullpens is not max velocity or max effort. My situation, hadn’t thrown to a hitter in a pretty good while. That’s why I might have been a little more amped up out there.”

With 10 days until the trade deadline, the Red Sox could look to move Buchholz to a team willing to give him a chance in their starting rotation. He’s making $13 million this year with a $13.5 million option for next season. The money might seem steep for a player with a 5.91 ERA, but in a trade market that appears to have a bigger demand than supply for starting pitching, Buchholz could be desirable to a desperate club.

Farrell was impressed with Buchholz’ latest outing.

“Got to give Clay a lot of credit for staying as sharp as possible given the situation,” Farrell said. “I thought he was crisp and a lot of strikes with multiple pitches, so credit him.”

Powerful Papi

Fenway Park just doesn’t want to let go of David Ortiz.

A Big Papi batting practice home run on Thursday afternoon was hit so hard and so perfectly placed that it actually became lodged in the screen of Pesky’s Pole, down the right field line at Fenway.

“That was powerful right there,” Ortiz said. “I have seen so many balls hit that but none of them ever stuck in there. The ball that I hit was kind of hooking but it was a line drive and it got stuck. I was impressed.”

A stadium worker dislodged the ball with the help of a ladder.

“A lot of fans wanted the ball to stay there,” Ortiz said. “I don’t know if the umpire was going to like that.”

Ortiz then went 3-for-5 with a towering home run to right field and four RBI in the win over the Twins. He was going to exit the game after his at-bat in the seventh inning, when the Sox had a 9-2 lead, but Ortiz told Farrell he wanted one more at-bat. He homered in the eighth.

“Things are going well right now and I’m feeling good at the plate and want to take advantage of it,” he said.

Still hurting

Blake Swihart will not be back with the Red Sox anytime soon.

More than six weeks since he suffered a severe sprain to his left ankle, Swihart is still feeling pain. He tried pushing it during running drills this week but, “his ankle is talking back to him,” Farrell said.

“Much like it was when he first started to initiate some movement, he got into a pretty good stretch where he was making good gains on it,” Farrell said. “But as that intensity has picked up, he’s going through a phase now where he’s got to quiet some things down.” .?.?.

Koji Uehara went through a full MRI on Wednesday night that confirmed a strain to his pectoral muscle, but Farrell said yesterday he still did not “have an idea of when or how long this injury will keep him out.” .?.?.

Junichi Tazawa will be activated off the 15-day disabled list before tonight’s game with the Twins, a source told the Herald. Tazawa was expected to be activated today after missing two weeks with a shoulder impingement. Ramirez will be optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket.

Evan Drellich contribued to this report.