Clay Buchholz and the Red Sox insist he’s healthy despite ERA rising from 1.74 to 6.20

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Clay Buchholz has been so bad this season, going 5-7 with a 6.20 ERA after going 12-1 with a 1.74 ERA last year, that the 29-year-old right-hander and Red Sox manager John Farrell are both being asked if he’s healthy or pitching through an injury.

Buchholz previously insisted that he’s healthy and here’s what Farrell told Ian Browne of MLB.com yesterday:

There’s nothing physical here. And by his own admission and [his] answers to that question repetitively, and every test that we do following a start, leading into a start, all those objective measures are fine.

If he’s not hurt, then what explains Buchholz’s terrible performance, especially on the heels on last season’s excellence?

Last season Buchholz allowed 75 hits and 23 runs in 108 innings.

This season Buchholz has allowed 126 hits and 75 runs in 102 innings.

Well, first of all last season’s dominance was a fluke, if only in that most pitchers posting a 1.74 ERA is at least somewhat a fluke and his secondary numbers were nowhere near that strong. And based on those same secondary numbers–strikeouts, walks, ground-ball rate–Buchholz has pitched more like a 4.50 ERA guy than a 6.20 ERA guy this year.

His career Expected Fielding Independent Pitching (xFIP) is 4.13 and his xFIP this year is 4.43. If you trust those numbers then last season was a massive fluke and this season is merely a mediocre, 4.50 ERA-caliber pitcher who’s also been terribly unlucky on balls in play.

Twins’ top prospect Nick Burdi will undergo Tommy John surgery

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Twins’ right-hander Nick Burdi is set to undergo Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, the team announced on Friday. Burdi made 14 appearances for Double-A Chattanooga before succumbing to a torn ulnar collateral ligament and is not expected to make his major league debut until mid-2018 at the earliest. A UCL tear doesn’t always require Tommy John surgery — less severe cases can be treated with platelet-rich plasma injections, for example — but Twins’ chief baseball officer Derek Falvey told the press that surgery was unavoidable as Burdi had sustained a “full thickness tear” in his elbow.

Entering the 2016 season, Burdi was widely considered a top ten prospect in the Twins’ system. His exceptional velocity and potent fastball-slider combo made him a fearsome relief option as he came off of his first season in Double-A Chattanooga in 2015. During the 2016 season, however, the 24-year-old experienced a significant setback after a bone bruise cut his season short in late July. Prior to Friday’s diagnosis, he appeared to be staging an impressive comeback with the Chattanooga Lookouts this spring, decorating his efforts with a sparkling 0.53 ERA, 2.1 BB/9 and 10.6 SO/9 over 17 innings.

It’s a tough break for the Twins, whose farm system was ranked 21st in the league by Baseball America. “Obviously he’s proven when he’s healthy he’s an absolute premium prospect, and the Twins are treating him that way,” Burdi’s agent, Matt Sosnick, told Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press. “We just want to make sure everything we do ultimately leads to the goal of getting him back on the field as quickly as he can.”

Brock Holt has been shut down from game activity

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Things have gone from bad to worse for Red Sox’ outfielder Brock Holt, who was shut down “for the foreseeable future” on Friday after meeting with head trauma specialist Michael Collins. The Red Sox placed Holt on the 10-day disabled list in April after he began experiencing vertigo, the latest in a series of head injuries he’s sustained since last spring.

According to the Boston Herald’s Jason Mastrodonato, the outfielder was initially advised to attempt playing through his symptoms, but it quickly became apparent that the strategy wasn’t going to work. Now, the plan is to shut him down from any game activity in the hopes that he’ll be able to recover from all lingering symptoms before returning to the roster. Club manager John Farrell told reporters that the 28-year-old is still cleared to take batting practice and work on his defense, but won’t continue his rehab starts in Triple-A Pawtucket for the time being.

Holt had been making regular appearances for the Pawtucket Red Sox and was batting .209/.292/.372 with two home runs through 14 games this spring. This season marks his fifth run within the Red Sox’ organization. He experienced a bit of a slump at the plate in 2016 and slashed .255/.322/.383 after breaking out during his first All-Star year in 2015.

Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe suggests that the team’s concern for Holt extends past his setbacks at the plate. It’s still a long road to a full recovery, and while Farrell told reporters he believes the outfielder is on track to make a return sometime in 2017, he’ll need to make sure that Holt is both physically and mentally prepared to do so.