Tag: Clay Buchholz

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Red Sox name Clay Buchholz as Opening Day starter


According to Sean McAdam of CSN New England, the Red Sox have named right-hander Clay Buchholz as their Opening Day starter. Rick Porcello will follow him and then the rest is to be determined.

Buchholz has had a very up and down career, posting a 1.74 ERA across 16 starts in 2013 but then a 5.34 ERA across 28 starts in 2014. Boston needs him to pitch like an ace in 2015 because a rotation that goes Buchholz, Porcello and then probably Wade Miley, Justin Masterson, and Joe Kelly isn’t all that impressive.

Theo Epstein and Curt Schilling had a pretty interesting exchange about Kris Bryant

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Cubs president Theo Epstein was in the ESPN booth for a Cubs spring training game yesterday when Curt Schilling — back on broadcast duties this year, it’s good to note — challenged him regarding Kris Bryant’s presumably imminent demotion to the minor leagues.

You know and I know that, in all likelihood, this is a service time play. Curt Schilling knows it too. So when he asked his questions, he put himself in the role of a player who has seen this stuff before. Specifically, he asked Epstein if can honestly tell the players in the clubhouse that, without Bryant, the 25 best Chicago Cubs players are heading north with the team.

Epstein, however, had a pretty good baseball answer. At the very least one that, should Scott Boras or the union do what some have suggested they do and file a grievance over Bryant not breaking camp with the Cubs, will absolutely end their case before it begins. You don’t have to buy it, but you can bet all of your worldly possessions that an arbitrator would.

The answer: a long, long list of Red Sox players who, while clearly among the most 25-talented players in the organization at the time, did not begin the season with the Sox because Epstein likes to give such players extra seasoning in the minors and prefers to give promising young players their debut after the season has began.

Hanley Ramirez and Clay Buchholz, each of whom Epstein says tore it up during spring training, yet still went back down to Pawtucket. Dustin Pedroia. Jacoby Ellsbury were also name-checked. Epstein says that he can’t recall ever starting a rookie in the bigs on Opening Day. In a world where precedent is everything, that precedent would get the union laughed out of the room.

But, much to Curt Schilling’s credit, he didn’t just accept that answer. He poked straight to the heart of it with the equivalent of a “c’mon, the real explanation here is that it’s a business decision, right?” It was a followup Epstein dodged — not a bad dodge, but a dodge all the same — but one that I liked to see from Schilling and which you rarely, rarely see from broadcasters who have a guest in the booth with them. Especially a big time one like Theo Epstein. It’s normally softball city with no attempt to challenge anyone on their answers.

Watch the whole exchange:

To sum up: for all of the sturm und drang about Kris Bryant, there is literally no way whatsoever anyone gets any traction with a grievance here. Indeed, there’s no way anyone can make a case that this is even unusual. Espstein just nailed that to the wall.

Still, good to see Schilling with the “I-don’t-give-a-crap, be honest with me” follow up here. It makes pretty good use of his strengths — his former ballplayer status allowed him to ask this in a way most reporters can’t and his outspoken nature allowed him to cut to the chase — even if those strengths sometimes can be insufferable in other settings. And suggests that maybe — just maybe — ESPN broadcasts with him in the booth could have less fluff and a little bit more bite than they’ve had in the past.

2015 Preview: Boston Red Sox

Ortiz Ramirez Sandoval

Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2015 season. Next up: The Boston Red Sox

The Big Question: Can the Sox go from Worst to First once again?

The Giants win the World Series in even years. The Red Sox stink in even years. It’s quite a pattern.

The Red Sox aren’t counting on that being a pattern, however. They decided to help it along by improving an offense that was near the bottom of the American League in runs per game. The big additions: Pablo Sandoval at third base and Hanley Ramirez in left field. The Sandoval contract may look bad later, but it should certainly help the offense now. Ramirez, when he’s healthy, provides a nice bat, but he’s never played in left field and his presence there creates a roster crunch of outfielders with three guys — Mookie Betts, Rusney Castillo and Shane Victorino filling the other two positions. And don’t forget about Jackie Bradley Jr., who is still hanging around. At the moment both Castillo and Victorino have some health issues (Castillo is set to return this weekend) and of course, Ramirez is not exactly a portrait of durability, so that may clear itself up on its own.

The rotation has received a makeover as well, but it’s an open question as to whether it’s good enough to push the Sox back to the playoffs. Jon Lester was traded away and didn’t come back via free agency, so the Sox went with something of a volume approach with their starters. Rick Porcello is coming off a fine season for the Tigers, but it was his first year in the past five with an above average ERA+. Justin Masterson, before last year, looked to be a budding ace, but he struggled mightily in both Cleveland and St. Louis. Porcello seems like the better bet to approximate an ace — so many of his statistical issues of the past few years can be laid at the doorstep of the Tigers’ horrendous infield defense — but neither one is your prototypical stopper. The hope is that Clay Buchholz can return to ace form he showed before getting injured in 2013, but he has either been feast or famine since then. Mostly famine. In Wade Miley and Joe Kelly the Sox have guys whose ceilings seem to be in the back-of-the-rotation. Which is fine if that’s all they’re expected to do. If the three guys up top falter, however, it could be a less-than-fantastic staff.

The lineup will be better than it was in 2013. The rotation, well, it’s really hard to say. In both of the Sox’ recent last place finishes, they didn’t feel like a last place team heading into the season. Likewise, this year’s edition feels like it could be a really competitive club. But they will require a lot of things to break right, especially with the rotation, but also with the development of young position playing prospects like Betts, Castillo and Xander Bogaerts. That is not the stuff of a last place team, but it’s no guarantee whatsoever of a first place team, and they shouldn’t be the favorites to finish as one.

What else is going on?

  • Benches are often afterthoughts in the minds of fans, but the Sox’ bench will have some big names on it and will likely give John Farrell a lot of flexibility. Jackie Bradley Jr., Allen Craig, Daniel Nava, Brock Holt and whichever of the Betts-Castillo-Victorino crew isn’s starting is pretty cool.
  • Koji Uehara fell off big in the second half last year. Health? That’s what he and the Sox say. But he’s also gonna be 40 on Opening Day, so you have to wonder. Beyond him it’s a revamped bullpen with guys like Anthony Varvaro, Alexi Ogando and Robbie Ross added to the mix. Junichi Tazawa is still solid. Edward Mujica and Craig Breslow are still hanging around. Not the team’s strength, not it’s worst weakness. Most of it depends on Uehara keeping up his usual level of strong work.
  • I like catching combos like Christian Vazquez and Ryan Hanigan. Neither are offensive stars, but both rank extremely highly in pitch framing metrics. I can’t say I understand how those work, but if reality is even close to what the people talking about the numbers say it is, they’re going to steal a lot of strikes for that pitching staff. That will be especially helpful for sinkerballers like Procello and Masterson.
  • The Sox’ minor league system has gotten a nice boost lately and Blake Swihart and Yoan Moncada have gotten a ton of ink. That’s nice, but neither will be contributing to the 2015 Sox. Or, if they are, it means everything that was supposed to go right for the club has gone wrong.

Prediction: I don’t like all of the uncertainties with that rotation. I don’t know that Dustin Pedroia will return to form. I don’t know that Pablo Sandoval is good enough to truly elevate that offense (note: his fame is based way more on the playoffs than recent regular season dominance) and I don’t know if it’s fair to expect (a) Hanley Ramirez to be healthy all year; and (b) the youngsters to all take the big step forward they are capable of taking. John Farrell doesn’t need a Hail Mary completion for this club to contend, but he does need a lot of things to break in his favor. Because it’s baseball, not all of them will.

I think the Sox will be in the playoff hunt all year, but I don’t think they’re be a dominant team. Or as good a bet as the Orioles to win the division. Even a weak division. My guess: Second Place, American League East.

Derek Jeter explored buying the Buffalo Bills last year

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Derek Jeter is such a dedicated champion and winner that, last season, he attempted to work his greatness on not just one New York franchise, but two!

Two sources have informed me that Jeter, while playing his farewell season with the Yankees, explored purchasing the Bills when they were for sale last year.

Uncertain is whether Jeter wanted to lead a group or be a minority partner. But given the Bills eventual, record-breaking sale price of $1.4 billion, he likely would have needed to settle for shareholder status.

Meanwhile, A-Rod was seen with a real estate brochure in his bag, leading some within the Yankees organization to anonymously voice their displeasure at his lack of focus. Then Clay Buchholz was seen at a charity function. His remains have still not been found.

Great Moments in Jon Heyman’s Hall of Fame inconsistency

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Earlier today I poked fun at Jon Heyman’s Hall of Fame column which excluded people he thought cheated. Or, actually, since he wouldn’t say if he truly thought they cheated, excluded people over whom “the steroid specter” loomed. That left out Barry Bonds and that gang, of course. It also left out some people for whom there isn’t any credible public evidence of PED use.

Two of those people were Jeff Bagwell and Mike Piazza. Those guys never failed a test, be it during baseball’s testing-era or when baseball was first dipping its toe into the drug fighting water and did a survey testing program in 2003, for which there was to be and was not in fact any punishment. They were not named in the Mitchell Report, BALCO, Biogenesis or any other public investigation. The entire case against Bagwell and Piazza is based on reporters sharing stories with one another that they either cannot or will not print.

Another one he left off, however, was Sammy Sosa. Unlike Bagwell and Piazza, Sosa has one public black mark on him: his name was leaked as allegedly one of the 104 players (give or take) who tested positive during the 2003 survey testing. His presence on that list was never confirmed by Major League Baseball or the MLBPA, as each party has sworn itself to secrecy regarding the 2003 survey tests and, in fact, may no longer even possess those lists, making confirmation impossible. The only place it was reported that Sosa failed the survey test was in the New York Times who, if one were to make a reasonably educated guess based on what was being reported and by whom at the time, got its information from a crusading IRS/FDA agent who had his own set of issues.

So, based on this — and ignoring for a moment that a mere three years ago Heyman had no problem voting for Barry Bonds of all people, and made a full-throated endorsement of Bonds’ Hall of Fame candidacy — it is clear that Heyman has become a steroid stickler. Not only are you off his ballot if you tested positive, even in a non-binding survey test, you’re off if Heyman even suspects you used based on hearsay.

All of which makes one wonder when Heyman will repudiate what he wrote about David Ortiz just over a year ago. After noting Ortiz’s failure of the survey test — an offense just like Sammy Sosa’s and less than that of Bagwell and Piazza — Heyman says this:

The case against Ortiz otherwise remains thinner than Clay Buchholz, especially compared to some other big stars . . . Some Hall of Fame voters will exclude players with any link to steroids, no matter how strong that link is, but in this case it fairly boils down to one un-sourced report involving a test for survey purposes.

Is that enough to exclude? Not here it isn’t.

Cooperstown it is.

What a difference a year makes. Care to comment, Jon?