Clay Buchholz is healthy, aiming for 200-inning season

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Some good news for Red Sox fans: Clay Buchholz is healthy, and he’s feeling so good that he’s hoping to top 200 innings for the first time in his career.

The right-hander, an All-Star in 2010, pitched only 82 2/3 innings in 2011 and missed more than half the season with a back injury. Boston fans have to wonder if the Red Sox could have avoided their stunning late-season collapse if Buchholz had been healthy, as he was quite effective when he pitched.

Now he’s hoping to rebound and surpass his career-high of 173 2/3 innings, as reported by Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe:

“I think it’s big. It’s what I want to do every time I come to spring training. It’s what I prepare myself to do,” Buchholz said. “The last two seasons came with injuries that I didn’t have any control over. It was frustrating in that aspect. But you can learn from everything. That’s what I’m coming into spring training with. Things happen and you have to take what you’re given sometimes.”

Among the other topics Buchholz discussed:

  • He, along with Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury and Darnell McDonald, had dinner with manager Bobby Valentine in January. Buchholz described Valentine as “a good dude” who is relaxed yet wants to have control over everyone. He meant that in a good way.
  • He also said the infamous clubhouse beer drinking had been going on for a while, and only became a big deal when the team fell apart. Buchholz did admit, however, that it was a mistake, and that Valentine will set a new tone.

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MLBPA thinks all 30 teams will take a “file-and-trial” approach to arbitration

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There’s something interesting deep in Ken Rosenthal’s latest notes column. It’s about arbitration, with Rosenthal reporting that the players union believes that all 30 teams will take a “file-and-trial” approach to arbitration this winter.

If you’re unfamiliar with this, it breaks down thusly:

  • In mid-January, teams and players who are eligible for arbitration will exchange proposed salary figures. The player says what he thinks he’s worth based on comparable players of his quality and service time and the team will propose a lower counter-figure;
  • Generally, the parties then use these proposals as negotiable figures and eventually reach a compromise deal, usually near the midpoint between the two figures, avoiding arbitration;
  • If a deal cannot be reached, they go to an arbitration hearing and arbitrators pick one of the numbers. They CANNOT give a compromise award. It’s either the higher player’s number or the lower team number.

In the past, a handful of teams — most typically the Blue Jays, Braves, Marlins, Rays, and White Sox — employed a “file- and-trial” approach, meaning that they treated the figure exchange date as a hard deadline after which they refused to negotiate and stood content to go to a hearing. As more teams have adopted this approach, there have been more arbitration hearings. As Rosenthal notes, last year there were more hearings than in any offseason for the past 25 years. Now, the union thinks, every team will do this. If they do, obviously, there will be even more hearings.

There is certainly an advantage to file-and-trial for a team. It makes the player and the agent work harder and earlier in order to be prepared to negotiate with the club before the file deadline. It also makes them work a lot harder to come up with a defensible filing number given that, rather than merely being an opening salvo in an extended negotiation, it’s something that they will certainly have to defend in open court. It’s also simple hardball. Teams have greater resources than the players and the agents and it’s less painful for them to pay for lawyers and hearing prep and to conduct the actual hearing. There’s risk to the team, of course — they might lose and pay more than a settlement would’ve cost — but teams are obviously concluding that the risk is worth it.

The only question I have is, if the union is right and all 30 teams will now proceed this way, how was that decided? Everyone suddenly, after several decades of arbitration, simply decided to take the same approach? Or was there, I dunno, a meeting in which the strategy was coordinated? Inquiring minds want to know!