I’m generally critical of Boston sports’ writers who ‘go after’ Sox players, but I’ve been wondering about something for several weeks now.
Let me start with the admission that I do not know the details of the issue I’m about to discuss. Other than what I read in the media, which includes various blogs and social media outlets, I have no inside knowledge.
Nevertheless, to me, something seems wrong with the Clay Buchholz, “I won’t pitch until I’m 100%.”
For those of you who may not be as obsessed as I about the Red Sox, a quick update. Buchholz started the season going 9-0 with an ERA of 1.71. He was as good as any pitcher in the Majors, probably the best.
Then around June 8, Buchholz apparently felt stiffness in his neck area and shut himself down, saying he didn’t want to risk more serious damage. That seemed to make sense.
What followed were lots of tests, X-rays, scans, MRIs, etc. and discussions with trainers, a visit to a specialist, with the diagnosis that he had inflammation but no other serious damage. After some rest, he began to throw again, but repeatedly, usually when he threw off a pitching mound, he felt the soreness and stopped throwing.
Sox manager, and a former pitching coach, John Farrell, who never criticizes his players in the press, generally what Buchholz was telling him and seemed to agree that it made sense to go slowly with his ace pitcher.
Perhaps it’s reading ‘between the lines,’ but over the last few weeks I thought I’ve detected some frustration on Farrell’s part, not just about the loss of Buchholz but also with Buchholz’s reluctance to accept what he had been told by the specialist – no serious, long term damage, just inflammation, soreness, and stiffness.
But each time Buchholz got to the mound in his rehab, he quickly shut himself down when he felt something was not right with his neck.
No one voiced any criticism of Buchholz nor of what he was saying, at least not publicly. Everyone seemed to be giving him the benefit of any doubt, and you could see Buchholz in the dugout during games, cheering and supporting his team.
While I wouldn’t want a player to put his career at risk and while I don’t know all of the details of the injury (‘injury’?), I’ve been wondering if Buchholz was being overly careful, was perhaps unwilling to follow the advice he was being given and work through the soreness as he rebuilt his pitching strength.
Now, after a visit to James Andrews, the guru of all sports doctors, at least the go-to expert most pitchers rely on when they are injured, Buchholz has been told, for a second time, that what he is now experiencing is “inflammation in the bursa sac” and he is not risking injury when he throws. He simply needs to rebuild his strength and pitch through the soreness and stiffness.
If Buchholz does not follow this advice, it seems to me Farrell needs to tell him to do so.
Some media and fans love players who “tough it out” and “play through an injury.” But usually that player ends up hurting the team. If Buchholz toughed it out and over his past 8 starts had an ERA of over 6 (because he’s not 100%), would that be helping the team? I’d rather have the guy get healthy and be effective when he returns.
Also, don’t forget that in 2011, the Sox doctors told Buchholz that his back injury was nothing serious (a “strained muscle”), he could play through it, and it was just a matter of pain tolerance. It turned out that they were wrong and he had a stress fracture in his back. He made two more starts before they diagnosed it correctly, and he then missed the entire rest of the season. So that may explain his skepticism of the advice he is receiving from the Sox docs.
I think that we can agree that we both hope he’s healthy and pitching in September and deep into October.