After decade in Boston, Clay Buchholz is energized for new chapter with Phillies

After decade in Boston, Clay Buchholz is energized for new chapter with Phillies

CLEARWATER, Fla. – It’s not easy leaving a team that is loaded for World Series bear for a rebuilding club that would consider a .500 season to be a fist-pumping success.

That’s what has happened to Clay Buchholz.

One day this winter he was part of a Boston Red Sox club that probably became the team to beat in the American League when it acquired stud lefty Chris Sale from the Chicago White Sox in a December trade. Two weeks later, Buchholz was traded to the Phillies.

Truth be told, the righty didn’t expect to be part of the Red Sox’s World Series push in 2017.

He had a feeling he’d be traded this winter.

“I thought the [Sale deal] would have been the trade I would be a part of,” he said before his first workout with the Phillies on Tuesday.

Buchholz, 32, spent 10 seasons in Boston. He threw a no-hitter in his second big-league start, made two All-Star teams and won a World Series ring in 2013. He battled inconsistency in recent seasons and teetered in and out of Boston’s rotation in 2016. The Sox picked up the $13.5 million option on his contract after last season with the idea that some team might roll the dice that he would be a good bounce-back candidate in his free-agent walk year. The Phillies under general manager Matt Klentak have been willing to gamble on these types of players. The Phils sent minor-league second baseman Josh Tobias, a second-tier prospect, to Boston, assumed all of Buchholz’s salary and the deal was struck.

As much as the Phillies would like to shock the world and become a contender in 2017, they remain a rebuilding team on the prowl for young talent. Deep down inside, Phillies officials are probably hoping that Buchholz will give them four strong months, allowing for a little extra seasoning of their top starting pitching prospects, then bring some young talent in a trade.

Buchholz shrugged when asked about that possibility.

“I've been in trade rumors since 2005 when I got drafted,” he said. “I can't do anything with them regardless if I think about them or don't think about them. All I can do is go out and pitch and prepare and try to stay healthy throughout the season.”

In Philadelphia, Buchholz will work under pitching coach Bob McClure. The two have a familiarity dating to McClure’s time with Boston.

Last season, McClure helped Jake Thompson rebound from a rocky debut and have success by shortening and simplifying his delivery to the point where it was almost a modified stretch. Thompson is going to continue to use it this season.

Buchholz made a similar adjustment with Boston last season and it helped him get back in the rotation in September. He made five starts in the month and went at least six innings without giving up more than two runs in four of them.

“I eliminated a lot of movement I felt I didn't need and I could concentrate on throwing the pitch and throwing it well rather than [thinking about] mechanical flaws or trying to do something a little bit different within the windup,” Buchholz said of the adjustment to his delivery. “I'm coming into camp right now thinking I'm going to stay in the stretch. It worked out good for me.”

Wearing Phillies red before Tuesday morning’s workout, Buchholz said he was ready for a new chapter in his baseball life.

“I think everybody nowadays knows that one player doesn’t stay with one team his whole career,” he said. “There are a select few guys that have done that over their career — I was playing on the same team with one of them, Dustin Pedroia. He’s been a staple there forever.

“But I think a change of scenery for me, just to get somewhere else and meet some new guys and play for a different uniform, a different organization … The Red Sox, they gave me a lot, gave me the opportunity. But this is a new chapter, and I look forward to going on the field with these guys here.

“I think it energizes anybody. There are expectations that are brought back to you. That sense of complacency, being in one spot for an extended period of time, that’s gone. And, yeah, you want to perform for the new faces and show that you’re still good at your craft and good at what you do. I’m coming in here and hoping to definitely impress and help this team win some baseball games."

But there probably won’t be a trip to the postseason in 2017, not with the rebuilding Phillies at least.

“I look at it as an opportunity to prove people wrong,” Buchholz said.

Phillies 7, Blue Jays 1: Velasquez and Joseph show off their power

Phillies 7, Blue Jays 1: Velasquez and Joseph show off their power

BOX SCORE

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The Phillies showed a little power in their 7-1 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on Monday night.

Tommy Joseph provided some of it.

Vince Velasquez provided a lot of it.

Joseph crushed a two-run home run to left field and also lined a double off the center-field wall on his way to a four-hit game. The double came off his bat at 109 miles per hour. The homer was his third of the spring.

Meanwhile, Velasquez showed off his big fastball in striking out seven Blue Jays over five innings of work. Vinny Velo's final pitch of the night was a 97-mph dart past a swinging Jose Bautista.

"That pitch felt really good coming out of my hand," Velasquez said. "Sometimes my fastball slips a little bit and I yank it, but this one I got right behind and threw it right through the catcher."

Velasquez actually struck out the side in that fifth inning against three pretty good hitters in Russell Martin, Josh Donaldson and Bautista.

"That last inning, he really let it go," manager Pete Mackanin said.

Pitch economy remains an area that Velasquez needs to improve on. He threw 87 pitches. But he was pleased with the way he attacked hitters in that final inning of work.

"I didn't attack in one inning," he said. "But in that last inning, I stopped fiddling around and trusted my stuff. I need to do that the whole time."

Velasquez gave up just one run, a homer to Martin. He allowed five hits and walked two.

Velasquez had a busy night. He drove home a run with a ground out against Aaron Sanchez. He also walked against Sanchez and scored a run on a dash home from third base after Freddy Galvis got hung up between first and second. Galvis waved Velasquez home. After crossing home plate, Velasquez, rather humorously, almost ran into the netted backstop.

"I just had momentum. I got excited," he said. "As soon as I saw Tulo (shortstop Troy Tulowitzki) make eye contact with Freddy, I booked it. He's going to think, 'Pitchers can't run,' so I showed off my athleticism."

After the outing, Velasquez pronounced himself ready for the regular season.

"I'm good to go," he said.

He made five Grapefruit League starts and gave up eight runs in 19 2/3 innings. He walked nine and struck out 25.

"It's been a strong, healthy, successful spring training," he said.

Velasquez will likely start the home opener on April 7. He will need to get some work in this weekend. The Phillies leave Florida on Friday. He could stay behind for a day and pitch at the minor-league complex if needed.

Offense clicks
The Phillies had 12 hits. They had 15 in Sunday's 6-3 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Up next
The Phillies play the Blue Jays again on Tuesday night. That game will be in Clearwater. Aaron Nola will start against Marco Estrada.

Andrew Knapp to make Phillies' roster -- remaining roster decisions are close

Andrew Knapp to make Phillies' roster -- remaining roster decisions are close

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The pathway for Andrew Knapp to make the Phillies' opening day roster as the backup catcher was cleared way back in November when he was added to the 40-man roster.

The job all but became Knapp's on Monday when the team released two veteran catchers who were not on the 40-man roster. When Ryan Hanigan and Bryan Holaday were let go, Knapp became one of just two catchers in camp, the other being starter Cameron Rupp (see story).

So it's pretty obvious that the 25-year-old Knapp will open the season with the big club -- even though nothing will become official until rosters are filed with the commissioner's office this weekend.

"Obviously there are four or five days left," Knapp said. "I'm just going to keep trying to make good impressions and try to win a job. I'm keeping my head down, trying not to think about it too much."

Knapp was the Phillies' second-round draft pick of Cal-Berkeley in 2013. He has never played in the majors.

"It would be a dream come true," he said. "Everyone hopes to get called up at some point but to make a team on opening day would be pretty special and it would be the best moment in my career so far."

Phillies manager Pete Mackanin acknowledged that Knapp would probably make the club.

Mackanin would like to have the rest of his roster in order over the next day or two.

"As soon as possible," he said. "Because the last four or five games I'd like to play almost as if it were a season -- using the bullpen that way, using the bench in a certain way, seeing what it looks like, our bench guys, all our hitters. We just don't want to make a bad decision so we're just going to string it out as long as we can."

Roster questions must still be answered on the bench and in the bullpen.

How does the bench shape up? Andres Blanco, Aaron Altherr and Knapp are set. The Phils are expected to go with a five-man bench so that leaves two openings. There are four players vying for those spots: Chris Coghlan, Daniel Nava, Brock Stassi and Jesmuel Valentin. Valentin has impressed, but at 22 years old, he would benefit from playing every day at Triple A.

Mackanin praised Stassi's work on Monday. If Stassi makes the club, the final spot would come down to Coghlan and Nava.

"Stassi has obviously made a great impression, mainly because, not necessarily because of his results, but the fact that he had a lot of quality at-bats," Mackanin said. "It looks like he can handle making adjustments to the different pitchers and different situations. He seemed to handle left-handers well. He made a good impression, as has Coughlan. Nava has also been consistent throughout the spring."

Stassi, Coghlan and Nava are all non-roster players so the Phils would have to clear 40-man roster space to add any of them.

Two spots remain open in the bullpen. Adam Morgan, Joely Rodriguez, Luis Garcia, Alec Asher and Cesar Ramos are the candidates. All but Ramos is on the 40-man roster.

How will this all shake out?

More answers are probably coming Tuesday.