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.

Instant Replay: Phillies 4, Reds 3

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USA Today Images

Instant Replay: Phillies 4, Reds 3

BOX SCORE

The Phillies rallied for a 4-3 walk-off win over the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday.

Tommy Joseph won it with a single up the middle with no outs in the bottom of the ninth. The hit scored Aaron Altherr, who had singled and moved to second on a wild pitch.

The Phils have won just six of their last 27 games. Joseph has had a walk-off, game-winning hit in the last two wins.

In addition to Joseph, who also homered, the star of the game was the Phillies' bullpen. Four Phils' relievers combined on 3 2/3 scoreless innings after starter Jerad Eickhoff exited. The Phillies' bullpen is riding a 19 2/3-innings scoreless streak.

Starting pitching report
Eickhoff allowed eight hits and three runs over 5 1/3 innings. He gave up a bunt hit and a two-run homer to the first two batters of the game but took a 3-2 lead into the sixth inning. He allowed a leadoff single and a one-out RBI double in that inning as the Reds tied the game at 3-3.

Veteran Bronson Arroyo, back in action at age 40 after recovering from surgery the last two seasons, gave up three runs — all on solo homers — over five innings.

Bullpen report
Good work by Edubray Ramos to get two outs in the sixth to strand a runner in scoring position and preserve a 3-3 tie. Pat Neshek, Joaquin Benoit and Hector Neris each followed with a scoreless inning. Neris struck out dangerous Joey Votto on a splitter with a man on base to end the top of the ninth. He got the win.

Austin Brice pitched two scoreless innings for the Reds. Michael Lorenzen took the loss. He gave up two hits in the ninth. Joseph's game-winning hit came on a 97 mph heater.

At the plate
Cesar Hernandez, Michael Saunders and Joseph all clouted solo homers for the Phillies. Joseph has six homers in his last 21 games.

Zack Cozart smacked a two-run homer against Eickhoff in the first inning. The Reds tied the game on a one-out double by Scooter Gennett in the sixth.

Remembering Bunning
Jim Bunning died Friday night. Larry Bowa recalled the impact that the Hall of Famer had on his career (see story).

Up next
The series concludes Sunday afternoon. Zach Eflin (0-2, 5.36) and Scott Feldman (3-4, 3.99) are the pitchers.

Larry Bowa on Jim Bunning: His words 'resonated throughout my career'

Larry Bowa on Jim Bunning: His words 'resonated throughout my career'

Beyond the center field wall at Citizens Bank Park, retired Phillies uniform No. 14 was draped in black cloth on Saturday afternoon.
 
Jim Bunning, who wore that number during six seasons with the club, died late Friday night at his home in Kentucky. The Hall of Fame pitcher, who went on to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate, was 85.
 
Bunning was a workhorse right-hander who pitched with smarts and competitiveness during his 17 seasons in the majors. He also pitched with the Detroit Tigers, Pittsburgh Pirates and Los Angeles Dodgers. He averaged 35 starts and won 89 games during his six seasons with the Phillies. He also authored one of the most iconic moments in club history when he pitched the franchise's first perfect game on a searing hot Father's Day in 1964 against the New York Mets at Shea Stadium.
 
Talking about a perfect game as it is unfolding is considered baseball taboo. To mention it is to risk jinxing it. But Bunning broke tradition and in the late innings of that game talked openly with teammates in the dugout about the possibility of finishing off the feat.
 
"Jim Bunning was way too practical of a man to worry about a jinx," former teammate Rick Wise once said. Wise pitched the second game of that Father's Day doubleheader. It started 20 minutes after Bunning completed his perfecto and Wise had trouble finding a ball and a catcher to warm him up because everyone was busy celebrating the perfect game.
 
Bunning went 224-184 with a 3.27 ERA in 591 career games. He led the American League with 20 wins in 1957. He led the league in innings twice and strikeouts three times. He was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 1996 and went into Cooperstown as a Phillie.
 
Bunning had two tours with the Phillies, 1964-67 and 1970-71, and was a straight-laced competitor who expected effort and excellence from his teammates. During his second time through Philadelphia, as he was nearing the end of his career, he was a teammate of a young shortstop named Larry Bowa.
 
"I remember him coming up to me and saying, ‘Don’t ever, ever lose your energy. I don’t want to turn around and see your head dropping because you’re 0 for 3,’" Bowa recalled Saturday. "He said, ‘I don’t ever want to see that.’ He said, ‘You’ve got to be accountable. You’ve got to play with energy. You’ve got to play every inning of every game.
 
"I made an error one day and he turned around — I didn’t even want to make eye contact with him — he turned around and he was rubbing the ball and looked at me and I went, 'Yeah, I know I should have caught it.' He was just that intense."
 
Bunning had a mean streak on the mound. He led the league in hit batsman four times.
 
Bowa recalled the time Ron Hunt — a notorious plunkee — did not get out of the way of a Bunning breaking ball. As Hunt ran to first base, Bunning admonished him.
 
"He went over and said, 'Ron, if you want to get hit, I’ll hit you next time and it won’t be a breaking ball.' That’s what kind of competitor he was."
 
Bunning suffered a stroke last year.
 
"I knew he had been sick," Bowa said. "Tremendous, tremendous person who taught me a lot about the game in a short time.
 
"He always gave me good advice. He talked about self-evaluation with me all the time. He said you’ve got to be accountable in this game, no one gives you anything in this game. I never had a pitcher mentor me like he did. In spring training, he told me, ‘Keep your mouth shut and your eyes and ears open.’ It was that simple. I said, ‘Yes, sir.’
 
"When a guy like that takes the time with someone who is just starting, it’s, I mean, it resonated throughout my career."