The Red Sox were gracious enough to issue me a press pass for the Pawtucket/Norfolk game at Fenway Park today. I barely made it into my seat for the first pitch thanks to some heavy traffic on the Pike. I saw Jake Arrieta, one of the Orioles' fabled pitching prospects, shut down a lethargic PawSox offense, 7-3.
After the game, I headed down to try to get some interviews, but only was able to grab manager Ron Johnson as everyone was skedaddling -- the players aren't allowed to use the clubhouses. Met David Laurila of Baseball Prospectus on the field and he brought up a great point: it is likely the Sox don't want the Triple-A players to use the clubhouse because of the stuff the major leaguers leave behind on the road trips. He did add that maybe the visiting clubhouse could be opened to the PawSox, which I would agree with.
I took the chance to ask Johnson a couple questions about Buchholz. As you probably already know, Buchholz has been rather dicey in his starts on the year. The main issue to me seems to be his lack of trust in himself and his fastball command.
"He'll be fine," Ron Johnson insisted. "He's a young pitcher learning how to pitch."
Johnson worked with Buchholz at visualizing his success in Triple-A and developed a close bond with the pitcher. It probably comes as no surprise, then, that he believes in the pitcher.
Johnson squinted at the scoreboard to double-check the score before adding, "2-0? In the seventh against the Yankees?" intimating that that was something to be impressed by. While Buchholz technically didn't pitch the seventh, his point was clear.
"He has a no-hitter and pitched great [at the Triple-A level]," Johnson said. "He'll be fine."
Watching Buchholz today, it was obvious he still wasn't commanding the fastball well, but I was impressed with his ability to wiggle out of jams and not wilt in that atmosphere. Perhaps there is hope after all.