FORT MYERS, Fla. – Initially, Clay Buchholz pitched too well.
Buchholz needed only five pitches — all strikes — to retire the Tampa Bay Rays’ Triple-A team in an inning Wednesday.
“Stay out there Buck,” yelled Red Sox pitching coach Bob McClure.
Minor league spring training games can be manipulated to a team’s wants, so Buchholz remained on the mound. He retired five of the six batters he faced in the first “inning,” needing only 13 pitches (11 strikes).
Buchholz was one of the six major league pitchers throwing on the minor league fields Wednesday as the major league team took the day off.
Buchholz’s outing was mixed after that. He pitched six innings (27 batters), allowing six hits, one walk, five runs (four earned), striking out four. He threw 89 pitches (57 strikes).
“Looked like everything was going according to plan but then a couple of long innings,” Buchholz said.
“My (plan) was to go out there and throw a lot of change-ups. If I missed one, I threw another. Unfortunately I did that a couple of times back to back, and threw two balls and got behind in the count.”
Buchholz finally got his change-up working and looked strong at the end of his outing.
“Last couple of innings, felt the ball come out of my hand real well,” said Buchholz, who believes he’s coming into form.
“Each one of my pitches has been good at least one or two (games) this spring. The pitches are there. It’s just repetition now.
“I’m getting to where I can throw the change-up in any count like I’ve done the last couple of seasons. Once I get there, everything else will fall into place.”
THE OTHER MAJOR league pitchers to throw Wednesday were closer Andrew Bailey, Aaron Cook, Vicente Padilla and two players coming off Tommy John surgery — Daisuke Matsuzaka and Rich Hill.
Matsuzaka, 31, underwent surgery June 10 and has come back quicker than expected. Once thought to be a possible late-season addition, the timetable for Matsuzaka’s return is now around June 1.
Hill, 32, a left-handed reliever, underwent surgery June 9 and may be on an even quicker path than Matsuzaka. He could start the season on a rehab assignment in the minors.
Matsuzaka and Hill both pitched in a controlled intra-squad scrimmage. Matsuzaka threw two innings, allowing one hit (22 pitches, 18 strikes).
“Looked healthy and used all his pitches,” said General Manager Ben Cherington.
Hill pitched one inning (one hit, one strikeout, one walk), throwing 18 pitches (11 strikes).
Bailey pitched in the Triple-A game and gave up two hits, one run and no walks in 12/3 innings, striking out two.
Cook started the Sea Dogs’ exhibition game, and allowed five hits, one run and no walks over five innings, striking out three. Cook, 33, has been brought along slowly after a history of injuries. He could join the major league club by May.
Padilla, 34, had always been a starter until he relieved nine games for the Dodgers last year. He looks to be a lock for the Red Sox bullpen. He relieved Cook, and allowed one hit and one hit batter over three innings.
CHRIS CARPENTER, the pitcher received from the Cubs as compensation for General Manager Theo Epstein going to Chicago, needs to undergo surgery to remove a bone spur from his right elbow. Carpenter, 26, announced the news via Twitter.
OSCAR TEJEDA, the Portland Sea Dogs’ second baseman last season, appears headed to a new position. Tejeda, 22, has been working out with the outfielders in minor league camp. Sea Dogs Manager Kevin Boles said there were no plans to have him working out in the infield.
Tejeda, who is on the 40-man roster, batted .249 for Portland last year. But he made 24 errors at second base.
TODAY’S GAMES might help clear up the Red Sox starting rotation. Starting candidates Alfredo Aceves and Felix Doubront are both scheduled to pitch, Aceves in the major league game and Doubront in the minors.
Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or at firstname.lastname@example.org