DUNEDIN, Fla. (AP) — Clay Buchholz had reason to wonder if his major league career was coming to an end. For a second straight offseason, he entered spring training without a job.
”It was almost like last year,” Buchholz said Wednesday. ”Where you didn’t know if that was it, and you weren’t going to play anymore, or what was going on.”
It turned out there was still some interest in Buchholz. The 34-year-old right-hander has pitched brilliantly at times in his career – but he has also dealt with injuries and even spent time in the minors last year. Now he’s with the Toronto Blue Jays on a one-year, $3 million contract that includes plenty of inning-related performance bonuses.
Buchholz pitched a decade with the Boston Red Sox, showing flashes of greatness but struggling with consistency. He threw a no-hitter in 2007 in his second major league start, then went 2-9 with a 6.75 ERA the following year. He was an All-Star in 2010 and 2013, and in the latter of those two seasons, he went 12-1 with a 1.74 ERA, eventually helping the Red Sox to a World Series title.
But even that 2013 season included injury problems, and only four times has Buchholz made more than 18 starts in a season. The Red Sox traded him to Philadelphia after an unimpressive 2016, and he made only two starts for the Phillies before an arm injury that required surgery.
”I had to swallow a lot of pride last year to do that,” Buchholz said. ”Sort of felt sorry for myself there for the beginning part of it, but got over that pretty quick, and I’m glad I did it. It helped me. I learned some things last year about myself that I didn’t really know, and became a little bit different pitcher.”
Buchholz made it back to the majors and pitched well for the Diamondbacks, going 7-2 with a 2.01 ERA in 16 starts. Then he went down in September with more arm trouble and faced another offseason of uncertainty.
His deal with the Blue Jays means a return to the AL East, where his former team is coming off another World Series title. The New York Yankees are also formidable. It’s a division Buchholz is familiar with – but now he’s at the other end of the spectrum, with a Toronto team that lost 89 games last year.
”You have to have a short memory in this division, with the good or the bad, because there’s always tomorrow, and each game that you play in division in the AL East, it’s a tough game,” he said. ”You have to know how to take the good with the bad, and go about your business the next day.”
Buchholz said he’s been throwing, and he’s hoping to get up to speed soon in his preseason preparation. The Blue Jays have Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez at the top of their rotation, but there’s a lot of uncertainty beyond those two.
”Obviously, if I would have had this opportunity a month ago, I would have been here a month ago, and I would have been ready,” Buchholz said. ”I told them I would keep throwing bullpens, and then once we progress to live BPs, then we’ll go from there, and I’ll keep an open mind with everything.”
NOTES: The Blue Jays announced Wednesday they have finalized a minor league contract with RHP Bud Norris, who will report to major league spring training. … Cavan Biggio, the son of Hall of Famer Craig Biggio, homered Wednesday for Toronto against the Philadelphia Phillies.
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