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Buchholz now has a 1.03 ERA in six starts over 35 innings. He's allowed just 16 hits and four earned runs with 37 strikeouts and 10 walks. Batters are hitting .130 against him. Over his last 20 1/3 innings, Buchholz hasn't allowed a run, and has struck out 25 batters.
But there's also no spot for him in the rotation at the moment, despite the fact that the Sox starters are at the bottom of the American League in ERA.
"There's an aspect of this that he has no control over," Sox director of player development Mike Hazen said this afternoon. "He's upholding his end of the deal. He's putting the pressure on and forcing his way. It's a long baseball season. Something's going to happen. He's doing well."
"He's been at Triple A before. He's been sent down before. He's been up-and-down. The opportunity thing is not new. I think this can be probably a frustrating aspect of the game, when sort of the opportunity -- when you believe you're ready and when the opportunity matches up. Sometimes those can be a little frustrating. But he's done a great job. He has worked his butt off. It's good to see."
Apparently not, because that something has happened, precisely.
But Buchholz's problem isn't Brad Penny. His problem is Daisuke Matsuzaka, who apparently will be rejoining the rotation soon. His problem is also Justin Masterson, who's pitched well enough in five starts to deserve more of them. And perhaps his biggest problem is that the Red Sox quite obviously don't trust him. If they did, they wouldn't have picked up Penny and John Smoltz (another problem) last winter. They don't trust him because he went 2-9 with a 6.75 ERA last season in the majors (in the minors, he was his usual dominant self).
It's time to do something, though. Buchholz's value can only go down. If the Red Sox aren't going to trust him, they should trade him. If they are going to trust him, they should get him into the big club's rotation -- or for that matter the bullpen, except that's yet another problem because the bullpen has been lights-out this spring -- soon, before he starts to wonder what he's doing wrong.
It's one thing for the Red Sox to not trust Buchholz. It's another thing entirely if he stops trusting himself.