Clay Buchholz still struggling

5/26/2014 - MLB Clay Buchholz Boston Red Sox + more

ATLANTA -- Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell wouldn't jettison Clay Buchholz from the team's starting rotation right after a game, especially a victory that ended a 10-game losing streak, Boston's longest in 20 years.

But Farrell hinted that's exactly what the club is considering after a fourth straight unsightly start by the Red Sox right-hander, who failed to record an out in the fourth inning and walked a career-high eight batters against the Atlanta Braves on Monday afternoon. Of the 21 batters Buchholz faced, a dozen reached, and six of them eventually scored.

The mechanical adjustments that Farrell said Buchholz had worked on between starts failed to materialize, and with the pitcher's earned run average a confidence-shattering 7.02, Farrell said he could not say with certainty that Buchholz will make his next scheduled start Saturday against the Tampa Bay Rays.

"We've got to look at this a little bit closer," Farrell said. "There's no determination on five days from now. We've got to continue to talk about what he's currently going through and what's best for him, and certainly what's best for us."

In his 10 starts this season, Buchholz has been charged with six earned runs in four of them; he also has failed to complete five innings in five starts. The downward spiral has been especially pronounced in his last four starts, in which he has a 9.50 ERA (19 ER in 18 IP) while allowing 33 hits and 15 walks.

While Buchholz has insisted that he is sound physically, the Red Sox may have little choice but to shut him down for 15 days, perhaps finding some way to connect the shoulder bursitis that caused him to miss three months last season with his current travails.

Buchholz may have offered that connection himself after Monday's game, when he said his mechanics have been impacted from trying to come back from an injury that short-circuited what had been a dominating performance in 2013.

"I think it has a lot to do with that," Buchholz said. "Whenever you are hurt, you try to find a way to throw so it doesn't hurt, and that might not be the exact same way you pitched prior to that. There's a little rust in between last year's and this year's mechanics. Even in spring training, I wasn't 100 percent in tune. It's hard to do it in-season, though."

One scout who watched Buchholz on Monday said he does not come over the top the way he did early in his career, when he threw a devastating 12-to-6 curveball and didn't rely as much as he does now on his cutter. But Buchholz already had modified his arm slot last season.

Continuing to call his issues mechanical in nature may be an exercise in semantics; his mechanics may be off because his shoulder won't allow him to do the things he did before he was hurt.

Buchholz said he wasn't disposed to going on the disabled list.

"No," he said, "because I'm healthy. If I wasn't healthy, that might be an option in my mind."

However, he acknowledged the decision is out of his hands. If he is mechanically out of whack because of his shoulder condition, the Sox would be justified in placing him on the DL.

"I'm not really helping the team right now, either," said the 29-year-old pitcher. "That [decision] comes from higher up. I'm sure I'll hear from them here shortly."

Farrell, as he has repeatedly, continues to maintain that Buchholz's issues aren't physical, and if they are, the pitcher hasn't shared a problem with the club.

"To me, it's as much mental and fundamental, which would mean his confidence and his delivery, and not [because] he might have some restrictions in the shoulder," Farrell said. "He doesn't talk of anything. We don't see the need for added rest. He makes his bullpens consistently in between starts. But it's clear that he's not as confident as what we've seen in the past."

Even from a confidence standpoint, it might be best for the pitcher to be taken out of the vortex for a while.

"When you're out there thinking about getting big-league hitters out and thinking about three different types of mechanics you were doing in the bullpens, it makes it that much harder," Buchholz said. "I felt really good in the bullpen, commanding everything.

"It's tough to do in-game. It has to be second nature at that point. I have to get to the point where I'm not thinking about anything, just throwing the baseball like I have been my whole life."