Red Sox Nation has long been looking for a positive sign that Clay Buchholz could return to his All-Star form. It might have gotten just that Thursday afternoon.
Making his second rehab start with Triple-A Pawtucket, Buchholz allowed only two hits and two walks and struck out five over six scoreless innings but couldn't keep the PawSox from falling, 8-6, to Rochester at Frontier Field.
The 29-year-old right-hander didn't allow a hit until the fifth inning when Chris Colabello singled to begin the frame. The inning presented Buchholz with his greatest difficulty as Daniel Ortiz singled and Doug Bernier walked to load the bases with no outs. But the eight-season Major League veteran struck out Chris Rahl and got James Beresford to ground into a 4-6-3 threat-ending double play.
He recorded a 1-2-3 sixth and did not come back out for the seventh, finishing after 87 pitches, 51 of which were for strikes. The effort represented a nice turnaround from the right-hander's first start with Pawtucket, when he gave up three runs on four hits in just 4 2/3 frames and suffered the loss against Charlotte on Sunday.
Buchholz notably struggled at the outset of his 2014 campaign. He was 2-4 with a 7.02 ERA in his first 10 starts with the Red Sox. The latter stat was inflated by a disastrous outing against the Braves on May 26, when he allowed six runs on four hits and eight walks in three innings. Afterwards, Red Sox manager John Farrell said his starter lost seven pounds in the outing, and the team later stated that he also had a hyperextended left knee that would require a trip to the 15-day disabled list.
The hurler's numbers were much better a season ago, when he went 12-1 with a 1.74 ERA in 16 starts, but a rotator cuff injury shelved him for three months, putting a black mark on what was otherwise a stellar season. A lat injury also limited him during the playoffs, when he posted a 4.35 ERA in four starts (20 2/3 innings) during Boston's run to a title.
Thursday's performance could be enough to get Buchholz back to Boston, although the team hasn't announced any timetable for his return to the Majors.
Despite his gem, Buchholz did not earn a decision after Rochester left fielder Daniel Ortiz put the Red Wings ahead, 7-6, with a grand slam off Pawtucket reliever Alex Wilson in the eighth inning.