March 11, 2007 at 5:57 PM
For the second installment of Twelve Questions with Top Prospects, we were lucky enough to chat with top Red Sox pitching prospect Clay Buchholz. Thanks a ton to Clay for answering our questions! Here are his responses to the questions from the SoxProspects Community.
1. Clay, thanks for answering our questions! Coming out of Angelina JC, one scouting report credited your athleticism as one of the reasons you could be taken in the 1st round as a pitcher or in the top 5 rounds as a hitter. Now that you're strictly a pitcher, we don't get as much of a chance to see you display your athleticism in conventional terms. Can you talk a little about your athleticism and how you think being such a good athlete has allowed you to improve as a pitcher?
Clay: The thing that helped me the most from converting is being able to actually think like a hitter. In some ways it could get you in trouble by trying to out-guess the hitter, but as far as I see it just gives me another advantage. Also, I think my athleticism shows up as a pitcher in my ability to change on the go, make adjustments quickly, and certainly in my ability to cover the bunt in both directions.
2. What kind of change up do you throw and what velocity range does it typically come in compared to your fastball?
Clay: For the most part I throw just a regular straight change, but I also throw a circle change. That is one of the pitches that I am working on trying to perfect. About the velocity, it usually has about 10-12 mph off of my fastball. So it sits around 78-82.
3. Is there a certain pitcher you model yourself after, or who you idolize, and why?
Clay: Well growing up I always loved watching Nolan Ryan pitch just because of the fact that he was so overpowering, from Texas, and fun to watch. But in the present I think I would have to say Roger Clemens for pretty much the same reason. I guess maybe it is somewhat natural for us Texans to challenge hitters and go right after people. At least that is how I was taught to pitch by my father.
4. Mike Hazen recently described your secondary pitches as "wipe-out", noting that working on your fastball command was your primary goal in 2006, and would be the key to your success and promotions. Has the organization expressed to you your goals for 2007? Is working on your fastball command still a top priority?
Clay: That is without doubt my main goal for spring training and during the season. In my own eyes I felt that I came a long way since the beginning of last season. I also found out pitching is a whole lot easier whenever the first pitch that you throw is a strike. If I have heard it once, I have heard it a thousand times from people close to me, the best pitch in baseball is strike one. And it never changes regardless of the level.
5. It's often been written and you've said yourself that you pitch better later in the game than early on. Your stats seem to support that as well -you strike out a lot more batters after the first inning. Are you thinking about making any changes to your pre-game routine to get yourself ready to dominate right from the first batter?
Clay: It is really weird why it happens that way. My concentration level in the 5th and 6th inning is no different than the 1st. So in the same sense I'm ready to dominate the first pitch I throw. I just throw a little bit harder later in the game. I've always been this way, be it in high school, college, or as I proved in high A last year during the playoffs when the game gets later and closer I tend to throw harder. The front office, mainly Jason and those that drafted me know this as they saw it a couple of times.
6. We've heard that draftees' first years in the organization go without a lot of major changes from the coaching staff and they don't start working a lot on tuning up players' games until their second year. How much did the coaching staff work with you when you first went to Lowell and how does that compare with the work they did with you in Greenville and Wilmington?
Clay: Right when I got to Lowell Alicia told me that they were just going to let me throw. I mean if I was doing something wrong in a bullpen they wouldn't hesitate to let me know, but no major changes were addressed. Last year Kip helped me a lot with my delivery. The first thing out of his mouth everyday had something to do with perfecting my delivery. I soon found out once you have the same delivery every pitch then you throw strikes on a more consistent basis.
7. I am curious if there is anyone on the major league team (or coaching staff) that has gone or is going out of his way to help you - whether it be advice on your approach to setting up hitters, teaching you a new pitch, or anything else along those lines.
Clay: Well the biggest thing that I look back on is actually getting to hang out with a couple of the guys that were in the Big Leagues last year, and just watching how they act and how they handle that role. I truly believe I can pitch at the major league level but I learned being a big leaguer is about a lot more than just pitching.
8. What do you do during games you're not starting? How has that (charting pitches or whatever) helped your development? Any amusing anecdotes from your between-start games?
Clay: The schedule lays out as: Day after start Hitters Chart, Day 2 Dugout, Day 3 Bullpen/ Dugout, Day 4 Pitching Chart, and Day 5 Pitching. But to answer the question about the chart. It is one of the biggest aids in my routine. Especially if I am facing the same team the next day. It just lets you see if any hitter in the lineup has a hole in his swing, likes to bunt,aggressive, can run, or is a free swinger.
9. What is your pitching/training routine between starts? Has that changed as you've progressed through the system, and will you be doing anything different this year?
Clay: It is a really simple routine. On the 3rd day after my start I throw a bullpen and that is really just about it. I also read up on hitters that I'm going to be facing my next start. I feel that the whole thing has worked pretty well so far. So I think I'm going to stick with the same thing this year.
10. What was your off-season like? What did you work on to try to improve yourself for this year? How did you stay in shape, and now that the off-season is over, how do you feel physically coming into camp?
Clay: First of all I lived in Dallas with a couple of other guys that also play ball, and we all worked out together. So we all had a little advice for each other. My main goal this off-season was to be in shape and have gained weight. I gained just about 12 lbs and I was in pretty good shape. I have lived in Dallas the last two off seasons and the clear focus was to get stronger and go to camp in great shape so I could show the front office I was committed to getting to the big leagues. The schedule I have been on has been very successful and I don't expect that to change. So I would say that the off-season was a success.
11. Have you developed a level of fame in your hometown as a possible future ace MLB pitcher? Do you consider yourself a private person who likes to stay out of the spotlight or do you think you would thrive on the attention that a typical Boston starting pitcher gets? What do you think of the obsessiveness of Red Sox fan websites in tracking both your baseball career and to some extent your private life?
Clay: I think there are a couple of people there that believe in me and have been behind me this whole time, but I don't know if it's to the "Fame" status just yet. I don't consider myself a private person, but I'm also not the type to want to steal the cameras away from everybody else. I think of it as if I do either good or bad I'm am going to take responsibility for my outing. Being in this organization for the last couple of years has really been more than I could have asked for. The fans are one of the biggest parts of the game. In saying that I don't mind at all about the stats or comments fans talk about. In fact I embrace "Red Sox Nation" and I look at is nothing but a positive for my development and I wouldn't want to be with anyone else.
12. Please talk about your relationship with the other 2006 Greenville starters - Michael Bowden, Ryan Phillips, Mike Rozier and Chris Jones. What did you learn from them last year and what do you think they learned from you?
Clay: We are all really close, and it has been an awesome time coming up with the same group of guys. I would be lying if I said that I taught any of them anything, but I do think that we all found out that even if you have a bad start that there is always tomorrow. I look forward to all of us going to Fenway together and I truly hope that happens.
Bonus Question: Clay, we're all big fans of yours but some people still misspell your name. Have you been tagged with any nicknames by your friends or teammates that you prefer?
Clay: I have seen my name spelled so many different ways, but it's sort of funny. Most of the team and staff call me Buck. So I would say that name has stuck for the past couple of years. However, to my friends and family I am known as Clayboy, so to them I will always be Clayboy and to my teammates, just Buck.