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SoxProspects News

May 12, 2007 at 9:14 AM

An Evening at the Park


On Friday night I had the pleasure of catching a ball game overlooking a green left field wall and a Citgo sign, watching one of the Red Sox’ best young pitchers dominate the Mets. No, I wasn’t at Fenway Park, but at beautiful Hadlock Field in Portland, Maine, catching a glimpse into the Red Sox future.

But you didn’t need a crystal ball or silver Delorean last night to see forward in time, the future of the Boston Red Sox was on display for anyone with a Sea Dogs ticket. On this night, Clay Buchholz took the mound on a warm night to face the Binghamton Mets, and he made history. The twenty-two year old Red Sox phenom has gathered a healthy share of accolades over the last two years, and last night he showed the Mets batters why he won’t be in Double- A for very long.

Over a stretch of three innings, Buchholz was literally unhittable. With spectacular command over four pitches, Buchholz altered speed and location to completely disorientate and dominate the Mets hitters. In the process of retiring eight batters in a row, Buchholz struck out eight batters in a row, breaking Portland’s consecutive strike out record once held by a young Marlins farmhand named Josh Beckett.

But the crowd on hand saw a more impressive performance than even the box score may illustrate. Buchholz’s pitch selection and location produced an inordinate amount of both swings-and-misses and knee-buckling called third strikes. His first four strikeouts were gathered on called third strikes, all on curve balls. During this stretch, batters were ducking away from looping curveballs, and swinging wildly at changeups.

Long time fans in attendance delighted in comparing this young hurler’s make-up against some of the best prospects in Sea Dog history. The fans’ conclusion - “This kid can throw.” Buchholz threw 96 pitches, 62 for strikes. His fastball sat around 92 mph and topped out at 94 mph. His ability to throw first-pitch strikes allowed him to proceed to pound batters with changeups, curveballs, sliders, and two-seam fast balls.

However, Buchholz did show he has room to improve. Batters were able to make good contact at various points throughout the game, and his fastball command began to waiver as the game progressed. However, the final line - 6 2\3 innings 1 earned run, with 11 strikeouts is surely not a bad base to improve upon. He undoubtedly has the tools, mound presence, and natural ability to be something special. At this stage of his career, he seems more advanced then both Jonathan Papelbon and Jon Lester were.

If you love baseball, and can appreciate dominant performances, there’s no reason to wait until he has a “B” on his cap to see top prospect Clay Buchholz pitch. Head on up to Portland and catch a game – its only about a 1:45 drive from Boston, and well worth the trip. The stadium is just a great place to take in a game, and the crowd and the staff are extremely welcoming. But if you want to see Buchholz in AA, you might not have a lot more chances. He might just be in AAA by July and could even see some time in Boston this September at this pace.