One question that has been asked constantly over the last few months is “When is Clay Buchholz going to join Boston?” Consider the numbers and it is definitely a legitimate question. 16 appearances, a 7-1 record, a 2.11 ERA (best in the International League), 86 strikeouts in 93.2 innings of work (5th most in the I.L.). Buchholz has been sensational. Named to the I.L. All Star team, Buchholz won’t make the trip to Oregon since he is scheduled to pitch the final game of the”first half” for Pawtucket. Clay’s been replaced on the I.L. roster by Dale Thayer of the Durham Bulls. Manager Ron Johnson is very methodical, calm and unemotional when he speaks of Clay Buchholz. Although he is a big fan of the 24 year old, he is quick to put things into perspective- looking at things through the eyes of the Red Sox organization. “When it comes to “Buch” and “Bo” (Michael Bowden) I try to help them envision the future, not today. I tell them that in a season or two, I want to be watching NESN and see them leaning against the dugout railing with their pullover on, watching the game, Beckett on one side and Lester on the other. I want to hear the broadcaster talk about how that trio is the present and future of the Boston rotation.” RJ says there’s a history of guys who’ve been promoted and demoted before finally “making it”. All Star Zack Greinke of the Kansas City Royals was first and foremost in his mind. “Greinke was up and down and had the anxiety attacks, but look at him now!” RJ has to be the voice of reason when dealing with athletes who might not be as objective, after all, it’s their career and future we’re talking about. “I’ve got to look at the big picture, the long term situation.” Not only is he helping them become better players, but he tries to help all his young charges become more “self aware”. “We want the young men to become better “self-evaluators”. After a start, we watch the videotape and I’m honest with them. I want them to be honest with me and more importantly, with themselves.”
Don’t get the wrong idea with the headline over todays’ column. There is a very legitimate reason RJ’s eyes were bloodshot on Thursday. The PawSox entourage rolled into the McCoy Stadium parking lot at about 5:30 a.m. The caravan encountered incredible traffic in the New York City area on the way home from Lehigh Valley. At one point I woke up on the bus at around 2:30, expecting to be rolling through Connecticut into Rhode Island. Incredibly, I saw a sign for the George Washington Bridge. Construction held us up for a couple of hours. Lots of cranky people on those buses. Just another reminder why you want to go to the Majors. Former Pawtucket pitching coach Mike Griffin used to say- “Gentlemen, when you’re in the “pros” you don’t sit in traffic, you fly over it.” RJ and most of the gang caught up on their rest before starting the series with Buffalo. Johnson said he received a text message around 10:30 a.m. from his boss, Mike Hazen director of player development for the Red Sox. “Are you up yet?” After getting no response, Hazen texted back and knowingly followed up- “No, you’re not. Call me when you get up.” After a 12-0 loss and an endless bus ride, it had been a long night.