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Bits: Is Clay Buchholz's breakout for real?

4/15/2013

Boston Red Sox right-hander Clay Buchholz, owner of a no-hitter from his second big league start way back in 2007, nearly matched the feat Sunday when he held the beleaguered Tampa Bay Rays -- yes, them again -- hitless for seven innings. Buchholz is off to a terrific start in 2013, which must surprise many people since he was a 22nd-round choice in ESPN average live drafts. He has gone from roughly 80 percent owned to 100 percent owned in the past week, but there's a reason why there were so many disbelievers to begin with.

Buchholz missed more than half of the 2011 season because of a back injury, and started the next year so miserably that some fantasy owners just couldn't get on board, and might never trust him again. Buchholz brought a 7.18 ERA into June last season, becoming a free agent in most leagues. In June/July his composite ERA was 2.42. And in September, his ERA was 4.82, though it was ruined by one bad outing. Still, this is a streaky pitcher in an odd career plagued by injury, and Sunday's outing was a reminder just how good he can be. But things can change quickly.

For now, enjoy what Buchholz is providing, though the obvious call here is to sell high. I know, I know, he looked awesome Sunday, allowing two hits over eight shutout innings and striking out a career-best 11, and his season ERA dropped to 0.41. That's one earned run in 22 innings. It's simplistic to say "that can't continue," since we all know it can't, but Buchholz has been so streaky in his career, and health has been a bit less assured with him than others, it's a perfect time to see if the Zack Greinke/Jered Weaver owners in your league will overpay for the No. 65 starting pitcher in ADP, a guy who was taken after Ivan Nova and Edwin Jackson, among others.

On Sunday, Buchholz had command of all four of his pitches, though it's worth noting he did walk four Rays, and threw a relatively low 69 of his 109 pitches for strikes. Teammates and manager John Farrell noted Buchholz's maturity from his rookie year, one who "knows himself more as a pitcher." Then again, even last season Buchholz was erratic, and he never has made as many as 30 starts in a season. That doesn't mean fantasy owners can't trust him, but when he can't throw all his pitches for strikes, or things don't go as well as they did Sunday, he's prone to tough outings. Buchholz isn't a big strikeout pitcher, either, registering only 129 whiffs in 29 starts last year. I'm actually a modest fan, and I do own him on a few teams, but what he did Sunday, and that fancy ERA he's now sporting, pretty much scream sell-high.

Box score bits (AL): Cleveland Indians outfielder Michael Bourn homered Sunday, then later cut his hand diving into first base. Bourn needed five stitches and could miss a few games. Through 10 games, Bourn has two home runs and just one stolen base. Odd. ... Remember when Chicago White Sox catcher Tyler Flowers was all the rage following homers in consecutive games to start 2013? Well, he recently had an 0-for-22 stretch, not surprisingly, though he did hit a double to break it Sunday. ... I'm buying on Kansas City Royals right-hander Ervin Santana. After his eight-inning, two-run (one earned) outing Sunday, his ERA is 2.45, and he has 19 strikeouts in 22 innings. ... With Los Angeles Angels right-hander and potential closer Ryan Madson (elbow) still perhaps weeks away from returning, Ernesto Frieri maintains his strong value. His four-out save Sunday featured four strikeouts. ... From Rookie of the Year contender to ESPN's most-dropped list, Oakland Athletics right-hander Jarrod Parker allowed eight runs in 3 1/3 innings Sunday. Could a demotion to the minors be pending? Or is he this year's version of Buchholz? ... I would never have used Seattle Mariners rookie right-hander Brandon Maurer on Sunday after he couldn't escape the first inning against the Houston Astros on Tuesday, so naturally he threw a capable six innings of three-run (two earned) ball against the Texas Rangers. I'd shy away from Maurer this coming week, though. ... Good sign in Texas: Shortstop Elvis Andrus stole his fourth base Sunday. Last season, when he swiped a mere 21 bags, Andrus was 5-for-9 the entire second half. Perhaps he was hiding an injury.

Box score bits (NL): The Cincinnati Reds placed right-hander Johnny Cueto on the DL with a lat strain, and he could miss more than a month. Cueto, like Weaver and Greinke, is worth keeping around, but good luck doing so if you own all three. The Reds are expected to recall lefty Tony Cingrani this week, and the 23-year-old is worth adding immediately. In 12 1/3 innings at Triple-A Louisville he has allowed nary a run on just three hits, with 21 strikeouts. ... The Reds' Joey Votto homered Sunday, which wasn't a story in the past. But his last home run came on June 24, 2012. It's early, but don't be shocked when he falls short of 25 home runs. ... Philadelphia Phillies right-hander Roy Halladay bounced back with a strong outing Sunday, taming the awful Miami Marlins over eight innings. Halladay's command was off for four innings, then he got on track. Overall, he struck out two. Still, next weekend's start against the St. Louis Cardinals is a far greater gauge of where he is. ... The Chicago Cubs keep saying Carlos Marmol is not in the closing picture, but with Kyuji Fujikawa on the DL and Shawn Camp not exactly skilled enough to pitch important innings (he was pummeled Sunday), I see Marmol getting another shot. ... I wouldn't trade for Arizona Diamondbacks second baseman Aaron Hill. He left Sunday's game because of left wrist soreness, after sitting a few games, and a DL stint could be pending. ... Those lucky few owning San Diego Padres outfielder Carlos Quentin should sit him this week since he's serving a suspension for his part in the bench-clearing brawl recently. Kyle Blanks was called up from Triple-A Tucson. Blanks has always hit for power, at least for the times he has been healthy, and is worth a look in deep leagues in case he sticks.