PHOENIX -- When he was younger and threw harder, success came easy for Clay Buchholz.A first-round pick by the Red Sox in the 2005 Draft, Buchholz quickly ascended through the Minors and made his first All-Star Game appearance in 2010."I was really good at first, probably got a little big-headed
PHOENIX -- When he was younger and threw harder, success came easy for Clay Buchholz.
A first-round pick by the Red Sox in the 2005 Draft, Buchholz quickly ascended through the Minors and made his first All-Star Game appearance in 2010.
"I was really good at first, probably got a little big-headed and took it for granted," Buchholz said.
Ineffectiveness and injury changed Buchholz's performance and his perspective. He now savors nights like Wednesday, when he tossed another gem as the D-backs beat the Angels, 5-1, at Chase Field. Arizona maintained its 1 1/2-game lead over the Rockies in the National League West.
There are no more shortcuts for the 34-year-old Buchholz, who opened the season in Triple-A with the Royals. When Kansas City did not call him up by May 1, he exercised an opt-out in his contract and signed with the D-backs on May 4.
Three weeks later, Buchholz was in the big leagues. And aside from a month on the disabled list with an oblique strain, nothing has slowed him down on the mound.
"I do my work in between [starts], I know what I want to do," Buchholz said. "I pitch a little differently now."
When Buchholz was younger, he would go out on the mound and just pitch by feel, relying on his overwhelming stuff to carry him. Now, he is more of a student.
"I go more on what our catchers and our coaches see, rather than how I feel," Buchholz said. "I try to pitch to hitters' weaknesses a lot more than I used to. I've gotten a lot better at knowing what part of the scouting report I can [implement] and what I can do with it, rather than taking it all in and forgetting some of it and being unsure. I have a lot of other eyes on the whole scenario for me, too."
Game-planning by pitchers is an important part of the D-backs' front-office philosophy, and among the other eyes Buchholz is referring to are those of pitching strategist Dan Haren, a former pitcher who spent 13 years in the big leagues. Haren helps come up with game plans for each of Arizona's starters.
"He's made me better," Buchholz said of Haren. "I've told him that. Just reading over the stuff that we read over, it's pinpointed toward the individual. I've gotten a lot from it. You still have to go out and execute. It doesn't make the game any easier, but if you're on top of your game and you can command the pitches that you throw, you know where you can throw pitches and not allow you to be exposed."
Buchholz allowed four hits and did not walk a batter while striking out seven. It was the second straight start in which he has not issued a walk, and over 13 starts with the D-backs, he has allowed more than two earned runs just twice and more than three runs only once.
D-backs manager Torey Lovullo is familiar with both the old and new versions of Buchholz, having served as the Red Sox bench coach when Buchholz was in Boston.
"At times, when I knew him as a younger pitcher, the tempo might not have been as good," Lovullo said. "He's doing a really good job with three pitches, three-plus pitches, and he's on a great run right now full of confidence."
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Goldschmidt gets it going: The D-backs' offense got a jolt when Paul Goldschmidt hit a two-run homer in the first inning, his 29th of the year and 96th career at Chase Field. He passed former Arizona slugger Luis Gonzalez for the most home runs hit in the ballpark's history. After having a .198 average on May 22, Goldschmidt's 3-for-3 game pushed his average to .297. More >
The D-backs have scored 111 runs in the first inning this year, most in the Major Leagues, and they are 15 runs away from tying the club record set by the 1999 team, which won 100 games.
HE SAID IT
"He's charging hard at .300, and it's just amazing to think the run that he's been on." -- Lovullo, on Goldschmidt's recent success
The D-backs are off Thursday before opening a three-game series with the Mariners on Friday night at Chase Field at 6:40 p.m. MST. Zack Godley (13-6, 4.44 ERA) will get the start for the D-backs. The right-hander cruised through the first three innings last time out against the Padres, before allowing three runs in the fourth and three more in the fifth. He has pitched well in his last five home starts, going 2-0 with a 2.05 ERA in those games. The Mariners will counter with Erasmo Ramirez (0-2, 5.49).
Steve Gilbert has covered the D-backs for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB.