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Four-seamer key to success for Buchholz

MLB.com @ToddZolecki

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Clay Buchholz's 2016 season turned when he altered his release point and ditched the windup for the stretch. He also mixed his fastballs a little more.

Buchholz allowed four hits, three runs, one walk and struck out six over 3 1/3 innings of Friday's 5-0 loss to the Yankees in a Grapefruit League game at Spectrum Field. He hung a curveball in the first inning to Yankees third baseman Chase Headley, who hit a three-run home run to right field, but he also got a few swings and misses with the four-seamer.

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CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Clay Buchholz's 2016 season turned when he altered his release point and ditched the windup for the stretch. He also mixed his fastballs a little more.

Buchholz allowed four hits, three runs, one walk and struck out six over 3 1/3 innings of Friday's 5-0 loss to the Yankees in a Grapefruit League game at Spectrum Field. He hung a curveball in the first inning to Yankees third baseman Chase Headley, who hit a three-run home run to right field, but he also got a few swings and misses with the four-seamer.

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"I started doing that last year," Buchholz said about getting batters to chase the pitch up in the zone. "I don't know why it took me 10 or 11 years to figure that could help, but it did."

Buchholz went 3-9 with a 5.91 ERA in 18 appearances (13 starts) through July 2 with the Red Sox. He went 5-1 with a 3.22 ERA in 19 appearances (eight starts) the rest of the way.

The tweaks he made to his mechanics certainly helped. But he also better mixed his four-seam fastball with his two-seam fastball. He threw the four-seamer 16.3 percent of the time from April 6-July 2, according to Statcast™, but 19.9 percent of the time from July 21 through the end of the season.

Buchholz threw the sinker 25.1 percent of the time from April 6-July 2, but 22.3 percent of the time the rest of the way.

They are small changes, but Buchholz thinks they helped.

"I've been a sinkerball guy for my whole career," Buchholz said. "You don't want to throw sinkers up. You want to throw them down. So whenever my sinker started getting hit, I had to switch it up a little bit. So I went back to four-seams and tried to work all four quadrants [of the strike zone] a little bit better. When you're doing that on a consistent basis, it usually works."

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and listen to his podcast.

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