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Health issues not behind Buchholz's struggles

ST. LOUIS -- When a pitcher goes so drastically from one extreme to another, the way Clay Buchholz has between 2013 (12-1, 1.74 ERA) and 2014 (5-7, 6.20 ERA), there's bound to be speculation that health woes could be playing a role.

But the Red Sox continue to be adamant that Buchholz is as close to 100 percent as a pitcher can be at this time of year.

"There's nothing physical here," said manager John Farrell. "And by his own admission and [his] answers to that question repetitively, and every test that we do following a start, leading into a start, all those objective measures are fine."

What the Red Sox are trying to get Buchholz to do is simplify things.

"The thing that we're trying to get back to is a more focused approach from pitch to pitch rather than looking at an entire game of seven to nine innings and [thinking], 'How am I going to manage that?'" said Farrell. "It's back to a very specific 'one pitch at a time' approach, and that's the only thing that he can have control over in the moment, to put a series of 110 of those individual events together, and that's what we're working toward."

In his most recent, start against the Yankees, Buchholz seemed to be taking an unusually long time between pitches.

"Yeah, I'd like to see him pick up his pace. I'd like to see him trust his stuff a little bit more, particularly earlier in the count," said Farrell. "And by that I mean not pitching so fine. He's done it in a stretch of starts since coming off the DL. And the last three have not been equal to that."

Considering that the Red Sox traded Jon Lester and John Lackey last week, they are all but certain to rely heavily on Buchholz in 2015.

"We're confident he can turn it around," said general manager Ben Cherington. "He's got to be a piece of the puzzle, not the whole puzzle. We're confident he can turn it around, because he's healthy, and that means he's got a chance to turn it around.

"But obviously, the results right now are not what he wants, they're not what we expect from him, he knows that, so it's not, 'Wake up tomorrow and it's all better.' He's got to continue to work and get on the right track the rest of this season. ... We expect him to be part of the rotation next year, and an important part of it."

Ian Browne is a reporter for Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne.
Read More: Boston Red Sox, Clay Buchholz