CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Clay Buchholz stood with one foot resting along the bottom step of Spectrum Field's visitor's dugout, looking like he belonged there while donning a red and blue cap.The only thing missing was the familiar "B" insignia of the Red Sox on its crown. For the first time
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Clay Buchholz stood with one foot resting along the bottom step of Spectrum Field's visitor's dugout, looking like he belonged there while donning a red and blue cap.
The only thing missing was the familiar "B" insignia of the Red Sox on its crown. For the first time since a December trade sent the veteran right-hander to the Phillies after a decade in Beantown, Buchholz formally reunited with his old Red Sox teammates, coaches and staffers on Sunday morning.
There were hugs. There were smiles, high-fives and laughs. But most of all, there were well-wishes and hopes -- from Red Sox manager John Farrell especially -- that a fresh beginning in a new home will spurn Buchholz's up-and-down career in a positive direction.
"I would think, first and foremost, in his own mind, there's not the history that maybe there's opinions where he might feel like it could have been better, [or] things fell short," said Farrell, who greeted his former pitcher before Boston's 6-5 loss to the Phillies with a joyful embrace.
"I know one thing: He went out and gave all that he had. And maybe, sometimes, it wasn't what maybe people on the outside thought he was capable of or expected."
As a rookie, Buchholz threw the 17th no-hitter in Red Sox history in just his second Major League start. He earned his first of two All-Star nods three seasons later and finished sixth in the American League Cy Young Award voting. He was part of two World Series titles in 2007 and '13.
But down the stretch, the 32-year-old couldn't stay healthy and scuffled with a lack of consistency. Buchholz was moved to the bullpen twice last season, the second time after giving up six runs over 4 1/3 innings in a deflating 21-2 defeat to the Angels to open the month of July.
Buchholz finished his final season in Boston 8-10 with a 4.78 ERA before being shipped to Philadelphia for second-base prospect Josh Tobias following the acquisition of ace Chris Sale.
"I think coming into a new place, you're starting with a clean slate," Farrell said. "Almost like every year, where you're walking to the mound for the first time 0-0."
In a new league, and wearing a new number -- No. 21 out of respect for James Rollins -- it could be just the opportunity that Buchholz needs.
"I've always thought Clay was on the cusp of always going to have a good year," Farrell said. "I felt that way here every year when you watched him. He has a full assortment of pitches, you know?
"Maybe some of the external things, the heavy-lifting and the baggage got so heavy, he couldn't pitch with a clear mind as frequently as he might this season."
Maybe this time will be different for Buchholz. If there's anyone rooting for him, it's Farrell and his former mates.
Jeff Odom is a contributor to MLB.com.