March 15, 2017
TAMPA – Clay Buchholz was glad to be in Tampa on Wednesday night, and not because the first pitch of the first Phillies game under the lights in 2017 was thrown in unseasonably cool weather for mid-March in Florida.
It was 58 degrees at George M. Steinbrenner Field shortly after 6:30 p.m., also known as optimal weather for Opening Day in the northeast in three weeks. But, again, that’s not why Buchholz was glad to be in Tampa.
Buchholz turned and watched as Yankees young slugging first baseman Greg Bird connected on a home run that landed about a half-dozen rows deep in the right field seats. And he thought about all of those starts he made in the Bronx as a long-time member of the Boston Red Sox rotation.
“That would have really been way back in Yankee Stadium, so, I’m glad it was here,” Buchholz said with a laugh.
Despite the long, solo home run to Bird, Buchholz arguably had his best start of the spring. He held a lineup filled with Yankees starters to one earned run on five hits in five innings. He walked two and struck out one.
And perhaps most significantly, he threw 72 pitches. Remember, the whole point of spring training is for starting pitchers to get their arms stretched out and prepared for the rigors of throwing 90-plus pitches every five nights in the next six months.
“As the innings go up, your arm strength is going to go up with that,” said the 32-year-old Buchholz, the elder statesman of the Phillies starting rotation. “I think that’s how it’s supposed to work. … It feels better each time I go out.”
Other personal observations?
“The first three innings I felt really good with command,” he said. “There was a lot of strikes early. They started swinging and got a couple of hits or whatever, but you know they hit a lot of balls right at guys and those are quick outs. That’s what you want to do as a starting pitcher, is make them swing and hope they hit it at somebody and make some quick outs and get your team back in the dugout.”
And the home run? It came on a 1-2 changeup that he left up in the zone.
“He was still a little out in front,” Buchholz said. “But he’s a big strong dude, and when they put the barrel on it, it’s going to go.”
• The Phillies had one hit on Wednesday night – Freddy Galvis's single to lead off the seventh inning. It was the second time in two trips to Tampa this spring that the offense came up lame: the Phillies didn't have a baserunner through five innings of their Grapefruit League debut on Feb. 24. "I'm glad Freddy got that hit," manager Pete Mackanin said twice during his postgame rap session with the media.
• Yankees starter Michael Pineda (first five innings) and closer Aroldis Chapman (sixth inning) combined to strike out 10 of the 19 batters they faced. Was it just a case of Phillies hitters still being a step behind pitchers, especially when matched up against two of the better strikeout pitchers in baseball? "That's what it looked like," Mackanin said. "We just couldn't get anything going. There were three or four balls hit hard."
• Switch-pitcher Pat Venditte (yes, baseball's ambidextrous pitcher) is expected to arrive in Clearwater on Thursday. He was acquired from the Seattle Mariners in a minor trade over the weekend. Venditte will be a non-roster reliever competing for a job in the Phils' bullpen.