By Administrator | June 27, 2007
I was given the opportunity to conduct an exclusive, one-on-one interview with Red Sox prospect Clay Buchholz on Sunday morning—the day the rumors began swirling that he (or Jacoby Ellsbury or Michael Bowden) might be traded to the Chicago White Sox for Mark Buehrle.
I traveled to MerchantsAuto.com Park in Manchester, NH, mid-morning on Sunday for the interview. I collected my media credentials and was taken under the stadium and through the visitor’s dugout onto the field. The Sea Dogs pitchers and catchers arrived in the dugout a short time later, Buchholz included, but immediately proceeded down the left field line for a meeting, some stretching and ‘having a catch’. Fifteen or twenty minutes later, Clay approached the dugout, signed a couple dozen autographs, and then sat with me for the interview.
Initially, he seemed somewhat uneasy, but soon found his comfort zone as we started talking baseball. When the interview began, I quickly asked about the topic that was burning up the airwaves around Boston that morning—the Buehrle trade rumors and the possibility he could be traded to the White Sox. In retrospect, I probably should have eased into that subject matter; but, he never batted an eyelash and answered my inquiries candidly… which was appreciated.
It was a characteristic that permeated the interview—his candor. He seemed at ease in discussing anything and everything… from trade rumors, to his position as one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball, to his dad’s influence on his career, to his desire to donate time and energies to cancer and alzheimers charities, to pop culture. He shared openly and easily… with a Texas demeanor that was engaging and somewhat folksy.
I am sure Red Sox fans will be happy to learn that he was very likeable.
Because the interview went longer than anticipated, I am breaking it into three pieces so as not to overwhelm everyone in one day. Part 2 of the interview will be published tomorrow… with Part 3 published on Friday.
I hope you enjoy.
S1F: First of all, thank you for doing this…
CB: No problem.
S1F: What do you make of all of the attention you are getting?
CB: Umm, you’ve got to take it with a grain of salt because anything can change at any time as far as your health and the quality of your outings… I mean, it’s fun, it’s fun when you are in the spotlight and everything, but you have to look at it from the flipside too because it can change just as fast as it started.
S1F: Are you surprised by your own success… I mean, because you have had staggering success this year… are you surprised by it at all or by how quickly it’s been achieved?
CB: No, I’m really not, because I like to set the bar high to reach my goals… and my goal was to be an elite pitcher in Double-A this year. That’s what I wanted, and that’s what I set my standards for. And, I haven’t accomplished all of (my goals) yet, but I’m on my way to making all of them. The final goal is pitching in the big leagues at the end of this year, or maybe next year… and I’m not going to stop (working) until I get there. Even if it doesn’t happen this year or next year, I’m going to go for it and make the best of it.
S1F: Driving over hear today I was listening to WEEI, the Sox apparently have some tremendous interest in (White Sox pitcher Mark) Buehrle, and apparently (White Sox GM) Kenny Williams has told the Red Sox that Buehrle isn’t coming to Boston unless (you) are going to the Chicago White Sox. What do you make of conversations such as that? Pretty heady stuff considering that Buehrle just threw a no-hitter…
CB: Yeah, definitely. Watching him in the World Series a year or two ago, he’s just a great pitcher and it’s a big honor to be in trade talks… I mean, being a minor league pitcher getting traded, just flat out, for a big league all-star pitcher. There’s been trade talks before that I know about, and the Red Sox have told me that they don’t want me going anywhere unless it was for somebody who is an elite-caliber player. That’s all I know of it… they probably wouldn’t tell me until the day it happened anyway, so I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing and hope for the best.
S1F: Well, I’m looking forward to seeing you pitch in Fenway Park next year – in a home uniform.
CB: Yeah, that’s my main goal right now… to develop in the minor leagues and then become a big league pitcher. Like I said before, I’m striving and I’m not going to stop until I get there.
S1F: I saw an interview ith you last week on NESN, and one of the things that you discussed was having conversations with the organization, and the organization telling you that you still need to learn some aspects of “how to” pitch. What do you feel you still need to learn en route to Boston?
CB: I think I have a really good idea of “how to” pitch, it’s more or less going out there and being consistent with command down in the (strike) zone with the fastball. That’s more or less what (the Red Sox) have been preaching to me since Day One, since I got into the organization. It’s not even command “in the strike zone”, it’s command “DOWN in the strike zone”… command at the knees with the fastball in order to set up everything else. That’s the big topic of discussion between me and the hierarchy of the (organization). I feel like every start I make, it’s getting better and better… and hopefully it will become second nature and I won’t have to think about it.
S1F: Do you have much opportunity to talk to Theo (Epstein)?
CB: I haven’t this year. I had the chance to talk to him I the off-season a couple of times…
S1F: Who in the organization do you speak with primarily?
CB: Umm, probably Mike Hazen… he’s the Farm Director. That’s who everybody in the minor leagues talks with. When you talk to him, everybody’s going to hear about it… so it’s like talking to Theo face-to-face when you’re talking to (Mike) – because (Theo) is going to find out about it anyway.
S1F: Let’s assume command low in the strike zone is #1, what are the three things that you need to do to make it to the big leagues… and then, what is the one additional thing you need to do to become a star in the big leagues?
CB: With fastball being one, umm I don’t know… tough question. I guess I could be able to command my off-speed pitches better, and to be able to throw them for strikes when I am behind in the count. I think I have done better this year – as far as being behind in the count and throwing change-ups and curve balls for strikes… and sort of pitching backwards. I guess I can refine the off-speed pitches a little bit more and throw them for strikes. I mean, if you have fastball command low and you thrown off-speed pitches for strikes that’s really all you need… and that’s what I am working at right now.
S1F: On my website, I have written three or four times that I see what you are doing here at Double-A and it’s extraordinary and it seems from afar that you are overwhelming the competition at Double-A… and I have proposed that, maybe, the best thing that could happen to you is to be promoted to Triple-A.
Not that I am suggesting that you would have to take a step backwards, because God only knows what will happen when you get to Pawtucket… but even supposing that by going to Triple-A you might take a step back initially, it’s my hypothesis that only then, by facing a better quality of hitter and being tested a little more than you are being tested at Double-A, can you really continue to learn and refine – and in the process maybe take four or five steps forward.
Do you think you have a lot left to do here at Double-A? Do you find fault with my theory that you need to jump up? What do you think? What does the organization tell you, if anything?
CB: They really haven’t told me anything as far as going to Triple-A or anything beyond there. It’s really up to them. It’s up to me to do what I have to do on the field to get the job done. It all comes down to whether they have room somewhere else so that I can move up… there’s just so many things that go into that decision. There have been a lot of really good pitchers in the past who have dominated at Double-A, and then they got moved up – maybe it was too quick – and then they have just become a blur. And I know they don’t want that to happen to me, and I don’t want that to happen. They have been around the game and the management part of the game a lot longer than I have. They know what’s right for me, and they have me on a time line, and I’m perfectly OK with going up whenever they want me to go up. I don’t know when I’m going to be called up… and as far as me putting myself on a time line, I have no clue (about what should or will happen).
I owe a debt of gratitude to Tim Hough, Director of Media Relations for the NH Fisher Cats, for providing the media credentials and making my visit to the ballpark very comfortable (no small task since an auto accident in February left me with a fractured left hip, a damaged left knee and two broken bones in my left leg). I am indebted to him for his hospitality and his many kindnesses.
Likewise, I am indebted to the Sea Dogs and radio broadcaster Mike Antonellis for assisting me with the requisite approvals for making the interview possible.
And, of course, I am indebted to Clay Buchholz… for agreeing to the interview in the first place, and for being an extremely engaging, forthright and personable interviewee. And for being patient and understanding when the interview lasted five minutes longer than originally anticipated. I am further indebted to him for putting on a heckuva show on the mound the next night… I was in the front row directly behind home plate and had a birds-eye view of his outing. On both accounts, he was f-a-n-t-a-s-t-i-c!
Topics: Sox Players |