Buchholz Progresses Quickly On His Trip To Philly

It's possible that the Phillies were the only team with any shot at signing young Taylor Buchholz in 2000. Growing up as a Phillies fan meant that signing with Philly would move him a step closer to a childhood dream. Now, every start moves him even closer to that dream and an arrival in Philadelphia.

For a sixth round draft pick, Taylor Buchholz rise toward the majors has been pretty swift. After a high school career at Springfield High School in Delaware County, Buchholz, now 21, sat and waited for his name to be called in the 2000 draft. Where Buchholz would go was certainly not an exact science. A few scouts projected that he could go somewhere in the low third or high fourth rounds, and others had him falling toward the eighth or possibly ninth rounds. One of the reasons scouts differed on Buchholz was his signability. With a scholarship at the University of North Carolina already there for him, some scouts figured he might just head south for a college career. The Phillies draft gurus looked at each other when it came time to make their sixth round pick and decided the time had come.

Buchholz only worked out for the Phillies, although the Yankees had asked him to a workout as well. Fortunately for the Phillies, the workouts were at the same time and Buchholz chose to spend the day with the Phillies scouts instead of visiting the Yankees. That workout led to the Phillies believing that they would be able to sign Buchholz if they drafted him and the lack of workouts for other teams may have helped the young right-hander to fall to where the Phillies could comfortably draft him.

"When I got that call, it was too good to be true," remembers Buchholz. Growing up as a Phillies fan, Buchholz allowed himself to dream that he would one day be standing on the mound at The Vet, putting away the opposition one after the other. That dream may come true with just a slight change of venue. It's unlikely that Buchholz will make it to the Veterans Stadium mound, but hitting the hill at the new ballpark seems just a matter of time. "Every time that I hear something about the new stadium, I get a few little goose-bumps," admits Buchholz.

The Phillies may have done the young right-hander a huge favor toward the end of last season. Mike Arbuckle made the decision to send Buchholz from Clearwater to Reading late in the 2002 season to give him some seasoning at AA. "Getting Buchholz to Reading at the end of the season was a way of helping him come in stronger this season," said Arbuckle, who knew that Buchholz is traditionally a slow starter. The four starts for Reading late last season were rough to say the least as Buchholz ERA ballooned to 7.43 at the AA level, but they truly were a learning experience. The Phillies may do the same thing with Buchholz this season, looking to move him to AAA Scranton before the end of the season.

In his short professional career, Buchholz hasn't lacked experience. In the 2001 and 2002 seasons, he pitched a combined 358 innings. For the usually pitch conscious Phillies, that's a lot of innings for a youngster. Is it too much? The Phillies held their breath this spring when Buchholz developed some "tenderness" in his elbow during training camp. The Phillies immediately shut him down and kept him in Clearwater while the rest of the Reading squad headed north to start the season. The Phillies cautiously let Buchholz pitch in an extended spring training game and then sent him on to meet up with his teammates.

With the impressive start to his early career, Buchholz cracked Baseball America's Top 100 Prospects list this spring, coming in at number 88. Everyone around the Phillies organization has noticed Buchholz and his continuing maturity. As for Buchholz, he has noticed changes too. "I'm more relaxed. There's less pressure actually. Early on, I felt that everything had to be perfect, but now, I understand what I need to do," said Buchholz.

The Veterans Stadium mound that Buchholz dreamed of pitching from will likely be a memory by the time he makes it to Philadelphia. Not far away though will be a new mound. A mound that kids may watch Buchholz work from and dream that one day that will be them pitching for the Philadelphia Phillies.

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