A Bumpy Ending To Rocky Spring For Buchholz

A player who may not be with the Red Sox come Tuesday spared the Sox the ignobility of being no-hit in the exhibition season finale Sunday.

Bobby Kielty's single with one out in the top of the eighth inning snapped a no-hit bid by the Dodgers, but it was the only hit recorded by the Sox as they fell to the Dodgers, 8-0, in front of a crowd of 34,800 at Dodger Stadium.

The single by Kielty—who can opt out of his minor league deal with the Sox if he's not placed on the major league roster by Monday—snapped a streak of 22 straight batters retired by Dodgers pitchers. The only blemish for the Dodgers through 7 1/3 innings was a walk issued to Dustin Pedroia leading off the top of the first inning.

Rookie Hideki Kuroda struck out six in four innings before giving way to highly touted prospect Clayton Kershaw, who surrendered Kielty's hit but whiffed five over four innings. Brian Falkenborg struck out one in a perfect ninth inning to finish it up for the Dodgers.

Clay Buchholz—pitching nearly seven months to the day of his no-hitter against the Orioles—was not nearly as proficient. Buchholz allowed five runs—four earned—on five hits and three walks while striking out five in three-plus innings. He opened with two scoreless frames but was tagged for four runs in the third and faced just two batters in the fourth.

"I've experienced that [a rough inning] at least one time in every outing so far this spring," Buchholz told redsox.com afterward. "I'm still learning and still trying to see how I handle different situations. And, hopefully, I'll get all the kinks out before I get the chance to throw in a regular season game."

The rocky outing dropped Buchholz' exhibition season record to 1-3 and raised his ERA to 10.03, though his strikeout-to-walk ratio (12 whiffs and five free passes) is impressive. Buchholz, who has been ranked no. 1 in Diehard's prospect guide the last two years, is still going to open the season in the Sox' rotation, but with Bartolo Colon progressing faster than anticipated, Buchholz may not have much room for error, especially since it's believed the Sox would like to send him to Triple-A Pawtucket at some point this season in order to keep his innings count down.

"It's the real deal now," Buchholz said. "Hopefully I'm going to do well, regardless of the circumstances or situations that I put myself in. I think during the regular season, it's going to be a different story as far as me going out there and throwing my pitches with conviction and knowing what I want to do with the batters when they come up to bat."

The "real deal" begins in earnest for the Sox Tuesday, when they face the Athletics in Oakland at 10:05 p.m. for the start of a two-game series. Daisuke Matsuzaka will oppose Joe Blanton in a rematch of the season opener March 25, which the Sox won, 6-5, in 10 innings.

Diehard managing editor Jerry Beach can be reached at diehardmag@yahoo.com. To receive a free issue of Diehard, call 888-501-5752.

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