Toronto right-hander Clay Buchholz will make his second start of the season as the Blue Jays aim for their first series victory of the year when they play the Minnesota Twins on Thursday afternoon in Minneapolis.
Buchholz (0-0, 1.50 ERA), who signed a free agent contract with the Blue Jays in early March, began the season on the 10-day injured list due to a right hip flexor strain.
He threw six quality innings in his Blue Jays debut on Saturday, a 3-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays in Toronto. He gave up one run on six hits and didn’t walk a batter while striking out to two, keeping the Blue Jays, who scored three runs in their final two at-bats, in the game against reigning Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell.
“He mixed and matched,” Toronto manager Charlie Montoyo said. “He had hitters off-balance. It was fun to watch. Sliders, changeups, in and out. He was very good with no room for error. Blake Snell was very good, so there was no room for error.”
Buchholz, a 34-year-old veteran who routinely threw in the mid to upper-90s during his glory days with the Boston Red Sox, topped out at just 89.6 mph with his fastball against the Rays.
“I feel good, I feel healthy,” he said. “I’ve done it a couple times where you go out and it’s max effort every pitch you throw. I think hard times come from that. … Less is more, sometimes, and I feel better throwing the ball to a certain quadrant of the zone, throwing it at 85-90 percent instead of 110. Miss the fat part of the bat, get some key ground balls and mishits.”
Buchholz is 4-2 with a 3.76 ERA in 13 career appearances (including 10 starts) against the Twins, including 1-1 with a 4.05 ERA in five games (four starts) at Target Field.
Minnesota, which took back-to-back losses for the first time this season to begin the four-game series, bounced back to defeat the Blue Jays 4-1 on Wednesday night.
Michael Pineda (2-0, 3.00 ERA), who sat out the end of the 2017 season and the entire 2018 campaign after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his right elbow and also having right knee surgery for a torn meniscus, will try to win his third straight start for the Twins.
Pineda, who is 2-4 with a 3.98 ERA in 13 career starts against Toronto, tossed six innings of three-run ball in a 4-3 victory over the Detroit Tigers on Saturday. He has increased his pitch count from 40 in his season debut against Cleveland when he tossed four one-hit innings to 80 in five innings in his second start, a 6-2 win at Philadelphia, to 96 against the Tigers.
“He’s put himself in a spot where I know I’m comfortable letting him go out there throwing 90 or 100 pitches,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “I think the game dictates where he ends up coming out of the game. The way he’s throwing the ball makes you want to give him the opportunity to stay in there and battle through those hitters.”
Pineda, whose fastball regularly registers in the mid-90s, has been impressive with his control in his comeback, walking just two in 15 innings while striking out 15.
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