The Red Sox's top pitching prospect took the organization's mandate of adding strength to his gifted right arm during the offseason seriously. And it was a noticeably sturdier Buchholz that worked out at Boston College on Tuesday as part of the Red Sox 2008 Rookie Program, a two-week event that ends on Friday.
"I know what it's going to take for me to have to stay on the team this year," said Buchholz. "A lot of hard work and dedication goes into being prepared for 162 games and that was my offseason this year, that was [what] I put all the dedication toward. I think I'm right at 191 [pounds] right now actually. It's better than the 178 I was last year."
Just as Buchholz gets bigger physically, so do his goals. He knows that the Red Sox are coming off a World Series championship and that their pitching rotation is stacked. But Buchholz also knows that he wants to break Spring Training as a part of the Opening Day starting five.
"That's the goal," Buchholz said. "I had a lot of goals coming into last year and that's definitely my goal this year, but it's all what the organization needs and who they want to have in the rotation. I would love to be there. I'm going to go into Spring Training and try to earn a spot, but if that doesn't happen ... that's where I want to be, by the end of the season, by midseason."
The Red Sox already have their entire starting five back from the championship squad in Josh Beckett, Curt Schilling, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Tim Wakefield and Jon Lester. In other words, mathematics might be the only undoing in Buchholz's goal not coming to fruition.
"I wouldn't be disappointed," said Buchholz. "Like I said, it's their decision. I have goals. Last year, I managed to make all my goals, and if something happens and you don't make that goal, it doesn't mean it's not going to happen some time during the season. I have hopes and wishes and goals, and that's about all I can say for you right now."
Asked to elaborate on those goals, Buchholz chose to keep them simple.
"First goal is to start in the big leagues," Buchholz said. "After that, it will all take care of itself."
After Buchholz entered the history books with his no-hitter against the Orioles on Sept. 1, there was much buzz that he would be part of the postseason roster. But that plan ended when Buchholz went through a "dead arm" phase later in the month and performed below what the club had hoped on strength tests.
In a sense, it was an eye-opener for Buchholz, much like closer Jonathan Papelbon had when his right shoulder gave out late in 2006.
"That was all the motivation [I needed]," said Buchholz. "I knew what I wanted to do coming into the offseason. I had never been hurt before. That was the closest I had been to it. It was different for me. I went into the offseason preparing and knowing what I had to do to be a part of this team this year."
Though Buchholz has already proven he can be as elite as possible over one game, the organization continues to work on nurturing him with respect to the big picture.
"I guess we don't look at any player ever as a finished product," said Mike Hazen, director of player development for the Sox. "Everybody, much like from the front office on down, we all have things we need to work on and continue to develop and finish off. It's one thing, we talk about getting to the Major leagues, it's another thing to stay in the Major Leagues. That's the next hurdle.
"While Clay has pitched a no-hitter in the Major Leagues, he hasn't established himself over time yet like the Schillings and the Becketts and the [Mike] Lowells and the [David] Ortizs. That's the next hurdle that we're looking to shoot for as well, and I think that still continues to be his carrot."
And Hazen also made note of how well Buchholz has done this offseason.
"He's had a really good winter," said Hazen. "We tested him the other day. He's been going through periodic testing, he went to the [Athlete's Performance Institute] down in Florida, he's been making gradual progress, he's up to about 190 pounds now. Looks like he's grown an inch, which I can't really relate to. But he looks good, I think, physically. He's put on some weight just in his shoulders and his chest. We're really excited."
As for the no-hitter, Buchholz still gets reminded of it.
"I still hear it talked about a little bit," Buchholz said. "I'm never going to get tired of hearing about that. It's just something I'll always love to talk about."
Now, his goal is to give fans a batch of other stellar performances to talk about.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.