FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Unlike his first start of Spring Training, when he savored being on the mound again after all the time he missed last year, Friday night was a business-like outing for Clay Buchholz.
Instead of worrying about his back or shaking off rust, he could simply work on the art of pitching.
So against the Pirates, Buchholz worked on his changeup.
"That was probably the pitch I threw the most besides fastballs," said Buchholz, who took the loss in Boston's 7-4 defeat under the lights of JetBlue Park. "It felt good. That's what I wanted to do today, I wanted to go out and be able to throw changeups behind in the count just to get a feel for it. Yeah, I threw a couple of really good ones that came out really nice. That was good to feel that."
Over three innings, Buchholz gave up three hits and two runs, walking none and striking out one.
Manager Bobby Valentine was impressed with Buchholz's performance.
"Buchholz's stuff looked sharper than last time, I thought," said Valentine. "He threw a couple of sharp curveballs. I thought his changeup was sharp, two seamer was sharp and he's not throwing a lot of those curveballs, but he threw a couple of them tonight that were midseason form."
As far as the back is concerned, Buchholz said it's no longer on his mind when he pitches.
"It's been good," said Buchholz, who suffered a stress fracture in his lower back and didn't pitch again after a June 16 outing. "I haven't had any lapses of any pain or days that I needed to take a light day or a day off. It definitely wasn't the case last year whenever things started happening. There were days I wasn't able to do a whole lot."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.