Though he struggled with his command at times, Buchholz said he came out of his first game action since June 8 feeling exactly as he would have hoped.
"I felt good. That was my only concern coming down here to pitch," said Buchholz, who has been sidelined for the last two and a half months with a right bursa sac strain in his shoulder. "Physically, I felt fine today and that's what I wanted."
Buchholz's day got off to an unusual start when Hudson Valley leadoff man Julian Ridings lifted a fly ball that glanced off the glove of Lowell left fielder Kevin Mager. Mager then had trouble corralling the ball on the warning track, allowing Ridings to race all the way around the bases for an unearned run on a pair of errors.
Following the bizarre welcome, Buchholz walked the next batter before serving up a run-scoring triple off the wall to Renegades second baseman Ariel Soriano. Soriano also scored on the play, sprinting home following a throwing error as the Spinners attempted to nail him at third base.
From there, Buchholz appeared to settle in temporarily, striking out the next batter on a two-seamer that worked its way back over the plate for a called third strike. He then forced a popout to shortstop for the second out, but walked the next two batters before getting the early hook.
"If I throw a bunch of those fastballs just a little bit lower, they're strikes," Buchholz said. "A lot of them were over the plate, just up a little bit. It's something I've got to correct when I get back out here in five days."
Buchholz said he would likely find out on Monday where he will pitch next, though he knows he will be making at least one more rehab appearance. The original plan was to get Buchholz two or three rehab starts, though with the Minor League season winding down, three such outings would only be possible if Triple-A Pawtucket or one of Boston's other affiliates makes it to the postseason.
As for his first rehab start, Buchholz said he felt comfortable throwing all five of his pitches. Along with his four-seam and two-seam fastballs, the righty worked in a handful of cutters, four curveballs and three changeups. A few of his fastballs registered in the 88-89-mph range on the stadium radar gun, though he admittedly wasn't putting any focus on his velocity.
"Everything was there and I didn't feel anything on any one type of pitch, so that was definitely a good thing," Buchholz said. "But there wasn't one pitch where I said, 'OK, I'm going to try to throw this one hard.' I was basically just trying to go through the motions, find myself mechanically and try to let the pitch come out of my hand."
The one glaring negative for Buchholz on Sunday was that he didn't have the opportunity to wind down between frames and then ramp it back up for another inning of work. With Buchholz not pitching into the second inning, he said he will likely end up treating Sunday's outing as an extra bullpen session and work on the ups and downs between innings in a simulated game this week.
"I'll probably simulate those ups and downs by throwing another simulated game to our guys at home," he said. "I still think I got done what I needed to today. I hadn't thrown 40 pitches altogether through all this stuff, so I think that was something I needed to do anyways."
Buchholz had last seen live game action on June 8, when he defeated the Angels to improve to 9-0 with a 1.71 ERA through 12 starts. The shoulder injury then derailed his stellar early-season run, but Buchholz feels he is on the verge of being able to return to Boston and help the Red Sox in their postseason push.
While the exact plan for this week still needs to be worked out, Buchholz is embracing the idea of using at least one more rehab start to work out the final kinks and settle back into ace form.
"I can definitely use another one. I feel like I hadn't pitched in two and a half months," Buchholz said. "It's an art. If you don't do it for an extended period of time, you feel awkward doing it. Facing batters in a game situation is completely different than facing the guys on my team in my [simulated-game] situations. I think one more could do it if I can get up and down enough times."