FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Red Sox pitching coach Juan Nieves was asked what he thought a fully healthy Clay Buchholz could do.
Nieves, who coached Buchholz for the first time last season, shook his head, let out a whistle and said, "The sky's the limit."
Buchholz was 9-0 with a 1.71 ERA in his first 12 starts last season. Those are the kind of numbers that put a pitcher solidly in the Cy Young Award conversation. But after that 12th start on June 8, Buchholz went on the disabled list for more than three months with neck and shoulder ailments. He didn't return until Sept. 10.
Buchholz is fully healthy this spring and doing regular work.
"We're very hopeful he lasts the whole season, and right now he's in with every other pitcher in terms of his throwing days," said manager John Farrell. "His progression to batting practice [Sunday], and everything that he dealt with form a physical standpoint last year he addressed in the offseason, shoulder strength is very good, so we're looking forward to another productive year from Clay."
Buchholz, listed at 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds, has always been whip thin. But it's not his body type that is a problem.
"It's probably a combination of nutrition and a consistent routine," Farrell said, of what's necessary to keep Buchholz on the field. "That's not to say that he's lacked in those ways, but how can we improve the nutrition to the point of giving him the fuel to continue to remain durable? And if there are times when that might not be there, is he starting to wear away or wear down the body a little more rapidly than otherwise? So this is all part of, like any other pitcher or any other player, you're always looking to adjust and try to remain at that optimal level as long as you can."
When he was asked if Buchholz needed to eat more, Farrell added some levity:
"This isn't a matter of Clay not eating," he said.
Maureen Mullen is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.