MLB: Revealing the American League East’s 4 Best Starting Pitchers

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Clay Buchholz, Boston Red Sox

June 2, 2013; Bronx, NY, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Clay Buchholz (11) pitches against the New York Yankees during the second inning at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

Technically, Buchholz isn’t qualified to be in consideration for the ERA title (and many more stats, obviously) due to a shoulder injury that has turned a good, perhaps Cy Young-like season into one that has been destroyed by an injury.

The specifics are pretty simple: Buchholz has been on the DL since June 9 with shoulder problems. An injury initially deemed as something short of serious has indeed become serious, and the Red Sox made that clear last week when they traded for Jake Peavy as protection just in case Buchholz doesn’t return. Of course that’s the worst possible case.

However, Boston received some very good news Tuesday. According to WEEI’s Rob Bradford, Buchholz threw a 27-pitch bullpen before Boston took on the Houston Astros. The results were reportedly positive, as Buchholz used the phrase “night and day” to describe his session–in the good way, obviously.

So, a return does indeed seem to be in the cards.

And the Red Sox would like nothing more. The right-hander had a 1.71 ERA before going on the DL. He was striking out 8.6 batters per nine innings against a career-low 3.1 walks per nine, and with a solid FIP and xFIP, his 2.9 WAR still stands as the 11th-best mark in the AL despite his lengthy absence. Forgetting the fluff, he was indeed very, very good.

Buchholz’s innings total is a bit low, but that isn’t enough to knock him off this list.