No-no an affirmation to Sox front office
Epstein, scouts watch nervously as Buchholz sparkles
BOSTON -- The jubilation on the field wasn't the only Red Sox celebration going on Saturday in the immediate moments after Clay Buchholz became the first rookie pitcher in franchise history to throw a no-hitter.
General manager Theo Epstein pumped his fist and gave a hug to Jason McLeod, the club's director of amateur scouting, as Nick Markakis took a called third strike to close out Buchholz's history-making performance Saturday.
Epstein, McLeod, assistant general manager Jed Hoyer and the rest of the club's baseball operations folks couldn't be blamed for celebrating the fact that their 23-year-old wunderkind didn't throw five more pitches.
That's because of a conversation that was going on between Epstein and manager Terry Francona in the seventh and eighth innings as Buchholz's pitch count was approaching and eventually passed 100.
"There was a lot of discussion up in the box and going back and forth with Tito about what we do if he goes out in the ninth at 105 pitches," Epstein said. "I think there was a lot of worry, too. I think Jay Payton helped us out a lot with that first-pitch out in the eighth."
"We kind of talked about it a little bit. It was a tough spot, but the first-pitch out to end the eighth really helped out, and then we kind of said, 'Hey, if he gets up to 120 pitches, he's got to come out, no matter what.' And Tito said, 'You put on a uniform and do it!' But I'm glad it didn't come to that. He was really efficient," Epstein said.
That efficiency was the saving grace of everyone involved as the ninth inning unfolded.
"[If] there's two outs in the ninth and he's got 120 pitches, Theo would have to come down on the field and take him out," third baseman Mike Lowell said. "But I would say this. If they got one hit, I would have no problem with taking him out. Taking him out [with a no-hitter]? [No]."
Jason Varitek agreed with Lowell's assessment.
"I don't know," said the catcher. "I think whoever would've yanked him would have walked out of here with a noose. He was real strong. He had a strong fastball in the eighth inning."
Kidding aside, all of the concern about the pitch count comes from a desire at all levels of the baseball operation to protect one of the best young arms in baseball. After all, this was a pitcher who hadn't thrown more than seven innings all year at any level, Double-A, Triple-A or with Boston on Aug. 17.
"That was as excited as we've been in a long time," Epstein said. "It's just a little bit more special when you're with the guys who put their necks out on the line to draft a guy. This whole organization has done a great job, from the Minor League staff, scouts to the Major League staff, helping develop Clay. To see Clay go out and do what he did was really special.
"You don't think about guys like Jim Robinson, the scout who signed him, or R.J. [Pawtucket manager Ron Johnson] and how those guys are probably grinning ear to ear, as they should be," Francona added. "This is pretty [special]. After the game, everybody's in there congratulating him, and right in the middle of it is Jason McLeod, Theo and Jed. That's pretty exciting to see."
Mike Petraglia is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.