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August 17, 2007

Buchholz a man among boys

On the last day of Angelina College's 2005 preseason intrasquad series, Clay Buchholz made a brief but startling appearance.



He faced six teammates. All six struck out. Not one of them even fouled off a pitch.



"It was a man pitching to children that day," said Jeff Livin, his coach at the time.



At age 20, Buchholz was no more than a major league wannabee. But even then, Livin knew he had something special on his hands.



"Hands down, it was the most awe-inspiring thing I've ever seen," said Livin, who is now in his 13th season at Angelina, a junior college in southeast Texas. "Guys were speechless."



Today at 1 p.m., more than two years after that sublime outing, the 2005 first-round pick will make his first major league start when the Red Sox host the Angels in the first game of a day-night doubleheader.



"If he throws that good (today)," Livin said, "he may not give up a hit."



In 22 total minor league appearances this season, the 6-foot-3, 190-pound right-hander is 8-3 with a 2.15 ERA and 164 strikeouts in 117 combined innings at Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket. In 301/3 innings with the PawSox, he is 1-1 with a 3.26 ERA and 48 Ks.



After watching the Lumberton, Texas, native put up big numbers for the Roadrunners (12-1, 1.50 ERA, 129 Ks) in 2005, Livin is hardly surprised by the 23-year-old's recent success.



"It was painfully obvious that he was a little bit different than other guys," Livin said. "You don't see those kind of tools very often."



The same week he mowed down his Angelina teammates, Buchholz put his stuff on display against Alvin Community College. A Kansas City Royals scout was the lone MLB representative on hand.



"Clay hit 96 today," the scout told Livin. "Don't tell anybody."



Miffed, Livin replied: "Hell, I'm not going to quote your radar gun readings to anybody."



Soon word got out. Buchholz could be a star.



"As far as guys I've coached," Livin said. "he's head and shoulders above everybody else. It didn't really matter who he pitched against. He can do things at will."



Buchholz did experience a few bumps in the road, though.



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