BRADENTON, Fla. -- The shoulder feels strong, and so does the two-seam fastball.
Clay Buchholz came out of his second Spring Training start with some encouraging returns on Sunday, and he said he definitely made progress from his spring debut. Buchholz threw three hitless innings against the Pirates at McKechnie Field and seemed pleased with his outing.
"I definitely felt a little bit better than I did last time out," Buchholz said during Boston's 4-1 victory over Pittsburgh. "I was able to locate the two-seamer the first time in the first and second inning. I felt like I needed to work on a couple more pitches, but I felt good. I felt the direction and the movement and everything was there. I didn't ever try to overthrow. That's where I need to be, right now."
Buchholz was untouchable last spring, when he notched a 0.79 ERA in six starts during the Grapefruit League season. His momentum carried over to the 2013 campaign. Buchholz was 9-0 with a 1.71 ERA in his first 12 starts of the season, but wound up missing three months with a case of bursitis in his pitching shoulder.
The right-hander was able to come back and pitch in September, as well as take the ball during the postseason. He said on Sunday that he feels much as he did last Spring Training.
"I feel as fresh as I was then," said Buchholz of his shoulder. "Nothing awkward feeling or anything. I don't feel like I'm compensating for anything. I feel pretty right at home, right now."
Buchholz walked one batter and struck out one batter on Sunday, and he stymied Pittsburgh's bats -- despite not really having command of his entire arsenal. Boston catcher David Ross said that Buchholz didn't have the best command of his offspeed stuff, but still found a way to make it work.
"He's not as sharp as I'm sure he'd like to be yet. But that was a good outing for the stuff he had," said Ross. "The breaking ball was good, [though we] didn't use it much. The changeup, we didn't use at all today. ... He's a veteran pitcher and understands how to use the sinker. For some of the young guys, that's the main thing you've got to learn. Fastball command makes everything else better."
Buchholz threw 40 pitches in the bullpen before his 29-pitch outing, and he said it was a good workout for this point in the spring.
"Physically, he's responded to the gradual ramping up that we're doing with him," said manager John Farrell. "He's in a good place. Today was a very good work day for him."
The 29-year-old threw a few curves in the third inning, but he said the day was more or less about his two-seam fastball.
"I missed over the plate a couple times with it," said Buchholz, "but I got some late-contact, ground-ball outs.
"That's the one pitch I throw a lot of. I basically rely on it to get the ground-ball outs in those situations and early contact in the count. If you're throwing strikes, they're going to be swinging."
Carp not worried about role with Red Sox
BRADENTON, Fla. -- The last thing Mike Carp wants to do is analyze his Spring Training statistics. Carp, who thrived in a part-time role with the Red Sox last season, came into Sunday's game batting just .133 for the Grapefruit League season and dismissed any talk about a slow spring start.
"When the switch flips, the season starts," said Carp, who homered in Boston's 4-1 win over the Pirates. "Obviously, it's just about preparation, right now. It's about getting your eyes working, getting your body working and trying to figure out any keys that you need to get going for the season."
Carp has experience in this department. The former ninth-round Draft pick batted just .178 during Spring Training last year, and then he put together the best season of his brief career. Carp batted .296 with nine home runs in 86 games last year, establishing himself as a key bench cog for Boston.
Usually, when a young player has a big year, he can expect an expanded role. But not when he is a member of the World Series champions. Carp, who plays first base and both corner-outfield slots, is blocked from gaining a greater share of at-bats by star-caliber players like David Ortiz and Mike Napoli.
Carp, to his credit, is more concerned about winning again than he is in starting elsewhere.
"They found plenty of at-bats for me last year -- and it worked," Carp said. "Hopefully, they can find a little more this year, but we're trying to win. The whole goal is to go out and win a world championship -- and we did that last year. The formula for success is there. We'll try to keep on a winning track, and when I get the opportunity to be in a game, I'm going to do everything I can to help the team win that day."
"He did a great job -- not only accepting the role, but staying ready and performing as good as we could've hoped," added manager John Farrell about Carp's results in '13. "He came up with a number of big hits. We've grown accustomed to his and other players' versatility. He and [Daniel] Nava [are] a couple guys who can go to different positions. We see him in the same role [this year]."
Carp, who was purchased from the Seattle Mariners last February, has never had 300 at-bats in a season. He set a career best with 290 at-bats in 2011, and last year was the only other season in which he's had more than 200 at-bats in the big leagues. Carp spent the entire 2013 campaign with the Red Sox, and he said on Sunday that he doesn't spend time thinking about starting somewhere else.
"It's an unrealistic thing to think about. The whole goal is to play every day -- whether it comes this year or next year," Carp said. "I'd be waiting with arms wide open for 500 at-bats. But if my role doesn't permit that this year, that's what it is. I can only control what I can control and do the best I can."
Brentz continues to sizzle at the plate
BRADENTON, Fla. -- That big hitter at the top of Boston's spring leaderboard isn't David Ortiz. Bryce Brentz went into Sunday's game against Pittsburgh leading the Red Sox in hits (six), home runs (three) and RBIs (six), and he reached base three times in Boston's 4-1 win over the Pirates.
Brentz singled twice and drew a walk, and he scored one of Boston's four runs. Brentz, the 36th overall selection in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, went into Sunday's game with an .833 slugging percentage, and manager John Farrell seems thrilled with the outfielder's performance.
"He's been very impressive. We all recognize that he's got well above-average power," Farrell said of Brentz, who played at Triple-A Pawtucket last year. "[On Saturday] in Sarasota, when he got the two-strike base hit the other way, that was probably as encouraging as any ball that he's squared up all spring. It's a matter of managing the count and putting a two-strike approach together when it's called for."
Brentz batted .264 with 17 home runs and 56 RBIs last year for Pawtucket, and Farrell said that the 25-year-old is equally comfortable in left and right field. Brentz, just 25 years old, is a career .273 hitter in the Minors, and he's managed to post a double-digit homer total in three consecutive seasons.
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.