First, a qualifier.

Clay Buchholz had a terrible spring training in 2010. He had a 6.75 earned run average over 17.1 innings and Terry Francona had to answer a few questions about whether the righthander deserved a place in the rotation.

But Buchholz was terrific once the season started, going 17-7 with a 2.33 ERA and making the All-Star team.

So Red Sox fans shouldn't get too carried away with how well Buchholz has pitched this spring.

But he sure has looked good.

Buchholz allowed one run over 5.1 innings against the Pirates today, twice leaving runners stranded in scoring position. His numbers in spring training are eye-popping: 18.2 IP, 11 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 5 BB 16 K.

An 0.96 ERA and an 0.86 WHIP would have any pitcher smiling, even if the games don't count.

"It feels good to feel good, really," Buchholz said. "All the pitches are coming along. ... Things are rolling along right now."

Buchholz, 28, has been around enough not to get too excited. All these Grapefruit League games have done is give him some confidence.

"It's definitely a little different from the last couple of springs," he said. "It's good to see the work going into it is paying off a little bit."

Buchholz is lined up to start April 3 against the Yankees in New York and then on April 8 against the Orioles in the home opener at Fenway Park.