The easiest way for Clay Buchholz to end all this spitball nonsense would have been to amble out to the mound last night at Fenway Park and do to the Minnesota Twins what he’s done to every other team he’s faced this season: turn them into quivering, awkward, in-over-their-heads bush-leaguers.

But that’s not what happened. The clubhouse leader in the American League Cy Young Award sweepstakes needed a whopping 36 pitches to get out of the first inning, during which he gave up a pair of doubles, a single and two walks. And two runs.

It was after the second walk that Red Sox pitching coach Juan Nieves paid a visit to the mound, after which Buchholz struck out the next two batters to get out of the inning.

Surely there were wise guys at bars all across Boston making cracks that Nieves went to the hill to deliver the pine tar Buchholz had left in the bullpen while warming up.

Cheap shot? That’s the entire point: Until Buchholz goes out and mows down opposing batters the way he did before eagle-eyed Toronto Blue Jays analysts Dirk Hayhurst and Jack Morris got the ball rolling last week on ball-doctoring, be prepared for more whispers, more accusations, more snide remarks.

Buchholz wound up working six innings in a game the Red Sox eventually won, 6-5, in 11 innings. He gave up four earned runs, and the only walks he allowed were the two in the first inning.