While the eyes of many in New England will be on Tim Wakefield Friday night as he goes for a major milestone, those in the Red Sox front office will be fixed on the efforts of another pitcher some 2,500 miles away.
If rumors and speculation mean anything, then so much of what is being said about Boston’s interest in Erik Bedard would suggest that Friday night in Seattle is huge.
Bedard will be returning from the disabled list to pitch against Tampa Bay in his first start in over a month. The oft-injured lefty is reportedly high on the Red Sox' list of potential fill-in starters as the club deals with uncertainty over Clay Buchholz's back and inconsistency on the back end of the rotation.
When general manager Theo Epstein and his crew watch Bedard, they will be looking for two things. One, does he have any lingering issues related to his sprained left knee? Two, does he look anything like the pitcher he was when he went on the DL.
If the answer to the first question is "no" and the answer to the second is "yes," it might be difficult for the Red Sox to not pull the trigger on any proposed move. Bedard was 4-2 with a 1.77 ERA in 11 starts prior to the injury, looking very much like the guy that once dominated as a member of the Baltimore Orioles.
If Boston makes such a move, it will be doing so fully aware that while Bedard has shown flashes of that old dominance, he is no sure thing. Injuries wiped out the end of 2007, much of 2008 and 2009 and all of 2010. The DL stint this year was just the continuation of a wild run of physical problems. Also, he has had several seasons in which his numbers have fallen off in the second half. Some of that was early in his career, when he was still finding himself, or late, when he was struggling through injuries, but it is worth mentioning that he is just 8-15 with a 4.51 ERA from Aug. 1 on, the time period during which the Red Sox would have him.
Much of that is ancient history, and not necessarily related to Boston's quest for an insurance policy for Buchholz. But to get to the point where the Sox can pull the trigger, they will have to know that the injury is ancient history, too.