In the end, they may have wound up with a better solution.
While both Harden and newly acquired Erik Bedard have their question marks, health being the big one, Bedard has the most recent display of success. Although he struggled in his return from the disabled list Friday night against Tampa Bay, the lefty has been very good since April, going 4-2 with a 1.77 ERA in one stretch of 11 starts.
Boston general manager Theo Epstein said that since the spring, the team's evaluators have seen Bedard's stuff return, with that run of dominance serving as just one example.
"He's really started to look like one of the better left-handers in the league again," Epstein said.
Harden, meanwhile, had made just 10 total starts since last June. There's a good chance he could have done the job, but Bedard may be able to do it better, for a handful of reasons.
Bedard, 32, is no stranger to the rigors of the American League East — he shined for two years in Baltimore before the injuries began to become an issue. If he didn't get an idea of what Fenway is like and how it can come alive when you get a big strikeout to end an inning, he simply wasn't paying attention.
Epstein knows he was.
"It's been a couple of years since he's been here, but he knows some of the hitters that remain here, knows the ballparks, knows the pressure situations, is familiar with the pressure situations that come from pitching in the AL East," Epstein said. "That certainly is something that weighed in his favor."
Additionally, Bedard is someone the Red Sox can bank on to go deep into games. While Harden rarely gets through any more than six, Bedard has gone at least seven in six of his 11 starts before Friday's stinker.
For what it's worth, Epstein said Bedard appeared perfectly healthy Friday but was just rusty — a product of his month off.
The only other knock on Bedard is that he is not a fan of big markets and media pressure, something he certainly will face in Boston. If he pitches anything like he has for Seattle in the past two months, though, that won't be an issue.
This is a town that embraces athletes who perform, and it's rare when a performing athlete does not embrace Fenway and all it has to offer. Boston hopes that embrace takes place between now and October, because Bedard, if he maintains the form he has shown in 2011, is likely the Sox' No. 3 starter in the postseason.
Being forced to replace Buchholz, perhaps for the duration of the season, is not how the team wanted to approach the trade deadline. But the confidence in Bedard, who owns a 3.69 ERA in 160 career games, may make it easy for Epstein to move past that issue.
"We're really glad not to just get a starting pitcher, but to get someone that is capable of shutting down any lineup in the league when he's right, capable of pitching big games for us down the stretch and somebody with enough talent to take the mound in the middle of a pennant race or in a playoff game, if that opportunity presents itself," Epstein added.
Seattle brought back Bedard this year on an incentive-laden deal, hoping to coax out some of the old magic after the lefty missed an entire season. With a dominant run through May and June, it seems to have worked.
Now, Boston can reap the rewards, perhaps into October.
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