BOSTON — Erik Bedard wasn't particularly dazzling on Thursday night. He wasn't lights out, he didn't overpower hitters and he didn't even factor into the decision. But he gave manager Terry Francona and Co. plenty to be pleased about, despite the Red Sox falling to the Indians, 7-3.
Bedard threw 70 pitches (49 for strikes) through five innings, allowing three runs on seven hits while striking out five. It's not exactly a pitching line that's going to jump off the page or have Sox fans drooling, but given the circumstances, the team couldn't have asked for more.
"I thought his line was certainly worse than the way he pitched," Francona said. "I really thought he professionally pitched the game like we've seen — cuts his fastball, good feel for his breaking ball, nice changeup, holds runners, throws a bunch of strikes. And I think that'll all continue to improve as he gets some innings under his belt"
After all, Bedard had only thrown 1 1/3 innings since June 27. He was activated off the disabled list by the Seattle Mariners last Friday (July 29) and was immediately thrown into the fire.
Seemingly trying to showcase the coveted lefty before the non-waiver trade deadline, the Mariners elected to have Bedard pitch without even making a minor league rehab start. As one might expect, the results weren't pretty. Bedard allowed five earned runs and walked four in the short outing, as the Mariners fell to the Tampa Bay Rays 8-0.
While pretty much anything would have been a step in the right direction, Bedard's effectiveness on Thursday was more indicative of the way he's pitched throughout his major league career, especially when you consider how the runs were scored.
"There were broken bat hits and little bloops, but that's part of the game," Bedard said. "You can't change that, but in my mind, yeah, it was a solid start."
After the Sox jumped out 2-0 in the first, Cleveland's first run came on a slow roller from Indians first baseman Matt LaPorta. It got by Bedard, and both Dustin Pedroia and Adrian Gonzalez tried to make a play on the ball, which left first base uncovered and allowed Carlos Santana to score the Indians' first run.
"Me and Adrian have to communicate better," Pedroia said of the play. "I called it, but I didn't yell it very loud, which is not like me because I'm kind of a loud guy. So I'll yell louder next time."
The second earned run came on an RBI groundout by the next batter, Austin Kearns, and the third run came with two outs in the third inning, after Bedard had come a split-second away from inducing an inning-ending double play.
Hits are hits, and runs are runs. But for a pitcher who's now made only 47 starts since the beginning of 2008 — which includes missing all of 2010 — it's a positive amongst an otherwise uneventful and disappointing loss for the Sox.
Jason Varitek, called upon to catch Bedard's debut, said that he looked strong throughout all five innings, something that even prompted Terry Francona to consider leaving him in for a sixth.
With Bedard sitting at the 70-pitch mark and having been expected to throw 75-80 for the night, Francona said that he considered sending his starter back out for another inning. Ultimately, though, after talking with Bedard, Francona decided to hand the ball over the bullpen, a decision that proved costly given how ineffective it pitched through the final four innings.
"If he goes out and we try to get through the third hitter and, it's all of a sudden we got a bunch of foul balls and everything, we're probably pushing it," Francona said of his decision to lift Bedard after five innings.
Bedard said after the game that it was like making his first start of the season again. He said that he was especially pleased with his ability to throw his curveball for strikes — something he didn't do against the Rays last Friday.
Bedard said that he couldn't even remember the last time he pitched at Fenway Park — which was in 2008 for all of you scoring at home. And with a Red Sox loss and a five-inning no-decision, this start might not stand out before long either.
But with bigger games on the horizon down the stretch, this wasn't expected to be his biggest or most important outing. Some of the things that he was able to do on Thursday night, though, indicate that when the time does come, he might just be what the Red Sox need.