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Bedard glad to be moving up

By Julian Benbow
Globe Staff / August 3, 2011

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Erik Bedard watched the clock Sunday, the day of baseball’s non-waiver trade deadline, waiting to hear what was in store for him.

He had pitched 1 2/3 innings two days earlier, his last-place Mariners showing off their tradeable commodity to a collection of scouts/shoppers. He was fresh off the disabled list and hadn’t pitched in more than a month.

The Tampa Bay Rays were unsympathetic, though, tagging him for five runs. He threw all of 57 pitches. He walked four batters. It was the 18th loss in 19 games for the Mariners.

That was Bedard’s farewell to Seattle. The only question was where he’d be shipped.

“I was looking at the clock to see pretty much where I was going, and 30 seconds before the clock ended, I got traded,’’ said the lefthander.

The Red Sox dealt four prospects to the Mariners to bring in Bedard as insurance for the rotation, with Clay Buchholz’s status uncertain and John Lackey’s up-and-down performances. And just like that, Bedard went from one of the worst situations in all of baseball to a comparative utopia, joining a first-place team in the thick of a pennant chase for the first time in his seven-year career.

“This is a great opportunity, when I jump from last place to first place in a heartbeat,’’ he said. “It’s fun. I’m just going to come here and do the best I can, try to win ballgames and help the team win.’’

Bedard will make his Sox debut tomorrow, in the series finale against the Indians. After missing more than a month because of a sprained left knee, he said he feels healthy. Sox manager Terry Francona, though, will be patient with Bedard in the early stages. He will hold Bedard to 75-80 pitches.

“We understand with him we’re going to have to be a little bit slow here,’’ Francona said. “He pitched a game - probably for obvious reasons - probably before he was ready to pitch. He should have probably been on rehab.

“Now, we all understand why. I’m glad he did. But he’ll be on a pitch limit Thursday and we’re going to try to ramp him up to the point where . . . we obviously need to win games, but we also need to look at the big picture where we want him to be at his best coming in September and hopefully moving forward.

“We want to help get him where he can pitch where he can pitch, and it might take a little while for him to do that. He’s got 1 2/3 innings starting under his belt. He’s got no rehab starts. So he might not be at peak efficiency yet. So fans and media might not be patient with him. We will be.’’

Concern about Buchholz, who was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his lower back, led the Sox to trade for Bedard. Yesterday they said Buchholz could return by the postseason or even around the end of the regular season, but even if that happens, Francona said, having too much pitching would be a good problem.

“Pitching is important,’’ said the manager. “That’s why we picked up Erik. The one way we know that you can get your season derailed is by not having enough pitching. And there have been some question marks in some of our performances.

“If we end up having too much pitching and somebody’s a little discontent with their role, good. That’s not the worst thing.’’

Bedard, 32, who pitched for five years in the AL East with the Orioles, said Fenway Park is his favorite venue. Lifetime, he is 2-3 in six starts with a 6.99 ERA at the Fens, but he said, “The atmosphere, the fans, it feels so close. It’s just a nice ballpark.’’

He never has pitched in a postseason game, but he may well be counted on in October to take the mound on one of the game’s biggest stages.

“It means the world,’’ he said. “You play this game to be in a playoff, to play in a World Series and win a World Series. So it’s a great opportunity and I’m going to do the best I can.’’

Julian Benbow can be reached at jbenbow@globe.com.

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