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Bedard strikes positive tone

Lefty leaves his last start behind

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By Michael Vega
Globe Staff / August 5, 2011

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The largest Fenway Park crowd in the post-World War II era (38,477) came out to watch Erik Bedard make his Red Sox debut last night. The 32-year-old lefthander was thrown into the breach after he was acquired from Seattle just before Sunday’s non-waiver trade deadline.

So Bedard could not be blamed if he felt a little anxious before taking the mound against the Indians, in a game the Sox lost, 7-3.

“I was a little nervous in the first,’’ said Bedard, who took a no-decision after going five innings and allowing three runs on seven hits, throwing 70 pitches (49 for strikes) while striking out five and walking none. “But I just kept my composure and kept throwing strikes.’’

It was a vast improvement over his outing for the Mariners last Friday in Tampa, his first start since after spending nearly a month on the disabled list with a sprained left knee. Bedard lasted just 1 1/3 innings, allowing five runs on three hits and four walks, including three in a row in the second inning. He threw 57 pitches (28 for strikes) in his shortest start of the season.

“A little better,’’ Bedard said when asked to compare how he felt last night with Friday’s start. “I didn’t walk anybody and I was throwing a lot of strikes with my curveball and that was the biggest key.’’

Bedard was unable to hold a 2-0 lead last night, giving up a pair of runs in the second inning. The second run scored when he failed to cover first on Matt LaPorta’s infield hit that drew first baseman Adrian Gonzalez off the bag.

Bedard nonetheless felt he pitched better than the box score indicated.

“There was a little broken-bat hit and little bloops, but that’s part of the game, so you can’t change that,’’ he said. “So, yeah, in my mind, it was a solid start.’’

Sox manager Terry Francona agreed with his new pitcher.

“It’s hard to sit here after a loss and say we’re excited,’’ Francona said. “But I really thought he pitched pretty well. The runs he gave up, I thought his line was certainly worse than the way he pitched.’’

After allowing Carlos Santana’s RBI single in the third, which gave the Indians a 3-2 lead, Bedard retired the next seven batters, striking out the first three, before handing it over to Franklin Morales.

“I threw strikes and that was the most basic thing,’’ Bedard said. “Coming back and trying to get my pitch count up was the most important thing. Last time I went one inning and this time I went five, so it was a little more work than throwing 50-60 pitches.’’

Taking shape Jonathan Papelbon says he feels stronger than he has in his seven years with the Red Sox organization. And there is no comparison with how he’s feeling this month as opposed to last August.

“Oh, it’s night and day,’’ said the closer. “You can’t even compare it. I feel more in shape and better prepared, physically, on a nightly basis this year and I’m stronger this year than when I was in my early 20s.’’

Papelbon, 30, credits his improved condition to his work with strength and conditioning coach David Page, who customized a three-pronged regimen for Papelbon aimed at maintaining the work he did in the offseason.

“The biggest thing with him is that he’s been more consistent this year than any year in the past,’’ said Page, who has Papelbon in the weight room at least twice a week. “He’s communicating with me how he’s feeling and we try to match up his workout with his workload, and he’s just followed the program and been consistent all year with effort.

“He looks good and he feels good, and it’s going to help him the rest of this season.’’

Low Morales After throwing two scoreless frames with three strikeouts in Tuesday night’s 3-2 walkoff victory over the Indians, Morales absorbed his first loss with the Sox after giving up a go-ahead two-run homer to Santana in the sixth.

“He got behind in the count to [Travis] Hafner and gave up hard contact there,’’ Francona said, referring to a leadoff double. “He tried to get ahead of Santana on the first pitch and all of a sudden that’s the two runs. It happened in a hurry.

“At that point in the game, we’re feeling pretty good. After the outing he had the other day, he’s facing lefty-switch-lefty and we got behind in a hurry.’’

Treading water Francona expressed hope that J.D. Drew, on the disabled list since July 20 with a left shoulder impingement, would begin swinging a bat again in a few days. “He’s been working out like crazy on the treadmill and shagging balls and all that stuff,’’ said the manager, “but he’s not ready to start hitting yet.’’ . . . Reliever Bobby Jenks, on the DL since July 8 with left back tightness, played catch again yesterday. “He had a good day,’’ Francona said. “He was a little sore after yesterday, but today was another good day and we’ll see how he reacts tomorrow.’’ . . . Adrian Gonzalez extended his hitting streak to 14 games with his RBI double to left in the first inning . . . Although he pitched in relief, throwing 71 pitches over 2 2/3 innings, Andrew Miller might still make his scheduled start Monday at Minnesota. Francona said the team had discussed pushing Miller back a day if he worked last night, but that decision is on hold. Miller allowed two runs on four hits and two walks while striking out four . . . Indians pitcher Carlos Carrasco dropped the appeal of his six-game suspension for an incident vs. Kansas City last Friday when he threw at Billy Butler’s head after giving up a grand slam to Melky Cabrera. By appealing it initially, he was able to start Wednesday’s game against the Sox.

Michael Vega can be reached at vega@globe.com.

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