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Wagner goes back-to-back for first time

10.02.09 at 11:54 pm ET
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It was just 15 pitches over two days, but the end result offered some postseason optimism.

After throwing eight pitches to get through the eighth inning, Thursday night, Billy Wagner needed seven pitches Friday night to strike out both batters he faced in the Red Sox’ 6-2 win over the Indians, at Fenway Park. The significance of the most recent outing was that it represented the first time this season Wagner has pitched in back-to-back days since coming back from Tommy John Surgery.

“I think it’s something you need to go through,” said Wagner, who hadn’t pitched on back-to-back days since July 23-24 2008. “I think it puts their mind at ease. I felt strong all along and they wanted to play it cautious. We have a deep bullpen and they didn’t want to sit there and feel like they needed to use me more than they needed to. This was just, I think, peace of mind.”

Did it offer the 38-year-old any sort of peace of mind?

“I’ve been doing it 15 years,” he said. “There isn’t nothing that gives me peace of mind when I’m out there.”

Wagner has had to go through some adjustments in his new role, but the reliever continues to fare well as a set-up man for closer Jonathan Papelbon. The lefty has registered  at least one strikeout in each of his last six outings and has struck out 22 batters in 13 2/3 innings since coming to the Red Sox.

“It’s good to be able to go out there and pitch,” Wagner said. “When your able to go out there and do well it’s just icing on the cake.”

Wagner wasn’t alone in coming away with encouragement, with Red Sox manager Terry Francona also expressing his satisfaction with the outing.

“He felt good. It worked out really well, we were fortunate,” Francona said. “When I went out to take him out, I said something about any hesitancy, and I meant when he was warming up, but he looked at me like I was crazy. He had just struck out two guys and both were about 98 (mph). But, no, it was good. He was short last night and he was short again tonight, so we were pretty fortunate to be able to do it without forcing the issue or going too far.

“We really didn’t feel the need to have to do it, but I think he only threw eight or nine pitches last night, probably the same tonight. It was probably beneficial to everybody, himself included. I think we thought he was going to be OK anyway. And with days off, things like that, the playoffs, and adrenaline, I think it’s more we are just trying to live up to our end of it, where we don’t overdue all the things we told him before he came here, or why he was coming here. Just trying to live up to that. He’s been good about communicating to us about how he’s felt.”

There is also something else that has impressed Francona about Wagner — the time it takes him to warm-up (or lack thereof).

“He’s actually been as quick as seven pitches. That’s incredible,” the Sox manager said. “That’s Mike Myer-esque. That amazes me. For him to do that still, I know he always used to do it, for him to do that still is a great sign that he’s OK. That phone rings in a hurry (to let Francona know Wagner is ready). The first time it did,m I called back because I didn’t believe it.”

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