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Theo Epstein: Erik Bedard ‘can go out and beat anybody’

07.31.11 at 8:25 pm ET
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CHICAGO — It came down to the wire, but the Red Sox were determined not to let the trade deadline pass without getting a deal done for a starting pitcher.

“We would not have been satisfied had we let the deadline pass without getting a starter,” Sox general manager Theo Epstein said.

And so, the Sox made a broad-based exploration of the market for starting pitchers. They checked in with the Rockies on Ubaldo Jimenez and the Dodgers on starter Hiroki Kuroda (before he invoked his no-trade clause to stop any deal that would have sent him to Boston), nearly completed a deal with the A’s to land starter Rich Harden (before the deal unraveled over medical concerns) and then, finally, zeroed in on Mariners hurler Erik Bedard as the deadline neared.

Bedard pitched poorly on Friday, allowing six runs in 1 1/3 innings in his return from a month spent on the disabled list due to a left knee strain. However, while he looked rusty with his command, he also appeared healthy, with his fastball velocity in the low-90s, consistent with what the Sox had seen while scouting him throughout the year, during which the left-hander had been quite effective.

And so, the Sox felt that based on what they’d seen from Bedard since spring training, he represented a good opportunity to bolster their rotation. He had a 4-7 record but with a 3.45 ERA in 16 starts with the Mariners this year, with 87 strikeouts and 30 walks in 91 1/3 innings. From what the Sox saw of him in May and June, the 32-year-old looked like a pitcher who, if healthy (not a fact to take for granted, given his injury history), can match up with anyone.

“[Bedard] really started to look like one of the better left-handed pitchers in the league again so we were certainly on him,” Epstein said of the scouting process that started in spring training in Arizona. “We scouted his first start back the other day in which he looked healthy. Rusty, certainly, but healthy. We thought, based on the looks from this year, his stuff was coming back, he was throwing well. He looks like someone who can really help us.

“We like the pitching that we have. We like the starting pitching that we have,” Epstein continued. “But there’€™s the health question mark with [Clay Buchholz], and we felt like adding another arm who, when he’€™s right, can go out and beat anybody, would be a really nice way to improve the club.

“We’€™re really glad not to get just any starting pitcher but to get somebody who’€™s capable of shutting down any lineup in the league when he’€™s right. He’€™s certainly capable of pitching big games for us down the stretch and somebody with enough talent to take the mound in the middle of the pennant race or in a playoff game if that opportunity presents itself.”

He has proven in the past that he can win while pitching in the American League East as a member of the Orioles for the first four full seasons of his career. In 2006 and 2007, he forged a combined 28-16 record and 3.47 ERA while striking out more than a batter an inning. That track record, Epstein suggested, represented a “one of the boxes that you try to check” in deciding whether to pursue a deal.

As for questions about whether Bedard’s personality will be a fit for both a big market and a pennant race — questions that gained volume when Bedard’s former GM, Jim Duquette, ripped the left-hander last week — Epstein said that the Sox were satisfied that Bedard will blend well into his new team.

“Maybe he lets his arm do the talking a little bit, which is fine with us,” Epstein said. “I think based on what we know about him, he’s going to fit in really well with his teammates and enjoy being a Red Sox in the middle of a pennant race. We’re looking forward to him joining this club.”

Read More: Erik Bedard, Theo Epstein,
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