CHICAGO -- Bobby Valentine thought that Franklin Morales could be an effective starting pitcher even though the lefty hadn't started a game in more than three years.
It's doubtful, however, that even his manager expected to get a start like the one Morales turned in Sunday night.
In his first start since coming to the Red Sox, Morales was brilliant in the Red Sox' 7-4 victory over the Chicago Cubs Sunday night, thought he didn't factor in the decision.
Morales allowed two runs on four hits in five innings, while fanning nine and walking no one. Of the two runs allowed by Morales, the second could have been prevented had Dustin Pedroia and Darnell McDonald not almost collided while converging on a pop fly to shallow right.
Though Morales has often struggled with his command in Boston, he threw 80 pitches, and a staggering 65 of them were strikes.
"We had a hunch that he could perform well in that situation," said Valentine, "and he proved our hunch correct. Those were five pretty good innings. And he had more, according to him. I'd like to give him a chance to do more next time."
Valentine liked what he saw of Morales in relief, but given the nature of the role, "he'd made a bad pitch and have to come out of the game. When he had some length, he always did a good job. When he had a full inning, he always completed it. He was throwing 95 mph at the beginning and at the end.''
Given a longer leash, Valentine thought, Morales could flourish. And in one start, he did.
"I felt pretty good the first couple of innings," said Morales. "I tried to get my confidence to make my pitches. After that, I tried to work ahead in the count. I wasn't thinking too much. I tried to let go with my fastball and use my pitches and stay consistent with my location."
Morales was also able to maintain his velocity throughout the night, seldom dipping below 94-95 mph despite this being his longest outing since 2009.
"I told (Valentine) I would let him know how I felt after every inning," said Morales. "With my confidence and my concentration, I felt strong in my mind."
Morales will presumably get another start next Saturday, with the benefit of an extra day's rest thanks to the off-day on Monday.
He became the first Red Sox starter to stirke out nine in an outing of five innings or less since Josh Beckett -- whose start he filled -- did so against Toronto on Aug. 28, 2009. He was also the first to accomplish that without issuing a walk since John Henry Johnson did so against Detroit on Aug. 7, 1974.