Haggerty: Lackey or Bedard? No. 3 spot open

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Haggerty: Lackey or Bedard? No. 3 spot open

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs

SEATTLE The audition process has begun for the No. 3 Red Sox starter role once the seemingly inevitable postseason berth arises, and its a two horse race.

The to be determined role is which one will fill in behind the unquestioned No. 1 and No. 2 starters in Josh Beckett and Jon Lester once the playoff bell rings, and its between veteran right-hander John Lackey and newly acquired lefty Erik Bedard.

While its true the Red Sox brought in Bedard from Seattle to essentially replace their missing No. 3 starter in Clay Buchholz and admitted that the strikeout-happy lefty was eerily similar stats-wise to Buchholz prior to his back injury there are pretty good arguments to be made for each pitcher.

The idea that Lackey might step into a slot ahead of Bedard in Bostons playoff rotation might have been preposterous a few months ago, but the big lug from Texas has finally hit his stride after hitting rock bottom with the Sox earlier this season.

Lackey is 6-0 with a 3.92 ERA in seven starts since July 7. Hes tied with Lester for the team lead with 11 wins this season and hes finished at least six full innings in five out of those seven outings with the Sox.

Lackey has clearly quelled the vicious boos at Fenway Park and turned things around despite his 6.13 ERA this season, and theres a strong argument to be made for the rightys candidacy if he can maintain his current pace since the beginning of July.

It also doesnt hurt that Lackey has appeared in 14 playoff games, won a World Series Trophy and put up a 3.14 ERA in nearly 80 playoff innings with the Angels including a gem of a game against the Red Sox at Fenway Park that showed exactly the kind of chutzpah and big game ability still lurking in that 6-foot-5 body.

Hes been great, man," David Ortiz said. "Hes just a competitor. Hes been having a tough time. Not many people know what hes been through in his mind when hes out there. Hes been dealing with so many things at once. You can see that he wants to have some good results. He tries hard and he wants to compete. He likes the competition. A guy like that, Ill take him on my team anytime.
Bedard, on the other hand, is the ultimate wild card.

He has all the talent in the world, has racked up some pretty good strikeout numbers over the years and should be fresh for the playoffs after missing a lot of time with shoulder problems over the last couple of seasons. But there are some red flags that go along with Bedard despite the good ERA and solid strikeout-to-walk ratios.

Theres the simple fact that Bedard has never pitched a meaningful game for either the Baltimore Orioles or Seattle Mariners in the heat of a pennant chase, and has never had even a sniff of the playoffs. Bedard has made 159 career stars in the Major Leagues and has thrown 923 13 innings in Baltimore and Seattle, but hes never gained entry to the postseason and never pitched with that kind of pressure on his back.

The 32-year-old also will never be a big friend to the bullpen given that hes tossed one complete game in nearly 1000 career innings as a starting pitcher, and routinely racks up high pitch counts while racking up those beloved strikeouts.

Its not all bad for Bedard either, though.

Just as Lackey has really begun to rebuild the confidence that the Sox coaching staff has in him, Bedard will be afford that opportunity over the next months with the playoffs riding on the line. The Canadian southpaw will be pitching in some big games with consequences on the line, and hell be able to show exactly what kind of stuff hes made of as a potential big game pitcher.

Theres also the sheer fact that Bedards free agency value will hinge largely on what he can do in the national spotlight over the next few months, and theres an incredible incentive for the southpaw to peak in the playoffs.

Theres still an outside chance that Buchholz could be back once the playoffs begin if his back cooperates, but it looks more and more like it will be a Lackey or Bedard choice for Francona and his coaching staff.

There are pros and cons to each pitcher, and the Sox will need both to get through a successful postseason run. But the audition process for the No. 3 starter begins anew this week when both hurlers take the mound against the Tampa Bay Rays at Fenway Park with a mandate to snap the team out of its August doldrums.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs.

Quotes, notes and stars: Porcello has ability to adjust

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Quotes, notes and stars: Porcello has ability to adjust

Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox' 8-0 win over the Yankees:

QUOTES:

"He threw all four pitches tonight for strikes, but most importantly, (he's shown) the ability to make adjustments from pitch-to-pitch. If he gets out of whack or misses with a pitch, he's right back in the strike zone.'' - John Farrell on Rick Porcello.

"You look back at the first month and I think we've gained a lot of trust in each other up and down the lineup. That to me is the strongest attribute right now on this team.'' - Farrell on the Red Sox after one month of play.

"Pretty similar. I'm getting a lot of timely hits, and it's helping the team.'' - Jackie Bradley Jr., asked if this last week is similar to the hot streak he enjoyed last August.

"I'm comfortable. I'm in a good place, mentally and physically. I worked really hard to get where I am now and I'm going to continue to work.'' – Bradley on his hot streak.

"Much better fastball command. I've been able to execute my sinker better and that's allowed me to get ahead of hitters and if I do fall behind, I've been able to come back.'' - Porcello on cutting his walk rate by more than half compared to this point a year ago.

NOTES:

* The shutout at Fenway was the first for the Red Sox against the Yankees since May 14, 2011.

* The eight-run margin was the biggest margin in a Red Sox shutout over the Yankees since Sept. 6, 2003 when they won 11-0 in New York.

* The four triples in April for Jackie Bradley Jr. are the most for a Red Sox hitter in that month since Jose Offerman in 1999.

* In his last nine games against the Yankees, Bradley is 14-for-31 (.452) with nine extra-base hits.

* Rick Porcello's 5-0 start to the season is the best run for a Red Sox starter since Josh Beckett was 7-0 in 2007.

* The Yankees have failed to homer in seven games this season; they're 0-7 in those games.

STARS:

1) Jackie Bradley Jr.

Bradley had three extra-base hits (two triples and a double) for eight total bases, and knocked in three runs.

2) Rick Porcello

The Red Sox starter tossed seven shutout innings and allowed only two baserunners into scoring position while issuing just one walk.

3) Mookie Betts

Betts had a double in the second and a single in the sixth, good for three RBI, a season high for him.

First impressions from Red Sox' 8-0 win over Yankees: Bradley on a tear

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First impressions from Red Sox' 8-0 win over Yankees: Bradley on a tear

First impressions from the Red Sox' 8-0 win over the Yankees:

* Rick Porcello doesn't seem like a weak link in the rotation now.

Porcello blanked the Yankees for seven innings and is now 5-0 with a 2.76 ERA for the season. For the fourth time in five outings, he pitched into the seventh innings.

The Yankees threatened only once - in the fifth, when they had runners at the corners and two out. But Porcello got Jacoby Ellsbury to ground out, stranding two and was never in trouble again.

Porcello's command is improved over a year ago. In his first five starts last year, covering 30 innings, he walked 10. This year, he's pitched 32 2/3 innings and issued just five walks.

* Jackie Bradley is swinging it like he did last August.

Bradley went on an extra-base tear late last summer, rocketing doubles, triples and homers for a stretch of a few weeks that was completely unexpected.

The last week has been like that stretch, with seven extra-base hits in the last seven games. He knocked in the first run of the night with a double to left, then delivered another in the sixth with a triple to the triangle and two more in the seventh with a triple into the right field corner.

In the two games against the Yankees, he's got four extra-base hits, a walk and five RBI.

* David Ortiz has started 20 games this season. He's knocked in 19 runs.

Ortiz added his second homer in as many nights, to go along with a single and walk.

It's doubtful that he's going to keep up his RBI-per-game pace, but when he's locked in the way he is now, he impacts virtually the entire lineup from the cleanup position.

* If you think Pablo Sandoval was bad, maybe you haven't been watching Chase Headley.

The Yankee third baseman was a free agent the same winter that Sandoval was and some argued that he would have been a better fit for the Sox than was Panda.

But 22 games into the 2016 season, Headley has yet to collect a single base hit and has an OPS of .405. He's hitting .153 and has virtually no range to speak of at third base.

* A lot has changed for Junichi Tazawa.

A year ago, Tazawa was overworked in the first half of the season. On Saturday night, he got an inning of work in the ninth in a blowout game because he hadn't pitched since last Sunday -- thanks to strong starting efforts from the rotation over the past two series.