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08/02/11 6:20 PM ET

Bedard excited to pitch in first pennant race

BOSTON -- Take one look at the Major League Baseball map and you realize that Erik Bedard's old home could not be any further from his new one. But the lefty feels like he's traveled even further than that in the standings, and that's what makes him most enthused about the move.

"Well, this is a great opportunity -- I jumped from last place to first place in a heartbeat," Bedard said. "It's fun. I'm just going to come here and do the best I can. Try to win ballgames and help the team win."

The biggest challenge for Bedard, at this point, is that he's still building back up after missing time with a sprained left knee. Under normal circumstances, Bedard would have been able to go on a Minor League rehab before returning.

But with the Mariners trying to trade him before Sunday's Trade Deadline, he was rushed back for a start on July 29, and was shelled by the Rays over 1 2/3 innings.

When the lefty makes his Boston debut on Thursday against the Indians, he will be limited to 75 to 80 pitches.

"We want to help get him where he can pitch like he can pitch," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "It might take a little while to do that. He had a 1 2/3-inning start under his belt. He had no rehab start. He might not be at peak efficiency yet. Fans and media might not be patient with him, but we will be."

From his time with the Orioles, Bedard became fond of Fenway Park.

"Well, it's my favorite park in the big leagues, so I'll do my best and, hopefully, we win a lot of games," Bedard said. "The atmosphere, the fans, it feels so close. It's just a nice ballpark. My first couple of years in the big leagues, we played here a lot, and I just loved it."

The one thing Bedard has never experienced in his career is pitching games late in a season that mattered. He didn't get that chance with the Orioles (2002-07) or Mariners (2008-11).

"It means the world," Bedard said. "You play this game to be in the playoffs and be in a World Series, and win a World Series. It's a great opportunity, and I'll do the best I can."

Because Bedard is on the quiet side, and talking to the media isn't one of his favorite parts of being a baseball player, there was some question of how he would handle the spotlight that is always present when you play for the Red Sox.

"Contrary to popular demand, I think he's excited to be here," Francona said. "He looks like he wants to pitch, and he has a lot to prove, and we're pretty excited. There's a lot of things to like about the way he pitches. He's had some issues physically. That's why we're going to try to protect him a little bit and try to make this thing work really well."

Bedard was asked about "pressure" a few times during his introductory press conference.

"I'm just coming in here to do what I can," Bedard said. "There's no sense in putting more pressure if that's not going to help. Sometimes, when you put more pressure [on yourself], you don't do as good. I'm just going to come here and do what I can and help this ball team win."

He will get his first direct opportunity at that on Thursday night, in front of the typical packed house at Fenway.

"Yeah, just have to get my pitch count up," Bedard said. "Last game, I threw 63, I think. This time, I'll probably go to 80 and then 100, and I'll be fine."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.