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Begging for a strong start

<p>The bright spots have been as hard to come by as 1-2-3 innings for the Red Sox pitching staff so far this season.</p>

The bright spots have been as hard to come by as 1-2-3 innings for the Red Sox pitching staff so far this season.


The J. Crew — Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and John Lackey — are all sporting ERAs on the wrong side of 5.00. Only Clay Buchholz, who started last night’s game against the Blue Jays in Toronto, was below a 3.00.


Manager Terry Francona was practically begging before last night’s game that Buchholz deliver the same kind of performance against the Blue Jays he had in bunches last season, when he went 3-1 with a 3.60 ERA in four starts, averaging better than six innings per start.


That’s because, just like the starters, the Red Sox bullpen has been under siege through 20 games. Thanks to Josh Beckett’s failure to get out of the third inning Monday, an already overused bullpen was stretched thin again, leaving Jonathan Papelbon, Daniel Bard and Hideki Okajima on the endangered list.


But through all the carnage in Monday’s 13-12 victory emerged a hopeful sign for the future. After struggling mightily at the end of last season and not exactly lighting it up to open 2010, Manny Delcarmen emerged the hero, pitching two scoreless innings to keep the Blue Jays at bay.


For Delcarmen, it was the second strong outing in as many days. After walking six batters and striking out one over his previous five appearances, Delcarmen has not allowed a walk and struck out two over his past 2.2 innings.


“He’s getting better,” veteran catcher Jason Varitek said. “I still think Manny’s got a gear to go to … as far as executing his pitches. He’s definitely much stronger than he was in spring and right at the end of spring.”

 
 
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