NEW YORK -- In the 2013 World Series, Craig Breslow was called in from the Red Sox's bullpen to work the seventh inning of Games 2, 3 and 4. They were three brief and adventurous appearances, his standard role, and for the left-hander, it all led to a champagne celebration followed by a wedding to his fiancee, Kelly, 11 days later.
Those were the days.
Now Breslow is back, with a clean shave and a clean seventh inning to build on. He returned to the mound in a Major League game for the first time in Thursday's series opener in New York, and this time it was a 1-2-3 appearance in relief of Clay Buchholz.
"It was great," Breslow said on Friday during a midday visit to the MLB.com studios in Manhattan, where he had just participated with fans in the Edward Jones Chatting Cage. "Obviously, I was anxious to get out there. I was excited, and I feel like now that I've got that first outing under my belt, I can start to think about baseball, about executing pitches, and not worry about how I feel, my health, what's going to happen when I get out there.
"I feel like I've got a place to contribute and a role on this team, and it was difficult to watch the first seven or eight games without being able to help. But this is certainly where I feel like I belong. I'd like to think that my teammates are happy to have me back."
Breslow, who had been out with a mild shoulder strain, took over to start the seventh after a reasonably effective outing by Buchholz, despite the eventual 4-1 loss. Breslow and Chris Capuano (eighth) each pitched one-two-three innings.
In the seventh, Breslow threw two 86-mph fastballs and an 83-mph slider to Kelly Johnson, inducing a groundout to second. Then he got his first look at Yangervis Solarte, starting the hot-starting third baseman with an 84-mph slider for a called strike, then got him to fly out to left on a 77-mph change. That brought up another rookie, Dean Anna, who had homered off Buchholz on a split in his previous at-bat.
Breslow mixed fastballs and sliders, all in the 80s, and on the seventh pitch, Anna went down on an 84-mph slider with a flyout to center. A perfect start for a reliable cog in Boston's bullpen.
"I felt good. I felt like I was able to command the ball fairly well," Breslow said. "I definitely have some baseball strides to make, but this was a very good starting point."
Manager John Farrell appreciates having his crafty reliever back.
"Yeah, a clean inning, a quick inning," Farrell said. "The more we get him in the flow of things and appearances, he'll continue to gain arm strength. But as we've seen before, he threw a lot of strikes and multiple types of pitches for strikes."
Breslow agreed, saying, "Mostly developing arm strength. Kind of starting to hone in on rhythm and tempo and just being able to think about execution. I think any time you are overcoming an injury -- which wasn't necessarily the case, but just kind of coming along slowly, and thinking about, 'How does my elbow feel, how does my shoulder feel, how does my body feel?' -- you don't really spend your attention on baseball measures. But getting out there and getting an inning under my belt, I feel like now I can think about my performances in baseball terms.
"Am I commanding the ball? Am I getting the action on my pitches? You know, as opposed to [feeling] like I've got a problem going on somewhere."
Breslow had never faced Anna, who went to the rival Yankees from the Padres organization.
"You know, it's tough when you don't have a track record with someone," Breslow said. "There's not really a lot of data to lean on. ... I know [Anna] has the ability to hit the ball out of the ballpark -- that was the take-home message from what I had seen his previous at-bats. So I felt like if I could keep the ball moving away from him and mitigate the right-field line and how close that is, I felt like that was the safest thing."
Craig and Kelly Breslow maintain an MLB.com PRO Blog called Play It Forward, where fans can read and hear what he had to say about 2013 and the events that shaped it for Boston and its baseball team. He said on Friday that it will be "a moment to remember" when April 21 rolls around -- the Boston Marathon and the annual Patriots' Day game, against Baltimore.
"It's going to be an incredible moment for the city of Boston, for New England and probably for the country," he said. "What happened last year was a horrific tragedy, but I think borne out of that was a tremendous sense of community, a sense of pride for the city of Boston, and I think that will probably be the feeling. There will absolutely be a moment to remember. But more than that, there will be just such an overwhelming outpouring of support; I think we are all looking forward to that."
Breslow -- a Yale grad who has put off med school for this career -- also is looking forward to his annual Sip Happens fund-raiser, on May 19, for his Strike 3 Foundation, benefiting children's cancer research and treatment. Last year's event at the Boston Children's Museum raised about $100,000, with teammates and local businesses involved. The foundation recently passed the $2 million mark in funds generated and has dispersed more than $1 million in grants.
"Strike 3 has brought people together for a number of years," he said. "I actually met my wife, Kelly, [the director of business operations] at one of our functions. She showed up to one of our networking events and started bidding on ... I think it was Red Sox-Yankees tickets. I thought to myself, 'Who is this attractive woman who waltzes into a bar one night and starts beating out all the businessmen in the room when it comes to bidding on baseball game tickets?'"
Then they went to a World Series, and then they got married.
"She hit the jackpot," Breslow joked.