Erik Bedard, whose two-year run in Seattle was marked by season-ending surgeries – and some questions about his toughness – appears close to an agreement to pitch for the Mariners again in 2010.
He couldn’t be happier about the possibility.
“I’d love to be back in Seattle,” the left-hander said Thursday.
Both MLB.com and Foxsports.com have reported the two sides are close to a one-year deal, and although the Mariners couldn’t comment – general manager Jack Zduriencik and his entire front-office staff are in the Dominican Republic – it’s clear Bedard has talked to the team.
Rehabilitating a surgically repaired shoulder this winter at home in Ontario, Canada – where the temperature Thursday was 16 degrees below zero, he said – Bedard has been throwing a baseball again for three weeks.
And he has been watching what the Mariners have been doing all winter.
“They’ve done a phenomenal job this offseason,” Bedard said. “Getting Cliff Lee? Man, with Felix (Hernandez) and Lee at the top of the rotation, how are you ever going to lose?”
Bedard would like to be right behind them in the Seattle rotation.
“I’d love it,” he said. “Put me down as No. 3-B because Ryan (Rowland-Smith) could be No. 3, he’s ready.”
The team has talked to Bedard about a return, but there’s no concrete offer in hand just yet, he said. And other teams have called, too.
“When you’re a free agent, teams call,” Bedard said. “Mostly, it’s just talk – they want to know where I am, how I’m doing. No one’s made a concrete offer.”
How close is Seattle to doing just that? Zduriencik and his staff are the Dominican Republic until Monday, looking over plans to build a baseball complex there.
Manager Don Wakamatsu wouldn’t comment on Bedard’s situation.
Zduriencik, however, has one rule regarding his roster – he never stops trying to improve it. A low-risk, high-reward signing of Bedard for $2 million or less in base salary would seem consistent with his philosophy of never having enough pitching.
Bedard will turn 31 next month, and in two seasons in Seattle after being acquired from Baltimore he made 30 starts, total. In them, he went 11-7 with a 3.24 earned-run average in 164 innings.
On schedule after his August surgery, Bedard thinks he’ll be pitching again in May.
“I don’t want to make that firm, it could be a few weeks later, and if I say May and it’s June 1, I don’t want people thinking there’s been a setback,” Bedard said. “I feel great, but it’s hard to put a timetable on coming back and be accurate.”
As much as anything, Bedard wants to be part of a rotation down the stretch in 2010 that includes Hernandez and Lee.
“You wouldn’t start with many two-game losing streaks,” Bedard said, laughing. “I’d say the pressure would be off the No. 3 starter with those two guys ahead of him. You’re talking two aces.”
The largest obstacle facing Bedard and the Mariners is his health, and his ability to maintain it through a full season.
In 2008 he was on the disabled list twice, didn’t pitch after July 4, and underwent shoulder surgery to remove a cyst. Last year, he was on the DL two more times and didn’t pitch after July 25. Surgery found a torn labrum and inflamed bursa sac in his left shoulder.
During a career that began in 1999, Bedard has gone 51-41 in 141 big-league starts – and been on the DL seven times. He’s had ligament-replacement surgery to rebuild his left elbow, strained his knee and pulled an oblique muscle.
Considered an ace in Baltimore, he pitched 196 innings in 2006 and won 15 games, both career highs, then bounced back in 2007 to go 13-5 with a 3.16 ERA over 182 innings.
After a tough season in Seattle for the entire team in 2008, when injuries, firings and player releases ended in 101 losses, Bedard appeared to enjoy himself with the Mariners in 2009.
“When I an go out there every fifth day and pitch, I’m happy,” he said. “I enjoyed the clubhouse last season, Don and the coaching staff. It was good being part of it all, until I got hurt. That atmosphere, and the team they’ve put together this winter? Who wouldn’t want to be part of that?”