PEORIA, Ariz. – Erik Bedard pitched in a minor-league game Tuesday and worked his way into a spot in the Seattle Mariners’ rotation.
Where, precisely, will the veteran left-hander fit?
“It won’t be first or second, and it won’t be fifth,” pitching coach Carl Willis said.
If the season were to start this week, manager Eric Wedge likely would try to go right-left-right-left with his starters when possible, although that rotation could change.
Given that Felix Hernandez is the opening day starter and lefty Jason Vargas follows him, it’s likely the next two starters would be righty Doug Fister and then Bedard.
That fifth spot?
With veteran Nate Robertson sidelined by elbow surgery, there are four candidates, Willis said.
“It’s probably Michael Pineda, Luke French, David Pauley or Charlie Haeger,” Willis said.
That group runs a wide gamut.
Pineda is a rookie power pitcher, French a soft-tossing lefty, Pauley a right-handed command specialist and Haeger a right-handed knuckleballer.
A handful of scouts were on hand to watch Bedard pitch 3 innings against Mariners minor leaguers, throwing a spring-high 66 pitches, striking out six batters and hitting one.
Runs allowed? Two – both impressive home runs by first baseman-designated hitter Rich Poythress, who was in Single-A last year and drove in 130 runs in 123 games.
Jay Buhner, who is in camp for a few days working with minor league outfielders, watched both home runs. As Poythress rounded the bases after the second, Buhner yelled to Bedard: “Next time, walk him intentionally!”
Bedard laughed on the mound.
Two of the scouts on hand were asked about the Mariners’ rotation.
“If it’s Felix, Vargas and Bedard, that’s good,” one said. “I don’t think Fister is a major league starter – he’s got one good pitch, a sinker. I don’t know if the big kid (Pineda) is ready. I’d say you’ve got three reliable starters.”
And the other scout?
“You’ve got Cy Young (Hernandez) as your ace, and he’s a horse,” he said. “Vargas is a 3-4 guy in your rotation. Bedard hasn’t really been healthy since 2007. Fister is a No. 5, at best. That’s not much of a starting rotation. You might as well start Pineda – he won’t cost you as many games as Fister.”
That’s not precisely a glowing endorsement, but then men working for other teams rarely rave about pitchers on a team that lost 101 times last season.
Bottom line: The Mariners’ rotation is a question mark, no matter who the No. 5 starter turns out to be.
As for Bedard, he is no longer worried about the injuries and the surgeries that ended each of his first three seasons with Seattle. On Tuesday, he said he felt strong and healthy.
“It’s better than being hurt and trying to rehab,” Bedard said. “Spring training is always step by step. You throw 10-15 more pitches every start, and that’s basically what you try to work on. You don’t try to think too much ahead. You just do what you can as you progress.”
And the two home runs?
“The first pitch was up, the second wound up around the middle of the plate,” Bedard said. “But he hit them good.”
Afterward, in the clubhouse, Bedard asked Buhner what he thought of his game.
“You pitch around that one guy, you’ve got a hell of an outing,” Buhner said.
Yes, Bedard laughed again.
What’s next for Bedard?
“We’ll have him throw 80 pitches next time out, 90-95 pitches the start after that, and in his last spring start, back him off a little bit,” Willis said.
What’s pleased Willis most with Bedard?
“Having him in a good place. Pitching has put him in a good place mentally,” Willis said. “To this point, his spring has been everything we could have hoped. He’s felt good pitching, he’s felt normal on the days between starts. I’m excited with where he is.”
Former Mariners Buhner, Edgar Martinez and Dan Wilson are in camp working with minor league players. Martinez addressed the hitters Tuesday afternoon and, yes, he had their attention. ... Rehabbing catcher Miguel Olivo was in the dugout watching each of Bedard’s pitches. He’s walking without a limp. ... Though it was a scheduled off-day for the Mariners, the guest list at Bedard’s game was impressive: team president Chuck Armstrong, general manager Jack Zduriencik, Wedge, Willis and a handful of Zduriencik’s aides.
The Mariners host the Brewers in a 7:05 p.m. game that will be broadcast on 710-AM. Probable starting pitchers: Pineda vs. Yovani Gallardo.