Erik Bedard takes the mound tonight in search of his first win since June 7, 2009. In the four starts he's made this season, we've seen hints of Bedard being more than just an average starting pitcher. But he has yet to really put it all together in one start. He's had command issues with his fastball and curveball and he's also seen the velocity in four-seam fastball dip to around 89-90 fro 91-93 when he first pitched for the Mariners.
It may not seem like much, but those few ticks can make a big difference in terms of a hitter getting the full barrel on the ball or making weak contact.
Will it come back?
Mariners manager Eric Wedge isn't certain. He believes it will. But he doesn't know when.
"It varies by the man and situation," Wedge said. "The fact he was really out for awhile is significant. I think we saw the arm speed and the type of velocity and action we needed to see this spring. We’ve seen bits and pieces of it here early on, but it’s about being more consistent and being more comfortable out there on the mound and being able to repeat his delivery and pitch the way he’s capable of pitching."
With a few extra days of rest, maybe Bedard's fastball suddenly comes back tonight. Or it may be a few months from now.
"In regard to the timing of it, everybody is different," he said. "I’ve seen it all shapes and sizes, whether starters or relievers, different types of injuries and time being off, which I think is significant as anything. I do believe patience is rewarded. With a guy that has had success and shown us he feels good physically, knock on wood, hopefully we’ll see that.”
Bedard made his last start against the Tigers on April 20 and made it five innings, giving up three runs on five hits, while striking out two and walking five.
Here's his pitch stats from Baseball by Brooks.
Look, Bedard admitted that physically he may never be the same pitcher he was when the Mariners acquired him before 2008. After three years worth of shoulder surgeries and the time off, it's probably unfair to expect it. But can he be effective at this lower velocity? Yes. The cut fastball and the two-seam fastball he's using more, plus a better changeup could make him more than effective. He's getting outs right now without much command and feel.
"And that’s where I’m encouraged by it," Wedge said. "He’s still giving us a chance to win games. He’s still out there competing and making pitches and working through situations . Like we’ve said so many times, with each outing, he’s going through different things he needs to go through."
Bedard will face a right-handed heavy lineup tonight and right now the wind is gusting over 20 mph out to left field. That may not be ideal. Of the Tigers hitters, Jhonny Peralta has faced him the most, hitting 6-for-20 with ahomer and four RBI. Brandon Inge has had a fair amount of success with five hits in 10 at-bats against Bedard.
A few other notes ...
David Aardsma will get a couple days off and throw again on Friday for the Rainiers.
"I think he continues to settle in and feels good, but still needs more repetition," Wedge said. "He walked the first guy and then gave up a triple, but really pitched and got out of it from there. Obviously he had to work a little, which is a good sign. He had to really bear down, which is a good sign too. We just need to give him the time he needs to be more comfortable on the mound.”
Wedge was pleased with Franklin Gutierrez's progress as he tries to regain his strength from dealing with irritable bowel syndrome.
"He took some early BP and he looked good swinging,' Wedge said. "He’s been running around in the outfield. It’s about getting his energy level back and building up his stamina physically, and also getting the reps. He feels good, looks good. We’re still going day-by-day, but at least he’s out here every day. We haven’t had that yet."
But Wedge wouldn't put any sort of expectations on Gutierrez's recovery, not even a preliminary one.
“No, I can’t put a timetable on it right now," Wedge said. "What I’ve told myself is hopefully he can work every day on this road trip and lets see where we are when we get back home and go from there. But the first point is just for him to work every day."