Erik Bedard has been, he admits, something of a 'mystery man' as a Seattle Mariner, a left-hander who was named the staff ace before he put the uniform on – and a man who didn't appear in a game after July 4.
The expectations were monumental. The Mariners had traded away five players, including outfielder Adam Jones, reliever George Sherrill and top pitching prospect Chris Tillman for Bedard.
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He started 15 games, went 6-4 with a 3.67 earned run average.
And when the injuries began, Bedard's season – and his career – came into question.
"To not be able to pitch, that's the most frustrating part," Bedard said Wedndsday. "To not be able to do what you love is hard, and now to have surgery and not know if I can come back or not.
"If I can't pitch, I guess it'll be time to find reality, find a 9-to-5 job in the real world.
"I love the game. If I'm not playing it I watch it. I'm one of the few guys I know who goes home in October and watches playoff games – that's how much I love this game."
That's not the image of Bedard that most fans have developed his season, but then they rarely got the chance to see him healthy, and he rarely spoke to the media.
"Fans don't know me? I kind of like being the mystery man," Bedard said. "I don't know how I'd explain this year to them, any way. I try not to put expectations on myself, I'd rather just go out and do my job. I just want to pitch."
Bedard started opening day, and though he didn't win, the team did. He developed inflammation in his left hip, skipped a start and then pitched April 8.
"I always felt Felix (Hernandez) should have been No. 1 in our rotation, that I should have been No. 2, and I told them that," Bedard said. "I went out when it was my turn.
"The start after I hurt my hip, I felt discomfort in my shoulder the last inning I pitched. I know exactly when I did it," Bedard said. "After that, it got worse and worse.
"I didn't say anything, like everybody else in the game."
Trainer Rick Griffin said Bedard never mentioned the pain until after his July 4 start. An MRI two weeks later, he said, showed a frayed labrum and a cyst in the shoulder.
"I stopped pitching when I couldn't handle the pain. After my last start, I couldn't lift my arm," Bedard said.
"We knew what it was after the MRI. Surgery was always an option, but you want it to be the last option. You're never 100 per cent sure what'll happen in surgery."
Team doctors, trainers and Bedard agreed to try rehabilitation as the first option, and Bedard began a long, slow climb back to throwing off the mound.
"He played long toss, then shortened the distance and increased the intensity," Griffin said. "He probably threw in the bullpen four or five times. For two months, Erik did everything we asked."
The problem was, Bedard didn't improve enough.
"We tried rehab, and it got better, but it never got good. The pain was less at times, but I always felt it.," Bedard said.
This week, the team and its medical staff agreed, and shoulder surgery has been scheduled for Sept. 26.
Why wasn't it done in July?
"Surgery on the labrum is the last option, not the first," Griffin said. "A lot of pitchers have labrum issues, and you might change their mechanics, move them from starting to relieving, try to strengthen it through rehab.
"When you do surgery, you don' know what you're going to find. MRI's give you an idea, but never the complete picture. With that kind of surgery, you're talking anywhere from six to 12 months of rehab before a pitcher can pitch again."
Best case scenario, Bedard might begin throwing late in spring training. He could miss the entire season.
Worst case scenario, the damage is career-ending.
"All I take out of this year is having met new teammates, and the fact that I didn't do badly when I did pitch," Bedard said. "I've never been through anything like this in my life."