PEORIA, Ariz. - Perhaps it is now realistic to expect Erik Bedard to pitch in a major league game this season.
The talented left-hander has battled shoulder problems for the past three seasons, and he hasn’t pitched for the Seattle Mariners since July 25, 2009.
But with each Cactus League start, it’s becoming apparent that Bedard will be in the Mariners’ rotation come opening day.
Bedard had his third straight pain-free outing of the spring Thursday, allowing one run on three hits in 22/3 innings. He struck out two and walked one.
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“He threw the ball well again today,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “He was very consistent. The delivery was clean, and he was making the baseball do what he wanted to do.”
Of course, Bedard believed he could have pitched better.
“It wasn’t as good as the other (appearances),” he said. “There were little command inconsistencies. But that is what spring training is for.”
But command and the numbers he puts up are secondary because Bedard feels no pain in the surgically repaired shoulder.
“The arm feels really good,” he said. “Results are second, arm is first. If it feels good, it is a positive. Hopefully it continues like this, and right now, it is.”
How good? Like as good as he felt before any of the shoulder troubles sidelined him.
“I feel like that,” he said. “We will see during the season, but right now, health-wise and stuff-wise, I feel like before.”
Wedge remembers how good Bedard was before the injuries. He remembers the Bedard that finished 13-5 with a 3.16 ERA for Baltimore in 2007.
“He was one of the best left-handers in the league when he was with Baltimore,” Wedge said.
Since he’s been with the Mariners, he has made only 30 starts in three injury-plagued seasons, posting an 11-7 record – two seasons were cut short because of shoulder surgeries, and in 2010 he never took the mound in a major league game as he was shut down for a third surgery.
Now he feels healthy. Bedard said he wouldn’t even think about the shoulder if it weren’t for the questions about it.
“It doesn’t even cross my mind,” he said.
If Bedard can be even a shadow of his former self, it would benefit a Mariners rotation that still has some question marks. Felix Hernandez sits atop the rotation, and Jason Vargas and Doug Fister likely have spots thanks to their performances last year. That leaves two openings.
If Bedard can fill one, it would allow the Mariners to choose from lefties Nate Robertson and Luke French, right-hander David Pauley and talented rookie Michael Pineda for the fifth spot.
Bedard isn’t about to start looking that far ahead. He’s being cautiously optimistic.
“It’s encouraging,” he said. “The more starts I get under my belt that I feel healthy is really good.”
Ryan Divish: 253-597-8483 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners