PEORIA, Ariz. - The first spring appearance in two years for Erik Bedard took less time - and fewer pitches - than were required for him to warm up Sunday.
The Seattle Mariners lefty shook off emotional cobwebs and worked a 1-2-3 inning against the San Diego Padres, and did it in nine pitches.
“That’s going to be tough to build on,” Bedard deadpanned. “It’s not going to be like that every time.”
Bedard started Seattle’s first spring game intent on building arm strength, and was prepared to throw as many as 25 pitches, he said. No need.
Throwing fastballs and curveballs for strikes, he retired Will Venable, Everth Cabrera and Jorge Cantu without a ball being hit hard.
“I was a little excited warming up,” Bedard said. “I’ve always had butterflies the first game of spring, but I’ve never had a good spring training. This is my best spring in history.”
Bedard said he never doubted he’d be back after missing all of the 2011 season with his third surgery in as many years with Seattle. His work Sunday was a reminder of just how good he can be when healthy.
“I wanted to throw strikes and be efficient,” Bedard said.
Well, let’s see. Nine pitches, eight strikes, three outs. That works.
Manager Eric Wedge isn’t holding Bedard back, isn’t worrying about his elbow or shoulder, his hip or his attitude. This spring, Bedard is in Peoria to prove he can pitch, not that he’s healthy.
“You couldn’t ask for a better start to the spring,” Wedge said. “He threw free and easy.
Signed to a low-risk contract this winter, Bedard wanted to return to Seattle more than he wanted to pitch with any of the other teams that showed interest. He feels he has something to prove to the fans who watched him make all of 30 starts over three seasons as a Mariner.
Is he a new man, a seven-inning, No. 2 starter who will pick up where Felix Hernandez leaves off? Probably not.
What Bedard has always been is an effective pitcher when he’s been able to take the mound. No, he’s never won 20 games; never pitched 200 innings in a season. And it’s possible Bedard will break camp not as Seattle’s No. 2 man in the rotation but as it’s No. 3 or No. 4 starter.
That would be fine with the Mariners and fine with Bedard, who each want the same thing: a season of health. Give them that, and Bedard will be a plus.
So when he took the mound Sunday, it wasn’t to prove anything or silence critics. For the first time in two years, Bedard will simply be going to work, and loving it. He has had no stiffness this spring, no pain or catch in his delivery.
“I’m healthy, and my entire focus is on pitching. My shoulder is fine, everything’s fine,” Bedard said.
Bedard is, like 30 others in camp, a pitcher building arm strength day by day. That will work.