Erik Bedard’s three years in Seattle have produced 11 wins, three surgeries and the kind of criticism in the media that can make a sensitive left-hander look for another place to play.
To the surprise of many, Bedard didn’t do that, instead signing a non-guaranteed contract to return to the Mariners.
“I was offered twice as much money last year to sign somewhere else, and I got offered a guaranteed deal this year by another team,” Bedard said from his Ottawa home. “I said, ‘ooh that’s interesting,’ but I never pursued it. I told the Mariners before I went home last season, I wanted to come back.
“This may surprise some people, but I’m loyal. I want Seattle fans to see the guy they thought they’d traded for. There have been moments I’ve been myself, but they didn’t last long.”
Now 31, Bedard has made only 30 starts in three years with Seattle, going 11-7 with a 3.24 earned run average. He didn’t appear in a game with the Mariners in 2010, and if new manager Erik Wedge or pitching coach Carl Willis have seen him pitch, it was when they were with the Cleveland Indians and Bedard was a Baltimore Oriole.
The man who bristled when his toughness was questioned in the press in 2008, then again in 2009, Bedard said he’s gotten past that.
“There are times as an athlete you’re more sensitive than not. Every year you grow a bit, I’m older now and I’m over it – don’t take it as hard,” Bedard said. “I talk to fans all the time at Safeco Field. They understood. A lot of guys get hurt, I’m one of those guys who got hurt.
“I wanted to come back for the front office, the team, the fans, the city. I wanted to give them at least one full healthy season.”
Bedard is throwing again and said he’s working out the way he would in any other off-season in which he was healthy. In Ottawa, that means throwing indoors.
“I used to throw at my uncle’s chicken farm, where they’d clean it out about every 45 days,” Bedard said. “They have a coop that’s about 300 feet long. Now I throw to my brother in my garage.”
Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik did his due diligence before asking Bedard back. According to team doctors, Bedard should arrive in spring training without restrictions, ready to pitch for a spot on the roster.
“If they go by th numbers in spring, I may not make the team,” Bedard said, laughing. “My first year here,I had probably the worst spring in pitching history. Once the season started, I was fine. I’ve never had great springs.”
And Bedard’s long layoff?
“I lost a year and a half to ‘Tommy John’ surgery in 2002-2003,” he said. “I came back abd it wasn’t that much of a change, physically. After my surgery two years ago, I was fine. I think I’ll get it back. I have from now to april to get it back. My mindset is, I’m going to be in the starting rotation.
“If I’m healthy, I’m as good as I ever was. I’m not Felix (Hernandez), I’m not going to throw 250 innings or throw three or four complete games in a row. If a team had five guys like Felix, they’d win the World Series every year. But I can throw quality innings, get deep into games. When people were questioning me for the 100-pitch limit, or going five innings in a start, I was hurt.
“There were times I wanted to say, ‘Hey, I’m hurting. That’s all I’ve got.’ But you don’t do that. I did what I could.”
Now, Bedard is healthy and, he said, happy. He expects to be healthy, start somewhere in the Seattle rotation and be the kind of pitcher Bill Bavasi acquired in 2008. The Mariners are quite willing to see it happen.