The likely loss for the season of Erik Bedard, now that another shoulder surgery has been scheduled for tomorrow in Southern California, means that the end to one of the most disappointing episodes in Mariner history could be at hand.
But that’s not quite true, of course, because this trade has the potential to haunt for years to come, long after Bedard is physically gone from Seattle.
I actually feel sorry for Bedard on a human level. There’s no doubt his injuries were legitimate, and I’m not one of those who question his heart or his commitment or anything like that. He had a bum shoulder. It happens to pitchers all the time.
But perhaps if Bedard had to do it over again, he might have chosen to be a little more forthright about his injuries.
Last year, you might recall, Bedard finally admitted in September that he had felt discomfort in his left shoulder in his second start of the year, on April 8. He said that it got worse and worse, but he didn’t say anything, until finally, after a start on July 4, Bedard ‘fessed up to the Mariners’ staff.
They shut him down, and he never pitched again last year, eventually undergoing surgery on Sept. 26 to remove a cyst and perform other labrum cleanup.
That means that Bedard went 13 starts in 2008 pitching through a sore shoulder, rather than getting it examined and treated. His silence was confirmed by last year’s pitching coach, Mel Stottlemyre, in a story I did for the Seattle Times on the one-year anniversary of the Bedard trade with Baltimore.
Here’s what I wrote in that story:
One sticking point was that Bedard didn’t tell the coaching or medical staff he was having shoulder problems. Bedard acknowledged at the end of last season that he first felt discomfort in his second start of the season but tried to pitch through it for months.
Finally, in July, Bedard couldn’t go any longer and came out of a start against Detroit after five innings.
“I was the first one he admitted to he was hurt,” Stottlemyre said. “He sort of threatened me if I told anyone else. I went back to the dugout and got to thinking, and decided he couldn’t do that.
“I went back to him, caught him coming out of the training room. I said, ‘You turn around and tell them you’re hurt. I’m not going to keep this a secret.’ He told me had been trying real hard to pitch hurt for a period of time.”
Added Stottlemyre, “To me, it explained a lot of things about him. Thinking back now, you have to give this guy the biggest benefit of the doubt there is to come back this year and be a different guy.”
But Bedard this year has again been plagued by injury — and, by his own admission, once again kept it to himself for a long period of time. In one of the few in-depth interviews he’s done this season, with Larry LaRue of the Tacoma News-Tribune on July 28, Bedard talked about how, after he came off the disabled list on July 7, his left shoulder started hurting whenever he threw a fastball. Bedard had spent a month on the DL with shoulder inflammation, from June 8 to July 6, but the Mariners were hopeful of getting Bedard back for the second half — or a trade-deadline showcase.
“It just got consistently worse, but after my third start I didn’t say anything – I didn’t want to skip a start,” Bedard told LaRue. “We’re playing well, we’re winning and the team counted on me to be there every fifth day.”
Again, Bedard finally ‘fessed up, this time after an outing in Cleveland on July 25 in which it was obvious he was laboring — 81 pitches in three innings. That game might well turn out to be his Mariner finale.
“Not good,” he told the News-Tribune. “I felt OK warming up, but in the game, whenever I’d max out the fastball, there was a sharp pain, and I didn’t have any command of the ball. I could throw the curve without the pain. I just assumed it was tendinitis, and that I could pitch through it.”
I’m no doctor, but one has to wonder if things would have been different if Bedard had spoken up the first time he felt pain, rather than pitch all those games this year and last with a sore shoulder. As it is, he’s facing another shoulder operation tomorrow, an exploratory surgery to see what’s going in with his labrum and bursa complex.
That likely closes the book on Bedard’s Seattle career, unless, as Geoff suggests, they can work out some sort of low-risk, incentive-laden deal to bring him back next year.
I do admire Bedard’s determination, and I’m sure that his motivation in staying quiet was simply to try to help the team as long as he could. No question he felt the burden of being the guy for whom the Mariners paid such a high price in hopes he would pitch them into the postseason. He was also no doubt aware that he had the reputation as being injury prone, and bailing out after 100 pitches. It’s understandable that he tried to gut it out.
For Bedard’s sake, I hope his shoulder problems get solved. But I’d recommend that the next time he feels pain in his arm, he tells someone immediately.