Felix Hernandez, in the photo above, tips his cap to Erik Bedard upon hearing the news that he’ll start next Tuesday against the Baltimore Orioles and then again the following Sunday versus Texas. In reality, this makes little difference than had he started on Saturday in Boston, other than the fact he’ll get to throw a simulated game this Friday in an effort to build up more arm strength.
Bedard still would have gotten, at most, two starts before the All-Star break in either case.
But it’s safe to say that, with this latest development, trade rumors surrounding Bedard should be kicked back up to full throttle.
“We’ll try to get him to about 60 pitches in the sim game,” Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said. “Tuesday will probably be a pitch count of around 75 to 80 pitches.”
Now, I continue to hear talk that Bedard is somebody the Mariners might be interested in bringing back beyond this season. Hear it from folks in a position to know one way or the other. It makes sense on plenty of levels, given how he could probably be had for less these days than his market value might have been 14 months ago. Baseball’s economy has changed and Bedard simply has not pitched enough to strengthen his monetary value just yet.
That’s why, when I was told last weekend that the Mariners were going to bump Bedard from his Boston start, then maybe put him back in for one start during the next homestand, it looked to me like they’d made a decision not to trade him. It seemed natural that the team might insert him into Garrett Olson’s spot in the rotation, which, if not Saturday would have been the following Thursday after that. In other words, he’d make just one start before the break.
Not now, though. Now he is taking the slot currently occupied by Jason Vargas so that the team can get him in twice before the break. What’s the hurry? Well, teams looking to trade a guy will want to run him out as much as possible before and after the break to show that he’s able to take the ball.
So, what to make of the “Mariners want to keep Bedard” murmurs we’ve all been hearing of late? Well, in this business, you’ve always got to watch out for the spin. Any team looking to trade Bedard now would, of course, want other clubs to think he’s a guy you’d love to keep. Not a guy you’re trying to pawn off.
In my past experience, especially at this time of year, you see teams extolling love for a certain player and that guy returning the favor towards a team (so as to give the impression he’s a “team guy” especially in a free agent walk year) only to get traded within weeks. So, in this case, you pay less attention to what’s being said and more to what’s being done.
And what’s being done now is the Mariners are gently prodding Bedard back into the rotation a little quicker than it looked like they might a few days ago. What’s the rush? Vargas has pitched well against Baltimore his previous two times out. Perhaps there will be a rotation adjustment that will allow Vargas to face the O’s. Don’t know, since I don’t have a crystal ball. But in terms of “helping the team” the Mariners really needed Bedard to face both Boston and Texas. Baltimore is less of a powerhouse and can be handled by the other arms already there.
If Bedard wasn’t ready to face Boston, then fair enough. But then putting him in there a few days later to face Baltimore? Why not get his arm even stronger and have him face just Texas next week?
That’s easy. Because it won’t help his showcasing potential.
If anything, the Mariners are keeping their options open. It’s just an interesting development, though, because it shows they really might not know whether they are “buyers” or “sellers”.
Or, a cynic might say, they’ve planned to be “sellers” all along and this whole contention thing is becoming a major nuissance. Too early to make a call on that yet. Only way we’ll know is if the team is a few games out in late July and a deal goes down.
Back to other Mariners newsd, Wakamatsu was asked why Kenji Johjima wasn’t starting tonight and whether it was merely a rest. Wakamatsu didn’t take the out offered to him. Instead, he offered up:
“I like Rob catching (Jarrod) Washburn.”
OK, then. So, I piped up at that point and asked Wakamatsu what Johnson brings to the Washburn battery that he likes.
“I think if you had to describe Rob as a young catcher, the biggest thing for me is the word ‘presence’,” Wakamatsu replied. “I think he gives a belief system to a lot of pitchers out there. There are things we talk about daily that he’s got to get better at, but the one thing he has, for a young guy, he has a strong presence back there. He’s not afraid. He’s a very tough young player.”
Wakamatsu is a guy who values veteran presence, so to say that about Johnson should be seen as a huge compliment.
On the subject of Yuniesky Betancourt heading to second base, Wakamatsu rushed to put some brakes on that talk. Betancourt is to head out for a minor league stint next week and then could be activated during the Texas series. But he’s yet to take any ground balls at second base, or practice double-play pivots or feeding the shortstop on 4-6-3 double plays. That latter part can be just as tough as getting the pivot down because the angle at which you have to throw is often difficult for guys with stiffer arm motion.
Wakamatsu said that, like Jose Lopez taking grounders at third before getting into any games there, Betancourt will have to start working out at second base once healthy. In other words, it’s not likely to happen before the break.
And right now, Wakamatsu isn’t even certain it will happen at all. It’s just one potential option being discussed.