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February 14, 2011 at 1:34 PM

Happy-sounding Erik Bedard explains why he returned to Seattle

Don’t forget to scan our Around the Blogosphere segment from this morning, with links to some of the more interesting Mariners blog posts of the day. Of course, I offer my 2 1/2 cents worth as well.
The first day of spring training for pitchers and catchers here ended with a loose, happy-sounding Erik Bedard holding court with the media following a bullpen session that lasted about 10 minutes this morning. This may have been as loose as I’ve ever seen Bedard look in front of the media, though I have seen him away from microphones when he’s just being himself and he was fine then too.
But today, given the importance of him making it to the mound for the Mariners this season, Bedard was quickly surrounded by his locker stall after emerging from a post-bullpen training session.
And Bedard admitted that he’s found a certain comfort level with the Seattle organization.
“I like everybody here,” he said. “I like the staff, the fans, the city. And I feel comfortable here. I just really wanted to come back. There was nowhere else I wanted to go.”
Bedard certainly had other suitors.
“There were other options,” he said. “I had other offers. I was just waiting for an offer from here and I got one.”

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I asked Bedard how important finding a comfort level was for him. A lot of players in his shoes would have jumped at the best financial offer, considering the Mariners have only guaranteed him $1 million — which is relatively not very large compared to what other pitchers his age, experience and talent level are earning.
“I took less money,” he said. “I came here because I felt comfortable. So, for me, feeling comfortable is important.”
Bedard didn’t throw all that many pitches today and certainly didn’t break any velocity records. Young hurler Michael Pineda, a few pitching rubbers to Bedard’s left during the bullpen session, stayed out there longer and appeared to be gunning it in a whole lot harder.
But Bedard, who managed to mix some breaking balls in with his fastballs, said it was all by design. The big thing for him, he added, was to have the ball come out of his hand easily and without pain.
“The first bullpen, you can’t start firing at 85 pitches, because the next day you’ll feel sore,” he said. “I’ve done that before, my first couple of years in the big leagues. You throw as many pitches as you can and it doesn’t help you in the long run.”
Bedard was smiling throughout most of the interview, trading jokes with media members.
“I’m really happy,” he said. “It’s been a long road and I’m just glad to be healthy and have no pain.”
Bedard said he felt like this two years ago, when he got off to a strong start the first two months of 2009. But after that, things “went downhill.”
The past couple of years, he added, have “been a roller coaster” emotionally. He’s been discouraged at times, having undergone three shoulder surgeries since arriving here three years ago — two of those operations since he last pitched in a game back in 2009.
But Bedard says he kept going for one reason.
“Baseball,” he said. “What else would I want to do? This is the best game, the best job possible. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.”
Mariners manager Eric Wedge stood watching with GM Jack Zduriencik and special assistant Ted Simmons as Bedard threw.
“We’re all rooting for him.” Wedge said. “Like I’ve said to you before, I saw him about as good as you could see somebody a few years back. He looks good and he was free and easy today. That’s the first thing that stuck out to me today.”
Wedge has no plans to ease Bedard back in to his regular routine.
“I don’t think we need to ease him in,” he said. “I just think that once we do get him going, we need to keep an eye on him. Right now, he’s healthy. He’s on line. Just let him prepare like everybody else, keep communicating with him and make sure we keep seeing that free and easy.”
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Wedge spoke to the team briefly, as did pitching coach Carl Willis, as a group before they hit the field. One thing Wedge stressed were some team rules, such as no cellphones in the clubhouse and no wearing of earrings on the field. He also asked that players be on time for meetings and respect the game.
“I saw good eyes,” he said. “I’m a big believer in that. Good eyes in the room. They were all locked in, they were paying attention. The room felt good. I felt like they were hearing Carl, I felt like they were hearing me. It was good. I felt good about it.”
Wedge said he didn’t want to harp on the rules too much. He figures the players are professionals and know how to police themselves. He said the rules aren’t an attempt to quash individuality, merely to get the group thinking like a team.
“I don’t get caught up really in how they look,” he said. “It’s more how they play and how they act. I don’t need a uniform personality outside of how they play and get after it. I want them all to be individuals. I’m all for that. I respect each individual and I want them to be as such. But we’re a team. And when we step on the field, we’re going to play like that. Play like we need to play.”



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