With Back Against the Wall, Erik Bedard is Eager to Finally Stay Healthy and Contribute to Seattle Mariners’ Staff in 2011

February 24, 2011 – 8:45 am by Michael Bean

When the Seattle Mariners traded away five players to land Erik Bedard prior to the 2008 season, they surely thought they had landed a pitcher in his prime who might not light up the league, but would at worst be a solid left handed addition to their staff. Well, Bedard has only started a total of 30 games since 2008 — 15 games in his first year, 15 in ’09, and not a single start last year in ’10. Bedard’s career has been derailed by a multitude of shoulder problems, so aggravating in fact that three surgeries have been necessary since he was shut down for the year in ’09 with a torn labrum in his throwing arm. Unfortunate stuff for a guy who may not be the best with the media, but is undeniably a good person that you hate to see toil like this. All hope is not lost though for Bedard and the organization that has sunk loads of dead money into Bedard’s dead shoulder. The former Baltimore Orioles hurler is hoping to make a return in 2011, and all signs point towards him at least having some shot at staying healthy and contributing this coming season. After taking home a hefty salary the past few years despite not producing, Bedard is currently signed under an incentive-laden contract that would allow the Mariners to part ways once and for all with Bedard were he not to make the team out of spring training. Everybody though — Bedard and the Mariners organization — is hoping that the worst is behind him and that he’s finally ready to stay healthy and provide a nice change of pace for a M’s staff that is desperately seeking reliable arms to compliment King Felix Hernandez.

Bedard joined KJR in Seattle to talk about throwing his first bullpen session in a long, long time recently, whether he’s always been plagued by injuries throughout his baseball career or if his recent rash of setbacks is something new, what his reaction would have been a year ago at this time had he been told that he wouldn’t pitch at all during the ’10 season, what happened that kept him shelved for all of last season, how he’d respond to those fans who maybe question his work ethic, character and desire to get back healthy, on if he perhaps overcompensated in any way with his motion and/or delivery following his Tommy John surgery years ago that might have led to him experiencing numerous shoulder injuries, what’s next for him in the rehabilitation process, what part of his pitch repertoire will be the hardest to re-establish having been out for so long, his thoughts on the Mariners staff, and how he’s definitely motivated to return healthy and productive in a last-ditched effort to provide some return on the hefty investment the Mariners made in him years ago.

On throwing his first bullpen session in quite some time recently:

“Yes I hadn’t forgotten how to do it, and it feels good to be back on the mound.”

Whether he has always been plagued by injuries or if this recent rash of injuries is more of a product of bad luck:

“Really bad luck. Bad timing right after a blockbuster trade. Yeah, it wasn’t fun. Before that I had Tommy John, only elbow injury, but after that I was fine before I got to Seattle.”

On when he knew something was wrong with him last spring:

“Yeah it’s kind of hard to diagnose when you’re pitching if it’s a serious injury or not, or if it’s just tendinitis or inflammation. So it’s kind of hard but I tried to go out there and go hard and give it all I got until I pretty much I couldn’t go anymore. It’s just hard not to go out there and pitch and not give it your all.”

On what his reaction would have been had he been told a year ago that he wasn’t going to pitch even once in 2010:

“No chance. I mean, I’m sure I was going to pitch”

What happened?:

“I don’t know. Circumstances that didn’t let me pitch. The labrum healed pretty good, but then there was something else. Maybe we should have done it when I did my labrum too.”

How he’d respond to any fans who questioned his character or work ethic:

“I mean, until you’ve been in the shoes, it’s hard to imagine to go through that. It’s hard to explain because you’re not in my body, I guess. But if I hadn’t worked hard, I wouldn’t be back to where I am now. I mean, if I had slacked off I wouldn’t even be pitching this year.”

On if there was change in his motion or delivery after the Tommy John that might explain why he started to experience shoulder problems:

“Well I had my Tommy John back in ‘o2, and then I had my first shoulder surgery in ’08. So five years span to have bad mechanics — I would have hurt it probably earlier than that.”

What’s next for him in his recovery process:

“I think we throw another BP to players, and then I think we’re going to have our first game in another couple of days.”

On what he thinks will be the hardest part of his pitching repertoire to bring back after having been out for so long:

“I don’t know. I threw the other day and everything was strikes. So hopefully everything stays like that and I’ll be fine.”

On the rest of the M’s staff behind Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez:

“I think they’re going to be good. Vargas had a great season last year, Fister, I know there’s Big Pineda — that’s huge, he throws one miles per hour and has a great arm, he’s got a good chance to. And there’s a lot of new guys, a lot of fresh faces that I haven’t seen. We’ll just have to see what happens.”

Whether part of his motivation to return healthy stems from wanting to live up to at least part of his fairly hefty contract:

“Yeah it is a part. I got traded over here for five guys and haven’t really lived up to what I was supposed to do over here. And I love it too, both parts — the city, the fans, the staff. And I feel like I kind of owe something because I’ve had surgeries and I haven’t been out there as long as they expected me to be.”

Listen here to Bedard with Steve Sandmeyer and Dick Fain on KJR in Seattle

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