Bedard unfazed by slow spring start
Focused on conditioning, ace lefty sets sights on Opening Day
TUSCON, Ariz. -- As spring settles into the southwestern desert of Arizona, Mariners southpaw Erik Bedard is settling in with his new team, going through the old routines in a different setting and searching for the same results that have earned him a 40-34 record and a 3.83 ERA in four-plus big league seasons.
In his third Cactus League start, Bedard showed a little bit of everything, giving up four runs on four hits to open the game, then shutting the White Sox down on four hits the rest of the way, finding his form by tapping into his game rhythm.
"I had one bad inning the first inning and put zeros up after that," Bedard said.
Describing the adjustment he made to get better results, Bedard said the difference was, "Just not getting more of the plate, like I did in the first inning. Throwing less behind in the count. Throwing better pitches."
But the difference between a four-spot in the first and a triplet of goose eggs to follow was not what was most important to Bedard. He's not worrying about impressing his new manager or pitching coach, he just wants to get ready for the season.
"I'm right at four innings," he said, charting his stamina. "I'll progressively go up an inning every time and I'll be ready for Opening Day. Compared with other [Spring Trainings], I would say I'm pretty close to the same. If I do bad the rest of the spring, it would be different."
Bedard takes a no-nonsense approach to his spring preparation, taking the same attack on the mound he would take during a regular game -- minus the obsession with results. When it comes to mangers evaluating a pitcher of Bedard's stature in the spring, the numbers mean much less than the approach to working and preparing for the season.
"I've been very impressed," manager John McLaren said before the game. "He's very much a professional. I can tell he's a great competitor. He does his drills extremely well. He's got a light side to him. He likes to have a laugh. I like everything about him."
As far as his performance against the White Sox and the back-to-back first inning home runs to Jim Thome and Paul Kornerko, McLaren was more impressed with Bedard's recovery from the turbulent first than he was concerned about the rough waters themselves.
"The first inning, Bedard looked like he was having trouble with his tempo and he centered some pitches," McLaren said. "I think he had 28 pitches in the first inning and we didn't think he was going to get his work in. But he got his four innings in, 63 pitches. Credit to him, he got his rhythm, he settled down and he threw the ball really well."
Coming to the Mariners in a trade for five prospects has not given Bedard any sense of self-imposed pressure to put up results early in Cactus League action. He's already been named the Opening Day starter, and he seems as relaxed as ever, despite his new surroundings.
"The weather's the big difference," Bedard said, comparing his first Mariners camp in Arizona with the handful of camps he went through with the Orioles in Florida. "You get dryer hands and stuff like that, but other than that, it's not a big difference. As a starter, you don't travel that much anyway, so once in a while, traveling is not that bad."
The four runs in four innings nudged his ERA up to an even 8.00, but Bedard had no reason to wipe the cavalier grin from his face as he talked about his spring. At the age of 29, he's earned his veteran stripes, and he's far from the days when a four-inning first on March 10 would cost him any sleep.
"The first couple of years, you're always trying to do good, because you're trying to make a good impression and stay on the team," Bedard explained. "Sometimes, you try to rush too much when you're younger and try to throw too hard, trying to make the team. But now, it's more relaxed, you're trying to get ready and trying to get in shape."
Looking for a five-inning outing his next time out, Bedard is turning the corner on his spring and pulling all the pieces together to replicate what he wants to do come March 31. He's mixing all his pitches in effectively, making the critical in-game adjustments that spell survival for a starter and upping the ante on his stamina.
Forget the Cactus League ERA. Erik Bedard is right on time, settling into his comfort zone and setting his sites on Opening Day.
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.