PEORIA, Ariz. – Erik Bedard is back on a mound for the Mariners – albeit at less than half speed.
It’s still better than the idling and rehabilitation he’s been doing the last seven months.
The oft-injured left-hander took his first step toward reinforcing Seattle’s jumbled rotation Monday morning by tossing about 20 pitches off a mound out of the stretch.
The setting in a side bullpen, almost alone and a field apart from the team, made it seem like no big deal. But how important was Bedard’s first mound work since August surgery to repair a torn labrum in his pitching shoulder?
General manager Jack Zduriencik, special assistant Tony Blengino, manager Don Wakamatsu, pitching coach Rick Adair, two other coaches and two trainers watched the six-minute session.
“All strikes, Jack,” Bedard joked to the GM when Zduriencik walked up.
Zduriencik joked back that Bedard sounded ready to pitch this weekend in its two exhibition games in Albuquerque, the final tuneups before next Monday’s opener at Oakland.
The M’s can only wish.
Cliff Lee, their prized winter acquisition from Philadelphia, is being held out from any kind of throwing until at least Wednesday because his strained abdomen is still bothering him. It’s possible he will begin the season on the disabled list.
The rest of a suddenly vulnerable rotation behind ace Felix Hernandez is currently Ryan Rowland-Smith, Ian Snell, Jason Vargas and Doug Fister.
And that assumes that Fister, who was at Double A this time last year, remains OK following his start in a minor-league game Monday morning. It was his first game since taking a line drive off his pitching forearm on March 19. Fister said he didn’t feel the injury at all in the game, and that he believes he’s back on track for regular rotation turns.
Any game action for Bedard remains far off. The M’s estimate he could pitch again by June, though Monday’s work is earlier than originally expected when Seattle re-signed him to a $1.75 million, one-year contract last month.
There is a mutual option in the contract for 2011 for the 31-year-old former ace of the Baltimore Orioles, who has been limited to 15 starts in each of his first two seasons with Seattle.
Monday’s brief bullpen session came after Bedard impressed the Mariners with how hard and smoothly he had been throwing from about 120 feet in the outfield.
“I think it’s important to get him on the mound,” Wakamatsu said before Monday’s session.
He said it was more about getting Bedard re-acclimated to the mound than about actual pitching.
“I think we are ahead of schedule,” the manager said. “To watch him throw like he has from 120 feet gives you a belief that he is getting healthy.”