PEORIA, Ariz. – On a day the Seattle Mariners got more good news from a long-ailing pitcher, they suddenly had to worry about a usually sturdy catcher.
Erik Bedard’s two scoreless innings in a 7-2 win over the Cleveland Indians on Saturday, which included four strikeouts, was overshadowed by a groin injury suffered by catcher Miguel Olivo, whom the team signed in the offseason to a two-year contract worth $7 million.
The 32-year-old Olivo, who has never been on the disabled list due to a baseball-related injury, suffered the injury as he scored in the second inning, coming in from third on a sacrifice fly to center from Sean Kazmar.
Olivo appeared to grab his leg and fell awkwardly just in front of the plate. A few fans initially laughed before realizing Olivo was hurt. He was helped off the field, then taken off on a cart.
“You always hate to see that and now we just hope for whatever the best-case scenario is,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said.
The Mariners will have to wait a few more days to find out what that is, however, as the team couldn’t get an MRI scheduled until Monday to determine more fully the extent of the injury.
Olivo’s durability – he played the last six seasons without an injury and his only stint on the DL was due to kidney stones in 2004 during his first stint with the Mariners – was among the reasons Seattle signed him Jan. 3, penciling him in as the starting catcher.
Without Olivo, backup Adam Moore – who played in 60 games last season – would likely take over. The team also has nonroster invitees Josh Bard, Chris Giminez and Steven Baron in camp.
“We’ll just hope for the best,” Wedge said.
Even Bedard acknowledged that a little of the shine of his day was dimmed.
“Who cares about what I did?” said Bedard, referring to Olivo’s injury. “Hopefully, he gets better quick and it’s not serious. It would be hard to lose him.”
Still, seeing Bedard throw 34 seemingly effortless pitches in his second spring outing, 21 of which were strikes, was unquestionably encouraging.
Bedard, who hasn’t pitched in a major league game since July 25, 2009, while dealing with injuries to his left shoulder, struck out the side in the first inning on 12 pitches. After a walk to lead off the second, he retired the next three batters before calling it a day. He threw a scoreless inning last Sunday against the Padres and has struck out six in three innings without a hit.
“I like everything that we see him doing,” said Wedge. “And I think that being healthy is the biggest part of that, and I think we are seeing him go out there and pitch like he is capable of in the early going.”
Bedard cautioned that “it’s too early to get excited.” And indeed, close watchers may recall when there was some similar optimism last spring that Bedard was making a quicker-than-expected recovery from his initial shoulder surgery. Instead, Bedard never made it back, calling it a season and needing more surgery after three rehab starts in June and July.
But he’s undoubtedly much further ahead this spring. And if he stays healthy, he could give the Mariners a formidable top of the rotation alongside reigning Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez.
That’s what the Mariners optimistically hoped for when they made the somewhat surprising decision to re-sign Bedard on Dec. 2.
Saturday, he looked everything like the pitcher whose earned-run average of 3.40 from 2006 to 2010 is the fifth best among all American League starters.
“He did exactly what he has been doing, moving his fastball around, using his secondary stuff effectively, and controlled the ballgame,” Wedge said.
Bedard said he threw every pitch he has without complaint.
“Just trying to throw strikes and get my arm ready for the season,” he said. “I feel fine.”
He wished he could say the same for his catcher.
The M’s also announced Jason Vargas will make his first spring start Tuesday against the Giants in Peoria. That comes a day after what will be one of the highlight days of the spring as Hernandez starts against the A’s on Monday in Phoenix, with Michael Pineda – the top pitching prospect in the organization – also scheduled to throw.
• Jack Wilson was scheduled to start at second alongside Brendan Ryan at short, a combination the team wants to explore. But Wilson was scratched from the lineup after turning up ill.
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