Spring training | Rays pitchers not sweating slow start

adell@bradenton.comMarch 1, 2014 

PORT CHARLOTTE -- When Erik Bedard signed with the Tampa Bay Rays before spring straining and got together with manager Joe Maddon, they never spoke about baseball.

"We just talked about cars. He loves cars, and I love them," Bedard said Friday after pitching the first inning of the Rays' Grapefruit League opener at the Charlotte Sports Park.

Bedard's debut with the Rays was inauspicious. He was roughed up by the Baltimore Orioles, who scored three runs, banged out three hits and drew two walks.

The Rays used nine pitchers, each throwing an inning apiece in a 4-2 loss.

So where does it leave Bedard?

He doesn't know, nor did he seem worried.

He and Maddon have this car connection, and the Rays manager lauded him for being a guy with a great personality who fits in well with the Rays.

"Bedard gave up a couple of runs, but I thought he made some good pitches that were pretty close, and he had a nice change-up," Maddon said. "I thought our pitchers did really well. Those other guys pounded the zone with some really good stuff. It was one of those games that nothing really went on, and they beat us."

Heath Bell, another new veteran face who is considered the front-runner to be the Rays' closer, made a good impression and said he was pleased. He allowed a run on a walk, stolen base, single and wild pitch.

"I felt really good overall. It's the first day of spring training. The pitches I threw were moving like they were supposed to," Bell said. "It's just location I need to work on. You always want your first time to do well. At the end of the day, what we were trying to accomplish I pretty much accomplished."

Bell is trying to replace the departed Fernando Rodney, the Rays' closer the past two years.

Bedard is trying to make a seventh team in his 10-year career as the fifth starter.

The starting spot is open with Jeremy Hellickson recovering from elbow surgery.

"If I don't get the spot, does it mean I am not going to be with the team? I don't know. Do they need a first baseman?" Bedard joked.

Spring training isn't supposed to mean much for a veteran pitcher, but when you are in Bedard's situation, things change.

The 6-foot-1, 200-pounder has had three shoulder surgeries and will turn 35 on March 5th.

"It puts a little more pressure on you," Bedard said. "In the past, I've had very bad springs and decent ones. You just go out there and throw strikes. I don't look at numbers in spring. I've had bad springs, 10-ERA springs, and then during the season it's fine.

"Today, I was just looking to throw strikes. I only threw one or two breaking balls and a lot of change-ups. In the spring, you want to minimize the damage."

The native of Canada is an interesting prospect. He is a lefty who can get batters out regardless of which side of the plate they swing from.

Even last year, Bedard had numbers worthy of note with the lowly Houston Astros. He led the staff with 26 starts, making more starts and pitching more innings (151) than he had since 2007, when he was among the top five vote-getters for the American League Cy Young Award.

In '07, Bedard went 13-5 with a 3.16 ERA striking out 221 in 182 innings. He was traded to Seattle for a boatload of talent in a 5 for 1 deal that included Adam Jones and Chris Tillman.

"It was an honor to be traded for five guys, but I would've liked to have stayed there. I had my best years with Baltimore," Bedard said. "I had good years after that but shoulder surgeries in '08, '09 and 2010 hurt. I can't throw that 95 mph fastball anymore."

Now about those cars.

"Bedard is very astute about cars. He knows a lot of about the different vehicles, and I am trying to learn. When I speak to him about that, I better be on my A game," Maddon said. "When he first got here, we talked a little about pitching, but primarily cars."

Bradenton Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service