BRADENTON Slowed by injuries in recent years, Erik Bedard says his shoulder feels good.
That’s a good thing for the Pittsburgh Pirates, who signed Bedard to a one-year deal worth $4.5 million and are in need of a starting pitcher that can make opposing batters swing and miss.
The Pirates also get a player, if he can stay healthy, who has the potential to be a front-of-the-rotation starter alongside newly acquired A.J. Burnett.
“I’m just trying to do everything I can to stay healthy,” said Bedard, who has suffered a torn labrum twice, a strained oblique and has undergone Tommy John surgery, to name a few of his injuries. “And, hopefully I can, and help
this team win.”
Bedard, Burnett and several other Pirates worked out Tuesday at Pirate City.
The left-hander is joining his fourth club since breaking into Major League Baseball with the Baltimore Orioles.
In his final year with the O’s, Bedard earned himself a hefty raise because of his prowess in that 2007 season. Bedard struck out 10.9 hitters per nine innings an exceptionally high tally. He also posted a 3.16 earned-run average to match a career-low 1.088 walks plus hits per innings pitched (WHIP).
From there, Bedard was shipped to the Seattle Mariners in a deal that brought Adam Jones to Baltimore.
But the southpaw never caught on in the Pacific Northwest as injuries prevented him from throwing more than 84 innings in two full seasons with Seattle.
Last year, though, Bedard produced 24 starts between the Mariners and the Boston Red Sox after missing all of 2010.
Now he heads to the National League, where he’ll have to make adjustments.
Bedard said he likes to go after hitters. The upside to that is he racks up strikeouts 926 in 951[ ] innings in his eight MLB seasons. The downside is that he’s in the Senior Circuit, where there are no designated hitters, meaning he can pitch around a No. 8 hitter to get to the opposing pitcher.
That is something he said he’ll have to learn.
“Number nine hits .280, so it’s a little different,” Bedard said about the bottom of American League lineups. “Yeah, you get a little break here. But the thing is, I’ve got to hit, too. So they get a break, too. Because I’ve never hit before consistently. I’ve had five at-bats a year. Here, you get about 60. I don’t know.”
It’s early in camp, but Pittsburgh pitching coach Ray Searage said he’s impressed with Bedard in two bullpen sessions.
“He’s been pretty sharp with his fastball command already,” Searage said. “That’s right out of the gate, and he’s going to both sides pretty consistently. He’s spinning his breaking balls good. I didn’t think he’d have the feel of his pitches that quickly.”
The additions of Bedard and Burnett mean the Pirates have depth with guys that have major league experience, Searage said.
“He’s always had good results when he’s been on the mound as far as being effective in getting people out,” Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said. “And his goal is to go out there and pitch more games than he has in the past, with more consistency ... but to also to be part of the rotation where, yes he’s one of the guys, but he’s counted on in a significant way.”
So far, he’s taking that first step.