Bedard Walks the Plank, and Other Steps and Missteps

Slipping in the National League Central (thirteen losses in their last eighteen games), the Pittsburgh Pirates decided to end the Erik Bedard experiment. They’ve released the lefthander—whose fourteen losses tie for the Show’s most this season—after he began what some think was a predictable struggle once he reached 100 innings pitched. SweetSpot‘s David Schoenfeld seems to have it right on the proverbial money:

Bedard—days done as a quality starter?

I thought it was a reasonable gamble. While Bedard has often been injured throughout his career, he’d always managed to pitch well when he did take the mound. All the Pirates had to hope for was that Bedard would remain healthy into July and then they could flip him to a contender for a prospect . . . 

That’s easy to say in hindsight, of course. On one level, his numbers aren’t as bad as his 7-14 record and 5.01 ERA indicate. He’s averaging 8.5 strikeouts per nine innings and his FIP—fielding independent pitching—is 4.07, an indicator that he’s perhaps been a little unlucky. He’s hit the wall of late, of course, allowing 25 runs in 25.2 innings over his past five starts . . .

. . . While he managed to pitch effectively with Seattle and Boston in 2008, ’09 and ’11, he also averaged just 98 innings per season (he threw 129.1 last year). It’s fair to say the Pirates probably should have started thinking of a contingency plan for Bedard by mid-July, just in case. 

Schoenfeld also thinks, not unreasonably, that Bedard wasn’t so much a terrible pitcher as one who couldn’t take the Pirates deeper into games than the fifth inning; Bedard’s fourteen starts of five or fewer innings through his release are this season’s most by any Show starter. (Tim Lincecum is second with eleven.) Very possibly, Bedard’s days as a quality starter are done; the injuries may have taken too much toll.

Could he have a future as a reliever? He’s only 33; he pitched well enough splitting 2011 between Seattle and Boston; but if he really can’t work more than five innings an outing as a starter it might be time to ponder what he’s got to offer as a relief pitcher. Since he does average 8.5 strikeouts per nine innings still, he could be a viable middle relief or even late setup option, assuming a team who needs that kind of help can talk him into thinking that way for the rest of his career. The best news: He stayed healthy all season long, and he usually pitched well whenever he could go on the mound until he skidded this year.

MEANWHILE, BACK IN THE JUNGLE . . .

NO JOSH—In his premiere Dodgers start, Josh Beckett didn’t look terrible at all. The Rockies flattened the Dodgers, 10-0, but it wasn’t even close to Beckett’s fault: he got hit for a leadoff bomb (Tyler Colvin), but he allowed three runs in 5.1 innings—essentially, he kept the Dodgers in the game and did, after all, pitch just well enough to win, striking out six against three walks. In Coors Field, where the game was played, that’s solid enough. And from the look of it, a key to Beckett’s future emerged in the form of a rather snappy-looking curveball. The sooner Beckett accepts that he’s not going to throw his fastball through the wall anymore and that he’s got a better than serviceable curve ball to work with, the sooner his revival forms in earnest.

TIGHT-FLYING BIRDS—Don’t look now, but the Baltimore Orioles have a thirteen game winning streak . . . when the games involve a one-run outcome. They ran up number thirteen by beating the Chicago White Sox, 4-3, Monday. The Orioles are 24-6 in one-run games this year and 45-18 when the games are decided by one or two. The big blow Monday was Nate McLouth hitting a monstrous two-run bomb in the eighth. The Orioles also gave themselves a bump on the bump, too, landing lefthander Joe Saunders in a swap with the Arizona Diamondbacks, who got righthanded reliever Matt Lindstrom in exchange. Saunders, native to nearby Virginia, has postseason experience to burn (last year’s Snakes; the 2008-09 Angels) but not a terribly impressive postseason performance packet, but he does bring a little veteran stability to a rotation trying to pitch the Orioles to their first postseason gig since the Clinton Administration.

HE’S ONLY HUMAN—Even the American League’s ERA leader can have a rough night. Ask David Price. He got strafed for six runs and ten hits over four innings Monday, courtesy of the Texas Rangers, led by Adrian Beltre going 3-for-3 including one bomb and four RBIs. It ruined Price’s streak of twelve straight seven-inning-or-more starts. Unfortunately, it should have been predictable: Price isn’t exactly made for the Ballpark at Arlington—he’s got a 10.26 lifetime ERA when pitching there.

Teixiera (r., with Robinson Cano)—barking calf . . .

MILK COW’S CALF BLUES—Some think Mark Teixiera is being a little over-optimistic when he says he’ll be down just another week or so with that grade-one calf strain. That may be harder news for Yankee fans than the Empire Emeritus getting edged in eleven innings, 8-7 to the Toronto Blue Jays, the big blow Colby Rasmus touching Rafael Soriano—who’s been having a fine season otherwise as The Mariano’s stand-in—for a go-ahead three-run bomb in the top of the ninth. Derek Jeter re-tied it with a solo in the bottom, but the Jays took it for keeps in the top of the eleventh, courtesy of Mike McCoy’s on-base derring-do: he shadowed Yankee third baseman Jayson Nix on an infield ground out, then blasted down the line to beat the throw home from first baseman Eric Chavez, while the Yankees couldn’t score in the bottom.

ROLLING THE DICE—Daisuke Matsuzaka looked better than impressive in his first start back from the DL: six punchouts in seven innings, five hits, two walks, and one unearned run, and the Boston Red Sox looked better than they’ve looked in months beating the Kansas City Royals 5-1 Monday. They took the series in three out of four and have won two of three since the Big Deal over the weekend; Jacoby Ellsbury hit one solo bomb, a first-inning game-tyer, and one double. The Red Sox hit the road for the West Coast beginning with a set against the Los Angeles Angels, whose own postseason hopes have begun looking more dim of late.

IS THIS DUMB, OR WHAT?—Ask Sean Rodriguez himself and he’ll be the first to say yes: he turned a possible 1 September return to Tampa Bay into a prospective season-ending injury . . . after he punched his locker, reportedly, over a teammate’s remark—following a win in Durham (AAA) in which he hit one off the famous giant bull, assuring himself and a Bulls fan of a free steak dinner. Rodriguez was only down on a temporary basis, the better to let the Rays activate Luke Scott before returning Rodriguez to Tampa Bay. Rays manager Joe Maddon says the incident was completely out of character for Rodriguez, known as a fiery type on the field but an even-strain manner in the clubhouse.

When you’ve been sent down from the major leagues to the minor leagues, even if it’s for a finite period of time, even if everything has been mapped out for you, who knows what you might be thinking and you might come out of character a little bit under those circumstances. He gets upset, like all of us do, but to hit something like that, that’s unfortunate.

“Unfortunate” may prove a polite way to put it. Especially if the Rays, still hugging wild card chances, end up missing that boat.

PIECES OF EIGHT—ESPN and the Show have a new, $5.6 billion broadcast rights deal. It allows ESPN to continue its Sunday, Monday, and Wednesday night games and adds a wild card game or two to the pot, not to mention letting ESPN show more games by such popular draws as the Yankees, the Red Sox, and others.

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