Jamal has been a writer for Bleacher Report since 2010 focused strictly on the Rays. He has had his work featured on websites such as Forbes, USA Today, CBS Sports, Houston Chronicle and the LA Times. Jamal is a special correspondent for 620wdae.com covering the Tampa Bay Rays.
Erik Bedard will take the mound on Friday as the starting pitcher for the Tampa Bay Rays Grapefruit League opener. He signed a minor league contract with an invitation to major league spring training with the Rays on February 14.
Earlier this week, Bedard explained what attracted him to the Rays.
“Well, they’re a winning organization and they’ve been consistent the last five, six years, and everybody wants to be a part of that. I’ve always heard good things from other players that it’s fun to be here, relaxed, and you just play ball.”
Friday will be his first opportunity to attempt to earn the fifth spot in the rotation while Jeremy Hellickson recovers from elbow surgery.
Bedard struggled in 2013 with the Houston Astros finishing the season with a 4-12 record and 4.59 ERA.
Rays manager Joe Maddon seems to be fond of Bedard and thinks Tampa Bay can be a good fit for him.
“You’d like to think that putting him in front of our defense is going to make [his numbers] even better. I never knew he’s so gregarious. The guy is affable. He talks, he’s funny. You never got that watching from a distance. I like his personality; I think he fits in well here. He could be better than a .500 pitcher”
The defense cannot help if the ball is over the fence, though.
One area of concern is the number of home runs Bedard gives up, particularly early in the season. Over his career he has allowed 57 home runs from March through May (91 games). In comparison, he has allowed 64 home runs from June through October (133 games).
Aside from the early season home runs, Bedard offers some potential advantages for the Rays over prospect Jake Odorizzi and other pitchers competing for the spot in the rotation.
One of the values that could give Bedard an edge is his 10 years of major league experience. Over his career he has averaged 8.66 strikeouts per nine innings, the second highest among all active pitchers (min. 1,200 IP) behind Tim Lincecum (9.63) of the San Francisco Giants.
Bedard’s best performance came in 2007. He finished that season with a 13-5 record with a 3.16 ERA for the Baltimore Orioles and finished fifth in voting for the AL Cy Young award.
A quality spring could mean a spot in the rotation to start the year. It would also allow the Rays to continue to develop Odorizzi in Triple-A Durham, without having to rush him to the majors to start the season.