Bucs ink Bedard to one-year contract
Lefty addition to rotation split 2011 between Seattle, Boston
DALLAS -- The Pirates have addressed their need for a left-handed starter, inking veteran Erik Bedard to a one-year, $4.5 million deal on Wednesday. The move is the first the Pirates have made this offseason to address the starting rotation.
Bedard, 32, is projected to join an all right-handed group of Jeff Karstens, Charlie Morton, Kevin Correia and James McDonald to make up the team's starting five. This also means the Pirates will likely only have to call on one of their younger starters (Brad Lincoln or Jeff Locke, for example) if Morton's recovery from hip surgery extends into the early part of the season.
"I'm just really there to help and give them some innings and have a solid year," said Bedard, who has never pitched for a National League club. "I'm not there to take anybody's spot. I'm just there to start."
Bedard split the 2011 season between Seattle and Boston, going 5-9 with a 3.62 ERA. He was dealt to the Red Sox in a three-team, seven-player trade on July 31 and made eight starts in Boston.
In 24 combined starts, Bedard struck out 125 and walked 48 in 129 1/3 innings. He has a career 3.70 ERA in parts of eight seasons in the Majors, but has also been plagued by injuries throughout his career. Bedard missed a month with a sprained left knee in 2011.
He missed all of 2003 because of left elbow surgery and then underwent season-ending surgery on his left shoulder in 2009. He did not return from that procedure until last season. Bedard has been on the disabled list at least once in all but two years since '03. He was limited to a combined 30 appearances in '09 and '10.
The Pirates did extensive behind-the-scenes work to evaluate Bedard's health and project his future durability.
"We're as confident as we can be," general manager Neal Huntington said. "Every pitcher has a risk of injury. Some guys battle through it and they go on to rebound and have great rests of their careers. Some guys battle it from here on out. There are indicators there that Erik is on the rebound. He's very motivated to go out and have a great year, to rack up a lot of innings, to help us win games, to help us take a step forward. And we believe he's more than capable of doing that."
Bedard's deal with the Pirates -- which does not include a buyout or an option -- is worth more than he made last season. Bedard's 2011 contract included a $1 million base salary, and the lefty earned another $3.125 million in incentives.
Bedard said that several teams showed interest in him this winter, but that the Pirates were the most aggressive in their pursuit.
"They really wanted to sign me, and I was glad to do it because of the way they played last year," Bedard said. "They had a great year last year. They just needed a couple more pieces to help them get over the hump, and I'm going to try and [help them] do that this year and help them get some wins."
In addition to getting a left-hander into the starting mix, the Pirates are also adding a starter with strikeout ability. That is a dynamic that the Pirates, who have a pitch-to-contact staff, needed. The rotation ranked last in the league with 578 strikeouts in 2011.
"The fact that you got a left-hander with some pretty good angle that can actually be difficult in a very good matchup against some of the better left-handed hitters in our division is important to me as well," manager Clint Hurdle said.
While Huntington refused to publicly close the door on any chance Paul Maholm might return, Bedard's signing would seem to effectively end any chance of that reunion. The Pirates are expected to now turn their attention to upgrading the offense through possibly a first baseman and/or adding to the bench.
If the Pirates add any more pitching, it is likely going to be relief help.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.