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04/01/08 1:15 AM ET
Bedard gives Mariners chance to win
Left-hander guts out five innings without his best command
By Jim Street / MLB.com
SEATTLE -- The Mariners unveiled their left-handed ace on Monday afternoon, and Erik Bedard showed more grit than command. He didn't win his first regular-season start for the Mariners. But he didn't lose, either. What he did was throw 106 pitches in five innings, but still held the Rangers to one run -- a solo home run in the first inning -- in Seattle's 5-2 Opening Day victory at Safeco Field. Manager John McLaren said before the game that Bedard had built enough arm strength during Spring Training to reach the 100- to 110-pitch level. But no one expected the ace left-hander to be halfway there after the second inning. Bedard had the crowd buzzing when he struck out the first batter he faced, fanning Ian Kinsler on three pitches. But the buzz fizzled when Michael Young sent a belt-high fastball into the right-field bleachers. The next two Rangers reached base, but Bedard pitched his way out of trouble, needing 29 pitches to get the first three outs of the game. It took another 23 pitches to make it through the second, 25 in the third and 20 more in the fourth -- for a total of 97 pitches. A nine-pitch fifth inning provided a good ending. "He probably could have gone back out there, to be honest, but we certainly weren't going to do that on Opening Day," McLaren said. "Bedard was a bulldog. I thought he had good stuff, but his command wasn't there. He hung in there and kept us in the game." Bedard also kept pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre busy keeping track of all those pitches. "I was very proud of the way he battled," Stottlemyre said. "His command wasn't the way it usually is, but his stuff was outstanding. Had a good curveball, with much better break than what we saw in Arizona."
It broke so much that keeping it in the strike zone was a challenge.Bedard walked four, struck out five and went to full-counts on eight batters. "His fastball command was very close," Stottlemyre said. "He was just missing on a lot of pitches. On a lot of those three-and-two pitches he was just missing, and they were ball four instead of strike three. "They were good calls by the umpire, but were not that far off -- some really good pitches that just missed. For the first time out, all in all I thought it was good." "Erik kept us in the game," McLaren said. "He gave us a chance to win, which we did."
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.