By John Perrotto
The Pirates took a calculated gamble when they signed Erik Bedard as a free agent in December.
The Pirates gave Bedard a one-year, $4.5-million contract, even though he hadn’t pitched more than 130 innings in a season since 2007 while undergoing three shoulder surgeries in the interim. However, they thought Bedard still had the stuff and veteran savvy to be a quality major-league starting pitcher.
Whether Bedard can hold up over a full season remains to be seen. However, after one game, the money seems to have been well spent.
Bedard pitched well in the Pirates’ opener on Thursday but Roy Halladay pitched even better as the Philadelphia Phillies eked out a 1-0 victory to spoil the afternoon for the majority of the PNC Park-record crowd of 39,585.
“He pitched a very good ballgame,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said of Bedard. “He was very efficient and there weren’t a lot of balls hard hit. The first-pitch strikes really allowed him to change the environment of the at-bats and he also did a good job of mixing his pitches and changing the hitters’ eye level. He’s a real craftsman and he showed it today.”
That wasn’t the first time Hurdle referred to Bedard as a craftsman in recent weeks. Hurdle loves the way Bedard changes speeds on his fastball, throws his secondary pitches to both sides of the plate for strikes and continually changes the batters’ eye level by moving his pitches up and down the strike zone.
The left-hander was masterful Thursday.
Bedard went seven innings and allowed the one run and six hits with one walk and four strikeouts. He threw 58 of his 81 pitches for strikes and first-pitch strikes to 21 of the 26 batters he faced.
The one Bedard didn’t do, though, was win as the Pirates were held to two hits by Halladay, the two-time Cy Young Award winner, and $50-million closer Jonathan Papelbon. Halladay gave up hits to the first two batters then none to the last 25.
The Phillies scratched out the game’s lone run off Bedard in the seventh inning.
Ty Wigginton lined a single to center field with one out and took third as John Mayberry Jr. followed by doubling into the right-field corner. Carlos Ruiz hit a sacrifice fly to shallow right field, Wigginton scoring only because Jose Tabata’s throw was high.
Bedard was a hard-luck loser but he refused to look at himself as a victim of pitching on the wrong day.
“Anytime you lose, you wind up disappointed,” Bedard said. “I wish I wouldn’t have been able to hold them off the board but they got one across and that made the difference.”
In other matters:
–Hurdle wouldn’t say who will be the Pirates’ primary set-up relievers, though it seems Jason Grilli will likely be called on to protect eighth-inning leads in front of closer Joel Hanrahan. Where does that put Evan Meek, an All-Star set-up man in 2010 before being limited to 20 innings last season because of shoulder problems? Hurdle says he wants to see more of Meek before entrusting him with seventh-inning duties. Look for Chris Resop and Juan Cruz to both get chances in that role.
–Charlie Morton continues to be on track to come off the disabled list and pitch at San Francisco on April 14 when the Pirates need a fifth starter for the first time this season. The Pirates will drop a position player when Morton is activated and all signs point to rookie first baseman Matt Hague being sent to Class AAA Indianapolis despite hitting a team-high seven home runs in spring training. The Pirates have given no indication Hague will get significant playing time in the early part of the season, so it makes sense to send him to Class AAA Indianapolis where he can play regularly.
—Jeff Karstens will start the second game of the season against the Phillies on Saturday night and one scout believes the right-hander is in for a big fall after going 9-9 with a 3.38 ERA in 30 games, 26 starts, last season. “There is no way he repeats that low of an ERA again,” the scout said. “His stuff isn’t that good. He has to have pinpoint control to succeed and he ain’t Greg Maddux.”
John Perrotto has been covering the Pirates and Major League Baseball for 25 years.