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'(Posted 4:30 p.m., Aug. 15)
Navan native Erik Bédard faces uncertain future after undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery
By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

For the second year in a row, Navan native Erik Bedard must undergo season-ending surgery to repair his dmaged left shoulder. File photo

For the second year in a row Navan native Erik Bédard's season has come to a premature end after requiring surgery on his throwing shoulder.

Last year, the big left-hander fior the Seattle Marriners had to call it a season after going under the knife to remove a cyst and damaged soft tissue in his left shoulder after posting a 6-4 record in 15 starts.

After getting a $750,000 raise in the off-season, Bedard was ready to prove that the Mariners didn't make a mistake when they traded three players to the Baltimore Orioles for him prior to the start of the 2008 season and signed him to a one year $7 million contract.

When the Mariners signed him for another year and gave him a raise to boot, several members of the Seattle media were skeptical to say the least.

It ddin't help that two of the players Seattle dealt for Bédard, George Sherrill and Adam Jones, subsequently made the all-star team.

After getting off to a solid 3-2 start, Bédard suffered a sore hamstring which caused him to miss a start. When he resumed his spot in the rotation he picked up wins in three straight starts before being sidelined once again with inflammation in his shoulder.

He returned to the active roster on July 17 and had four starts pitching a total of 17 innings. In his last start against the Cleveland Indians, he complained of soreness in his shoulder again after pitching just three innings.

He underwent two more MRIs, before artroscopic surgery finally revealed that he had a torn left labrum in his shoulder that will require surgery to repair and four to six months of rehabilitation.

Bédard has had a history of injuries most notable an elbow ligament injury in 2002 that required Tommy John surgery and forced him to spend most of the 2003 season in the minors on rehab assignment.

In 2004, he went 6-10 with an 4.59 ERA and averaged almost eight strikeouts per nine innings pitched. In 2005, he started the season with a 2.08 ERA, but then sprained his knee which sidelined him for two months. When he returned his ERA balooned to 4.00.

In his first injury free season in 2006, Bédard was 15-11 and posted a 3.76 ERA. He also stuck out 171 batters. In 2007, he established himself as one of the most dominating left-handers in the American League. On July 7, he tied the franchise record for strikeouts in a game against the Texas Rangers with 15.

He went on to set a new franchise record for strikeouts in a season with 221 and was largely considered to be a bona fide candidate for the Cy Young Award before a strained oblique muscle cut his season short once again. He ended up with a 13-5 record and posted a 3.16 ERA.

Rather than go to salary arbitration and risk having to pay him in the $7-$8 million range, the Orioles traded Bédard to Seattle. Eighteen months later, the Mariners are faced with the same difficult decision the Orioles faced, or maybe not.

Bédard officially becomes a free agent this fall. If the situation were normal, the Mariners could take Bédard to salary arbitration, in which case he would likely command at least the $7.75 million he's now making, or they could risk having him signed as a free agent by another team, in which case they would be compensated with draft picks.

A third option would be to trade him in the of seasonm, but very few teams would likely be willing to take on his contract given his history with injuries.

There's also the issue of the Mariners management being left with egg on their faces. The team has spent $14.75 million for Bédard's services these last two seasons and he's only won 11 games. To allow him to leave and possibly get nothing in return would be disastrous, especially considering what rhey gave up to get him in the first place.

A lot of how the next few months play out will depend on Bédard's position in the Elias Free Agent Rankings which are released at the end of the season. The rankings are based on a player's stats for the last two seasons. In Bédard's case his ranking will be based on his statistcs from 2008 and 2009.

If he's listed as a Type B free agent, meaning he's among the top 20 to 40 per cent of players listed, the Mariners would be given a "sandwhich" pick between the first and second round of the 2010 Amateur Draft. If he falls out of the top 40 per cent of the players listed, the Mariners wouldn't be entitled to any compensation.

While nothing is 100 per cent certain, it's at least 99.9 per cent certain that Bédard will test the free agent waters in his first year of eligibility this fall. Whether or not anyone will bite is the big unknown.

When he's healthy, Bédard is still one of the top pitchers in the majors. His 5-3 record this season is deceiving, given the lack of run support he received. In four of the 10 starts that ended in either a loss or a no decision, he gave up one earned run twice and two earned runs on the other two occasions.

The chances are very good that at least one major league team will take a chance on the big left-hander, in which case the Mariners will be left with a sandwhich pick, at best, unless they make him a better offer. Only time will tell.

(This story was made possible thanks to the generous support of our local business partners.)


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