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Originally published February 7, 2010 at 10:03 PM | Page modified February 8, 2010 at 6:52 AM

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Steve Kelley

My treatment of Bedard has been unfair

It's time to apologize to Erik Bedard, who was playing through an injury last season.

Seattle Times staff columnist

Last week, a few readers — well actually a lot of readers suggested, demanded really — that certain sportswriters, namely me, owed Mariners pitcher Erik Bedard an apology.

They're right.

After all, we (and by we, I mean I) have spent a lot of the past two years lamenting the trade that sent a large chunk of the Mariners' future to Baltimore for a pitcher we (and, by we, I mean former general manager Bill Bavasi) expected to be the ace of the staff as the Mariners challenged for an American League West title.

Of course, that never happened.

Bedard rarely was healthy. He made only 30 starts in two seasons. He ran too many deep counts, which meant the bullpen usually had to get up by the fifth or sixth inning and he was as exciting to watch as your Uncle Bob on the putting green.

Not only that, but he might have been the most media-unfriendly Mariner since, I don't know, Phil Bradley?

It was as if he were allergic to reporters. He answered questions in a monotone, often snickered at the questions we asked and never let us see what was behind his icy eyes.

It was that way from his first spring-training start in 2008 in Scottsdale, when he got hit hard by the San Francisco Giants and dismissed every question he was asked.

His personality (or lack of one) should have nothing to do with the way we covered him, but human nature being what it is, Bedard created an adversarial relationship which affected the way we (I) wrote about him.

Of course, he never made it easy on himself. He asked out of his first homecoming start in Baltimore, because of an injury and he never gave the impression — on the mound, or in the clubhouse — that he had that Cliff Lee give-me-the-ball-and-I'll-throw-200-pitches-if-that's-what-it-takes mentality.

He wasn't a gamer like CC Sabathia. He wasn't an Alpha Dog like Curt Schilling. He couldn't be counted on every fifth day from April to September. That was the impression.

Meanwhile, center fielder Adam Jones, surrendered in the trade, blossomed into an All-Star. And Chris Tillman, once the most treasured arm in the Mariners' farm system, found a place in the Orioles' rotation.

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Last season, it always seemed as if Bedard was afraid to throw hard. His fastball was topping out in the 80s. His control was off.

Finally, on Independence Day, he was shut down, like a thoroughbred with a mysterious illness.

There were those of us (me) who thought he was a malingerer. That he didn't have the heart to pitch in the heat of a pennant race. That he didn't much like the game.

Now we know he was hurt. He was trying to pitch with a torn labrum, which is a little like a miler trying to run with a broken ankle.

When I worked in Portland, I watched Trail Blazers center Bill Walton get unfairly excoriated by writers and front-office staff because he refused to play through injuries that were difficult to diagnose.

Nobody loved playing basketball more than Walton, and his subsequent surgeries proved just how much pain he felt every time he played. Walton was the definition of a "gamer," but he also was surly with reporters and was unfairly demonized during his last days in Portland.

In an unparallel way, the treatment of Bedard (my treatment of Bedard) also had been unfair.

Now, maybe all of us will get a second chance. Bedard, who will be 31 in a month and had surgery to repair his torn labrum, has re-signed with the Mariners. In a perfect world he could be ready to pitch around Memorial Day.

I don't expect him to come back as the clubhouse crackup, tossing one-liners like Jon Stewart. We'll leave that to Ken Griffey Jr.

I expect Bedard still will be grouchy and difficult.

But we (I) should learn from the mistakes of the past two seasons and realize that Erik Bedard does want the ball.

And his reluctance to share his feelings with us shouldn't be misinterpreted as a lack of fire for the game.

Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or skelley@seattletimes.com. More columns at www.seattletimes.com/columnists

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About Steve Kelley

Steve Kelley covers all sports, putting his spin on matters involving both the home team and the nation.
skelley@seattletimes.com | 206-464-2176

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