Erik Bedard is excited about the prospect of helping the Tampa Bay Rays get back to the playoffs.
The 34-year-old left-hander signed a minor league contract on the eve of the start of spring training and is being given an opportunity to compete for a job as the team's No. 5 starter.
Bedard struggled the past two seasons, going 11-26 with a combined 4.78 ERA for the Pittsburgh Pirates and Houston Astros. The Rays will decide over the next few weeks if he's capable of filling in for the injured Jeremy Hellickson, who's expected to miss the first six to eight weeks of the season after undergoing elbow surgery.
Bedard, who turns 35 on March 5, was 4-12 with a 4.59 ERA in 32 games, including 26 starts, for the Astros in 2013. Two years ago, he went 7-14 with a career-worst 5.01 ERA in 24 starts for the Pirates.
"You look at his numbers last year, and obviously the won-loss record wasn't the greatest, but he did a lot of things well and pitched better than those numbers indicated," said manager Joe Maddon, who remembers how effective Bedard pitched early in his career with AL East rival Baltimore.
"You'd like to think that putting him in front of our defense is going to make (his numbers) even better. ... He could be better than a .500 pitcher," Maddon said, adding that one of the keys to Bedard's success with the Orioles was "he was able to throw something other than a fastball in a fastball count for a strike. He was uncanny at that. That's why I thought he really ruled when he was with Baltimore."
Bedard was 40-34 in five years with the Orioles. He won 15 games in 2006 and was just as impressive the following year, when he was 13-5 with a 3.16 ERA in 28 starts.