After a second straight season of 100-plus losses the Astros went into the offseason with several major issues that needed to be addressed. One of the most important needs, in my opinion, was starting pitching. The club has an abundance of pitching prospects but is still somewhat thin at the big league level.
Lucas Harrell and Jordan Lyles lead a group of young hurlers that will be expected to bring the team back into contention in the years to come. But, for now, the club needs a couple of experienced starters to not only mentor the young guys, but also to help lighten their innings load. Astros G.M. Jeff Luhnow has attempted to address this area of concern by claiming Philip Humber off waivers and signing left-hander Erik Bedard as a non-roster invitee to Spring Training. I believe Bedard could prove to be a valuable pickup.
Bedard, who turns 34 in March, is a veteran of nine big league seasons. As recently as 2007 he was one of the top pitchers in the American League. That year Bedard went 13-5 on a Baltimore Orioles team that finished with a 69-93 record. He led the league with 10.9 K/9 IP and 7.0 H/9 IP and tied for fifth in the Cy YoungAward voting.
Yes, that was a long time ago, and a lot has happened since. But it’s the journey that followed that may have turned Bedard into more of a complete pitcher. Bedard was sidelined by arm problems after only 15 starts in 2008. He came back to make 15 more starts in 2009 before landing on the disabled list once again. After surgery to repair a torn labrum Bedard missed the entire 2010 season.
Upon his return Bedard had lost a couple miles per hour off his fastball and began mixing in more cutters and changeups. Even with the adjustments to his repertoire Bedard still managed to keep his strikeout numbers high while allowing a low number of hits. He has averaged at least 8 K/9IP every season and last year was the first time he posted an ERA over four.
Bedard still believes in his ability and his offseason workout regimen proves he’s committed to making it back to the big leagues. A native of Ontario Canada, Bedard still spends his winters there. The sub-zero temperatures can pose a challenge for trying to keep one’s pitching arm in shape. But Bedard is resourceful. This winter he installed a portable mound in his garage. Erik’s younger brother served as his catcher.
Granted, Bedard’s 2012 was not-so-great and he was eventually released by the Pittsburgh Pirates. There’s even a chance that he could be washed up. But the Astros didn’t risk anything by signing him and the reward stands to be great if he can still pitch. Luhnow said “Bedard has a strong chance to be in our rotation all year long.”
If the Astros decide to keep Bedard someone else will have to be removed from the 40-man roster and exposed to waivers. The roster currently includes eight minor league pitchers, meaning Luhnow could be facing a tough decision. A trade involving Bud Norris could create some wiggle room. We’ll just have to wait and see how it all plays out.