Bedard's pain shows O's made right move

Baseball

April 13, 2008

Observations, opinions and musings from the week in Major League Baseball.

The big happening around here last week was supposed to be Erik Bedard's return to the Camden Yards mound, this time against his old friends and teammates.

It didn't occur.

Scheduled to pitch Sunday for the Seattle Mariners, he came up with left hip inflammation the day before, and his start was moved to Tuesday at Tampa Bay.

Conspiracy theorists say Bedard, never a fan of the spotlight, didn't want to pitch against the Orioles. That's foolish.

Bedard loves to compete and was looking forward to seeing his buddies in the box. After throwing a bullpen session Sunday, Bedard went to manager John McLaren and lobbied to start, but he was told no. So he pitched Tuesday against the Rays and notched his first win as a Mariner.

The fact he wasn't on the mound in Baltimore, though, illustrates why the rebuilding Orioles had to make February's trade with Seattle.

Pitching is baseball's most treasured commodity, but it is also its most fragile. Bedard could win 20 games for Seattle this year but needs to stay healthy to do so - and he has been hampered by injuries in the past.

It's tough to build around one or two pitchers, because the health risk is so huge. That's why the Orioles have decided to compile as many quality young arms as possible and hope some of them flourish.

That's risky, too, because it's possible none of the seven pitchers they received in the deals for Bedard and Miguel Tejada (with the Houston Astros) will end up being as good as Bedard, individually anyway.

But if three or four are future contributors, the trades have to be considered a success. Even if Bedard, whose market value might never be higher than it was this offseason when he was still two seasons from free agency, stays on the mound and wins 20 for Seattle.

Odds on Trembley, Acta

BetUS.com recently put out its line on which major league manager will be the first to be fired or resign, and this region shouldn't be worried, according to the online betting service.

The Orioles' Dave Trembley (30-1) and the Nationals' Manny Acta (40-1) are toward the back of the pack - and with good reason.

Both are considered patient teachers and are in charge of relatively young clubs. It would be a shock to see either one not get beyond 2008, no matter how many games their respective teams win.

According to the service, the thinnest ice is in Chicago, where White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen is a 5-1 bet. That one makes sense, only because Guillen is unpredictable and has threatened to leave in the past. If Guillen walks, it would be his decision, but that counts - according to the betting rules.

The real surprise is that Arizona's Bob Melvin (6-1) and Milwaukee's Ned Yost (8-1) have the next-worst odds, presumably because they'll be on the hot seat if their talented teams don't do well. Don't bet on it. Both should be safe.

Upgrade in D.C.

Nationals Park has had a chance to host a full homestand now, and though the attendance was disappointing, the ballpark is worth going to. Especially if you endured games at RFK Stadium over the past three seasons.

No question it's a major upgrade from the old bowl on East Capitol.

It doesn't have a truly distinctive feel, but it's a good-looking, comfortable place, reminiscent of Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. Those sitting high enough, like in the nose-bleeding press box, get a great view of the U.S. Capitol dome. But parking garages beyond left and center fields obstruct what could have been a tremendous sight line.

Doubling up again

Mark Wiley, who was fired by the Orioles as pitching coach in 2004, is back in uniform as the Florida Marlins' pitching coach after two years as a scout with the Colorado Rockies.

You had to figure Wiley, who last week was in Washington with the Marlins, would end up in Miami again at some point. He made a good impression there in 2005 and lives in nearby Boca Raton, Fla. Plus, it's Wiley's career path. He has had two coaching stints with the Cleveland Indians, two with the Orioles and now his second with the Marlins.

Baseball has a way of recycling, and Wiley is a guy who deserves the second chances. Few work harder. Just ask the pitchers he has tutored over the years. The results haven't always been there, but the sweat was.

No steroid fallout

There was talk that fans would be bitter and angry after the Mitchell Report came out in December. But there seems to be little or no hangover from the steroid revelations.

The Toronto Blue Jays' Frank Thomas, who has been a vocal steroid opponent for years, said he truly thinks fans have moved on after hearing the names involved. And he's glad.

"It was really eye-popping that we all found out what really happened back six, seven years ago, but what can you do about it?" Thomas said. "The page has turned. Baseball is going to be baseball as usual."

dan.connolly@baltsun.com

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