Bedard's return to force rotation choice

Bedard's return to force rotation choice

SEATTLE -- Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu is going to be one heck of a juggler by the time this season is over.

He's already had to deal with a batch of injuries that has leveled the entire left side of Seattle's defense, as well as other areas.

And now, with the return of starting pitcher Erik Bedard on Tuesday, Wakamatsu will have to eventually figure out what to do with his starting rotation, since he's got six guys -- Felix Hernandez, Jarrod Washburn, Brandon Morrow, Garrett Olson, Jason Vargas and Bedard -- who can make a case for five spots now that Bedard is back.

Hernandez and Washburn are obviously going to continue to anchor the five-man rotation, along with a now-healthy Bedard. And Vargas probably isn't going anywhere, since the left-hander has established himself as a fairly reliable starter on the back end of the rotation.

So it would seem the decision may come down to Olson and Morrow. Olson's experience in the bullpen this season -- he's made seven relief appearances -- would seem to make him more likely to get bumped from the rotation. Wakamatsu has said all along that he wants Morrow to continue his reliever-to-starter conversion in Seattle as opposed to Triple-A, so he wouldn't seem to be a candidate for any kind of demotion.

It's a scenario that Wakamatsu says he'll figure out when he has to -- which isn't real soon, considering that the rotation is set until well after the All Star break. They have an off-day in between the three-game series against Cleveland and Detroit after the break, so Wakamatsu won't have to really worry about naming a fifth starter until the Mariners begin a six-game homestand on July 24.

Then, the juggling begins.

"We really don't need a fifth starter until the 25th, so we're going to talk about it a little bit more and see what we're going to juggle out there," Wakamatsu said. "Right now, we're still undecided on that."

Bedard had been on the disabled list since June 17 with inflammation in his left pitching shoulder, hasn't made a start since June 7 and spent much of last season on the DL with shoulder stiffness. He's 5-2 this season with a 2.47 ERA in 11 starts.

Wakamatsu said on Monday that Bedard is "ready to go," having thrown about 54 pitches in a simulated game during Seattle's series against Boston last week. He'll be on a 75-85 pitch count on Tuesday, with the hope that he can throw around 100 pitches in his next start on Sunday.

"Watching him pitch his sim game in Boston, he was probably as good as I've seen him," Wakamatsu said. "And really, after he got done throwing 54 pitches, [he] came out of there and had no ill effects of anything. All the signs look good."

Pitching matchup
SEA: LHP Erik Bedard (5-2, 2.47 ERA)
Bedard figures to be on a 60-pitch limit the first time out. He defeated the Birds on June 2 at Safeco Field.

BAL: RHP Jeremy Guthrie (6-8, 5.20 ERA)
Guthrie pitched relatively well in his last outing, but he gave up two home runs to Bobby Abreu that made the difference in the game. The right-hander has completed six innings in 12 of his 17 starts this season, but has also allowed a league-high total of 19 home runs. The former first-round Draftee has not won more than two starts in a row this season and has struck out more than five batters just twice.

Wakamatsu said injured shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt is feeling "awfully good," and could be sent down to the Minors soon to get a couple of games under his belt. Wakamatsu said it's not likely Betancourt, who has been on the DL since June 25 with a strained left hamstring, will be activated before the All-Star break. ... Mike Sweeney is day-to-day after tweaking his back during Sunday's loss to Boston. ... Ichiro Suzuki has the highest batting average against Baltimore of anyone in history. He's a career .372 hitter against the Orioles. ... The Mariners pitching staff leads the American League with a 3.14 ERA since May 20.

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Up next
• Wednesday: Mariners (Jason Vargas, 3-3, 4.14) vs. Orioles (David Hernandez, 2-2, 4.15), 1:40 p.m. PT
• Thursday: Mariners (Felix Hernandez, 8-3, 2.62) vs. Rangers (Derek Holland, 2-5, 6.18), 7:10 p.m. PT
• Friday: Mariners (Garrett Olson, 3-2, 4.58) vs. Rangers (Scott Feldman, 7-2, 3.91), 7:10 p.m. PT

Christian Caple is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.