Erik Bedard made it all the way to, what was supposed to be, his lone Triple-A rehab start before breaking down again. Bedard had progressed so far that he even had a scheduled start for the Mariners before suffering from shoulder pain after his Triple-A outing. Medical imaging and three surgical opinions later and Bedard heads back under the knife today. Though no official word came out, it appears from quotes that the procedure aims to clears out some bone spurs in Bedard’s shoulder. A normal recovery for that procedure would put Bedard on track to be ready for Spring Training in 2011 but it is difficult to put faith in the normal time line at this point.
The Mariners invested $1.5 million guaranteed dollars in Erik Bedard this season. That investment has not paid off. The Mariners are used to that this season, but in the case of gambling on an injury-prone pitcher they are not alone in the AL West this season. The Rangers gave $7.5 guaranteed million to Rich Harden coming off his two reasonably close to full seasons and the Athletics gave a whopping $10 million to Ben Sheets even though he hadn’t thrown a competitive Major League pitch in 18 months.
Neither team has had the risk rewarded. Harden became a shell of his former self with half his swinging strike rate and a career high walk rate. Over 72 innings pitched so far, he’s been below replacement level. Rehabbing another injury, Harden is likely to end up in a relief role if he manages to make it back.
Ben Sheets is also spending his days on the disabled list right now. Seeking other opinions on his elbow injury, Sheets is hoping to avoid missing the remainder of 2010 but the picture remains murky on that front. In his 119.1 innings tossed before being shelved, Sheets also suffered from a reduced swinging strike rate and a career high walk rate. A pitcher once renowned for his strikeout to walk ratios posted just a 2.0 ratio in 2010. His 0.7 WAR is valued at just under $3 million leaving Oakland currently with a $7 million shortfall.
The conclusion isn’t that injured pitchers aren’t worth the risk. All pitchers are risky, even the seemingly healthy ones and getting anyone with talent at a discount is always an avenue worth investigating. The point is to remember why teams consider these pitchers high risks to contribute in the first place. It’s to remember the other side from the too-easy story of redemption and coming back. Sometimes people don’t get off the mat. And it’s because not everyone does or even can that makes those that do special.