Bedard continues being Mariners best story

Bedard.JPGMariners fans looking for reasons to get excited about this coming season can look at today’s boxscore against the Padres for a good clue.

Erik Bedard 5 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 62 pitches (44 strikes/18 balls)

There are plenty of reasons to be skeptical about Bedard’s role with the club this year, based on his past shoulder problems. But the lefty has looked sharp from the start of camp and that run has carried now through his fifth start of the spring.

With two more dress rehearsals to go, there’s little question that Bedard is the best surprise of this spring for a team that can use a few things to go its way. Bedard said after the game today he hasn’t felt this good in his three years in Seattle. He’s been both good on the mound and in the clubhouse, a happy camper who is enjoying being pain free.

A healthy Bedard would change Seattle’s rotation outlook considerably, providing a legit No. 2 behind Felix Hernandez and taking some of the pressure of Jason Vargas and Doug Fister, not to mention young Michael Pineda.

So knock on wood, if you’re a Mariners fan, but that continues to be a positive storyline coming out of Peoria.

The Padres surely aren’t the Rangers when it comes to trotting out a scary lineup, but Jamey Wright, Josh Lueke and Brandon League also provided bullpen encouragement after the relievers struggled against Texas a day earlier.

League’s outing was much better than his last struggle. He’ll be a roller coaster as a closer, no doubt, but he remains the front-runner there until David Aardsma’s return.

We’ll get another look at Chris Ray on Monday, as well as Pineda when the Mariners play the Reds in Goodyear.

Lueke continues to look like a legitimate back-end candidate as well, though he benefitted largely today from a great diving catch in center by Ryan Langerhans.

Langerhans is getting an extensive look in the outfield right now, while Gabe Gross appears out of the picture. And while Langerhans has gone 0-for-9 the past two games to see his batting average drop to a mortal .324, his diving catch surely didn’t hurt as Eric Wedge looks for a guy who can fill that fourth outfielder role and brings versatility.

Wedge also is closing in on a decision on his shortstop-second base combo. He said that announcement will come ‘”sooner than later.” The last time he told me something was coming “sooner than later” was when I asked about when cuts would start … and they wound up coming the next day. So stay tuned.

The guess here is Wilson will be the Opening Day shortstop and Brendan Ryan, who gapped a triple today and has been hitting the ball better than his .152 average would indicate, will be the primary second baseman.

That leaves Adam Kennedy in a utility role where he can fill in at second, first, third and even left if necessary.

The other good news today is Miguel Olivo is working more and more behind the plate, catching bullpen sessions and making throws to second on his recovering groin muscle. It sounds as if Olivo should be part of the Opening Day roster, even if he’s not ready to catch every day.

A big question is who’ll be the other catcher, Adam Moore or Josh Bard. It’s going to be hard to stuff too many non-roster invitees on the final group, so that might work against Bard, though he’s been playing well.

That’s all for now. I’ll be back Monday with the latest on Pineda and other doings from the desert.

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