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Originally published February 4, 2010 at 6:12 PM | Page modified February 5, 2010 at 5:26 PM

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Mariners are close to a deal with free agent Erik Bedard

Erik Bedard, who had injury problems each of his two seasons with the Mariners, might re-sign with the team.

Seattle Times staff reporter

The Mariners are moving toward re-signing free-agent pitcher Erik Bedard, who is trying to come back from shoulder surgery in August.

Several news outlets reported Thursday that the sides are close to a one-year deal, pending a physical. MLB.com reported that a proposed deal would pay Bedard, who turns 31 on March 5, a base salary of $1.5 million, plus considerable incentives.

Bedard earned $7.5 million in 2009, when he went 5-3 with a 2.82 earned-run average in 15 starts.

Bedard's agent, Mark Pieper, didn't return phone and e-mail messages. Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik is in the Dominican Republic this week.

For the second year in a row, Bedard's Mariners season ended prematurely because of shoulder surgery. On Aug. 14, Dr. Lewis Yocum repaired a torn labrum in Bedard's left shoulder, as well as inflammation in his bursa.

The Mariners have been monitoring Bedard's rehabilitation since the surgery. At last week's spring-training luncheon, M's trainer Rick Griffin said Bedard "is playing catch and says he feels very good. ... When he had his surgery, Dr. Yocum said it was a 10- to 12-month process, and he's at about seven months now. He has a ways to go, but he's working and rehabbing."

That timetable would clearly not allow Bedard to be ready for the start of the season. He told The (Tacoma) News Tribune he believes he's on pace to return sometime in May, but others in baseball believe a return in either June or even July is more realistic.

A torn labrum is traditionally one of the hardest injuries for a pitcher to come back from. Among those who have been unable to do so are Mark Prior, Jason Schmidt, Matt Clement, Scott Elarton and Bartolo Colon.

In 2004, Will Carroll of Baseball Prospectus wrote an oft-cited article for Slate Magazine on the dire nature of labrum injuries. He concluded, "If pitchers with torn labrums were horses, they'd be destroyed."

However, Carroll now says the outlook for labrum victims is not as bleak. In a new article in Rotowire, he concludes: "We're left with hope. Surgeons do a better job repairing shoulder injuries in baseball now than they did just a few short years ago. Continued improvement and inevitable experience should continue the progress."

In a phone interview, Carroll said of labrum tears and the recovery prognosis, "It's a lot better off. It's not good, by any stretch of the imagination, but at least it's not Rocky Biddle (a pitcher whose once-promising career was wiped out by a shoulder injury). We now have pitchers coming back — and a ton trying to come back."

Besides Bedard, that list of pitchers attempting to come back from labrum issues in 2010 includes Brandon Webb, Ted Lilly, Jeff Francis and Ben Sheets. They can point for inspiration to a few shining examples, such as Curt Schilling, who had labral surgery in 1995 and went on to a stellar career; and Chris Carpenter, who had it in 2002 and won the Cy Young Award in 2005.

The Mariners also haven't closed the door on bringing back another member of their 2009 rotation, free agent Jarrod Washburn. The left-hander is also known to be talking to the Minnesota Twins, but signing there became less likely Thursday with reports the Twins have reached agreement with free-agent second baseman Orlando Hudson for a reported one-year, $5 million deal.

Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or lstone@seattletimes.com

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