ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Erik Bedard is trying to stay focused on the task at hand. That means winning and nothing else. That means avoiding concerns like pitching for his job, considering his future with the Tampa Bay Rays and placing too much pressure on himself to perform.
"You always pitch to win," the left-hander said Wednesday. "I don’t think of anything else. You just want to help the team win, and at the end of the day, that’s what you want to do."
Bedard, who has a 6.35 ERA with three strikeouts and two walks in two appearances, will aim for a longer outing when he receives the start Thursday afternoon in the series finale against the Minnesota Twins at Tropicana Field. He made his Rays debut in relief April 13, when he allowed one run (unearned) and two hits in two innings in a loss to the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park. He made his first Rays start April 18, when he allowed four runs and six hits in 3 2/3 innings in a victory over the New York Yankees at Tropicana Field.
It will be worth watching Bedard’s pitch count Thursday. The 11-year veteran, re-signed to a minor-league deal on March 29, threw 37 pitches against the Reds and 73 against the Yankees. He said an abbreviated pitch number can be expected Thursday, before he throws a possible 90-100 count in a later appearance.
"Yeah, I would say one more (start), then I would be on a regular pitch count," Bedard said.
Rays manager Joe Maddon said Bedard has made the minor adjustments necessary to build arm strength. Maddon also discounted the notion that Bedard is pitching for his job as the Rays continue with the Bedard/Jake Odorizzi/Cesar Ramos combination to replace three rotation members on the disabled list: left-hander Matt Moore (Tommy John) and right-handers Jeremy Hellickson (arthroscopic right elbow surgery) and Alex Cobb (left oblique strain).
"We’re not talking like that," Maddon said. "I hope I’m not insinuating that, because it’s not at that point yet."
Still, Bedard hopes to show more Thursday.
"I think it went OK," he said of his first start. "It’s not the results you want, but I’m working on it. I’m trying to get my pitch more crisp, and hopefully, these starts will do it."
DEJESUS HAPPY TO END SLUMP
David DeJesus remained pleased the day after he ended a career-long 0-for-24 slide.
The outfielder went 3 for 4 with three RBI in a 7-3 victory over the Twins on Tuesday at Tropicana Field. He was part of the Rays’ three-run first inning in which he singled to right field, allowing Evan Longoria to score from second base to give the Rays a 3-0 lead. He also added an RBI single to right field in the third that scored Longoria and James Loney, giving Tampa Bay a 5-0 edge.
"It’s good to get hits," DeJesus said Wednesday. "It’s just a process of staying with it and working hard, and things are going to happen. â¦ Joe came up to me and gave me some tidbits."
The advice: Be more active with his hands. Before recovering Tuesday, DeJesus’ previous career-long slump was a 0-for-22 skid from July 30-Aug. 6, 2005, as part of the Kansas City Royals.
"Just kind of use my hands more," DeJesus said of the tip. "I was kind of using my body."
DeJesus was out of the lineup Wednesday with Ben Zobrist scheduled to appear in left field and utility player Logan Forsythe at second base. Maddon said he wanted to avoid stunting DeJesus’ momentum by placing him in a difficult matchup against right-hander Mike Pelfrey, who enjoys success against left-handed hitters.
"Because David had such a good day yesterday — (this) might sound crazy — I did not want him to have to face this kind of a pitcher today and mess up all the good vibes that he created yesterday," Maddon said. "I just decided to do this for today, and David will be back in the lineup tomorrow."
MADDON STRIKEOUT CHANGED
On Wednesday, Maddon said he wants Yunel Escobar’s strikeout on a 4-2 count during the fifth inning Tuesday night changed to a walk.
Escobar struck out against Minnesota right-hander Samuel Deduno. But Major League Baseball later acknowledged via a statement that replay officials and supervisors mistakenly thought one of the pitches was a foul ball when it was actually a ball.
After initial confusion during Escobar’s at-bat, umpires initiated a replay challenge to confirm the count. Still, an error was made.
"The thing I’d like to see happen, quite frankly, is I’d like to see that taken off Escobar’s record as a strikeout and see it re-instated as a walk," Maddon said. "It has no impact on the game whatsoever. The fact that there’s visual proof — that that’s exactly what did happen. Why wouldn’t you do that? There’s nothing in the game (that’s affected). The other pitcher I don’t think would be impacted by it at all, other than the fact he would get a walk that he deserves and Escobar would get the walk that he deserves."