Rays notes: Erik Bedard at peace with move to bullpen

Jeremy Hellickson's return to the Tampa Bay Rays' rotation Tuesday created a new reality for one pitcher: Left-hander Erik Bedard.

Erik Bedard has been moved to the bullpen with the return of Jeremy Hellickson to the Rays.

Scott Iskowitz / Getty Images North America

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Jeremy Hellickson's return to the Tampa Bay Rays' rotation Tuesday created a new reality for one pitcher: Left-hander Erik Bedard.

Bedard was moved to the bullpen when Hellickson made his season debut in a victory over the Kansas City Royals at Tropicana Field. Bedard, who's 4-6 this season with a 4.82 ERA in 16 appearances (15 starts), became the logical choice for the bullpen assignment with right-hander Jake Odorizzi's recent ascent that included a 2.40 ERA in five June starts.

Still, Bedard has few regrets about his stint as a starter since making his Rays debut April 13 against the Cincinnati Reds.

"I did the best I could," he said.

Bedard has struggled of late. He allowed 16 runs and 33 hits during 31 innings pitched in June. In his most recent appearance last Thursday against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park, he allowed six runs and eight hits in two innings.

Bedard praised Hellickson's start Tuesday in which the right-hander allowed one run and six hits in 4 1/3 innings. Bedard said he held no negative feelings about the transition in roles.

"Not really," Bedard said. "That's the way baseball is. You have to adjust with the punches."

When asked if he thought he still had the potential to be a starter within the Rays' rotation, Bedard was uncertain.

"I have no idea," he said. "I'll just go day by day and see what happens."

Rays manager Joe Maddon, for his part, said Bedard's largest impact could come as a starter. As far as a bullpen role, Maddon said Bedard could be used in long-relief situations or late situations, in addition to early bad moments or possible extra-innings work.

"No, he's not a relief pitcher, so I don't know that he's going to have this nugget to provide to our younger relief pitchers," Maddon said, when asked if Bedard's veteran influence would help younger bullpen members. "He's got a much greater chance of still making an impact from a starter's position."

ESCOBAR UPDATE

Escobar, on the disabled list with a sore right shoulder since July 1 (retroactive to June 25), played shortstop and went 0 for 3 with one RBI and one run scored in a five-inning rehab start with High-A Charlotte against Jupiter on Wednesday in Port Charlotte, Florida. That followed a nine-inning appearance at shortstop for Charlotte on Tuesday against Jupiter, when he went 1 for 4 with a single.

Maddon said Escobar is on track to return to Tampa Bay's lineup Friday when the Rays open a three-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays at Tropicana Field.

Escobar has hit .244 with four home runs and 22 RBI this season. He last played for the Rays on June 24, when he went 0 for 3 in a loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

"If Yuni comes back and plays the way he did last year on a consistent basis at short, that would be a big plus for us," Maddon said. "Bat-wise, he's probably our best hitter against left-handed pitchers right now. He has really good energy and he makes us thicker. Again, this is the middle of the season. Guys are going to get tired, and he's a fresh body right now. The more fresh bodies we can have, the better we're going to be."

ARCHER ISN'T INTO GRADING HIMSELF

It has been a memorable first half for right-hander Chris Archer, who will make his final start before the All-Star break Friday.

He's 5-5 with a 3.16 ERA in 18 starts this season. In April, he signed a six-year extension worth a possible $43.75 million ($25.5 million guaranteed).

But when asked to place a letter grade on his play in recent months, he refused.

"That's just unfair," Archer said. "The only thing I can grade is my effort. I can't grade results. I can't grade wins. I can't grade losses. All I can focus on is 100-percent effort and intent, period."

Certainly, his effort and intent have yielded solid results of late. He posted a season-best 1.95 ERA in six June starts, and he's coming off a two-run, six-hit and four-strikeout performance throughout 8 1/3 innings in a victory over the Tigers last Saturday. He called it his season's best outing.

"Whatever area of life it's in," Archer said, "it's always promising to grow."

WORTH NOTING

--- Entering Wednesday, the Rays had the majors' third-best record since June 11. They had posted an 18-9 mark since that date, trailing just the Oakland Athletics (18-7) and Reds (19-8).

--- Ben Zobrist's offensive numbers have spiked of late. He added 24 points to his batting average (.244 to .268) and 59 points to his OPS (.698 to .757) in 11 games since June 28. He has started 14 of the Rays' last 15 games at shortstop.

"He's been really consistent," Maddon said. "He's made all the plays, and he's throwing really well on top of that. He's an offensive shortstop. Anytime he plays over there, his offense kicks into gear. I think it's because he likes the way he sees the game from that particular spot on the field."

--- September in July? The Rays' recent urgency says as much. Still, Maddon said the run makes him aware of the bullpen's needs.

"It's kind of different, kind of fun," Maddon said. "But my biggest concern ... is the bullpen and (making) sure we don't over-extend anybody there."

You can follow Andrew Astleford on Twitter @aastleford or email him at aastleford@gmail.com.