PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — Left-hander Erik Bedard’s time with the Tampa Bay Rays is over … for now.
The Rays released the 10-year veteran reliever Tuesday to allow him to pursue other starting opportunities in the major leagues, three days after right-hander Jake Odorizzi was named the team’s fifth starter. However, manager Joe Maddon made clear that Bedard will be welcomed back if no other chance presents itself.
"You’ve just got to look at the other teams that need starting pitching right now," Maddon said. "That would be the ones that more than likely have contacted him. And if it doesn’t work out, then he’ll have to make his choice. I would like to believe that if it doesn’t work out, based on our relationship that we’ve built here, that he’d want to come back to us, because we would really like to have him back. But again, when it comes down to a veteran player like that, we really support (him). It’s all about him and his family first."
Bedard, 35, was signed to a minor-league deal with a spring training invite Feb. 14, the first day of camp. The Rays were his sixth team, after previous stops with the Baltimore Orioles (2002, 2004-2007), Seattle Mariners (2008-2009, 2011), Boston Red Sox (2011), Pittsburgh Pirates (2012) and Houston Astros (2013).
He was part of the fifth-starter competition with Odorizzi and left-hander Cesar Ramos, and he finished the spring with a 2-2 record and a 6.88 ERA with 10 strikeouts in five appearances (three starts).
If Bedard finds work elsewhere, the development will hurt the Rays’ pitching depth, especially with the news of right-hander Alex Colome’s 50-game suspension Monday for testing positive for Boldenone, a banned performance-enhancing substance. Bedard owns a 67-76 career record with a 3.94 ERA and 1,182 strikeouts.
"We could always use that depth, absolutely," Maddon said. "Stuff happens. … (Right-hander) (Nathan) Karns, right now, is a strong candidate too. But the more depth we can build up, the better off you are."
Meanwhile, in other roster moves Tuesday, right-hander Mark Lowe, utility man Jayson Nix and infielder Wilson Betemit were told they will not make the Rays’ Opening Day roster, though Maddon left open the possibility for changes.
Outfielder Brandon Guyer, part of the Rays system since 2011, was named to the Opening Day roster after having 18 major-league starts combined in 2011 and 2012. He has batted a career .188 with three home runs and four RBI with 10 strikeouts in the major leagues.
"I’ve been through all the levels in the minors, and to finally be here Opening Day, I’m just going to give it my all, everything I can do possibly to help the team win," Guyer said. "I don’t care what it is. I’m just going to do what I can. Like I said, I’m really excited. But it’s just the beginning. I’ve got a lot of work to do. I’m just going to keep working hard."
In other news, infielder Ray Olmedo and catcher Mayo Acosta were re-assigned to minor league camp. In addition, Tampa Bay’s bullpen situation is incomplete, though it appears right-handers Brandon Gomes and Josh Lueke are the favorites to earn spots. Still, Maddon said something else could be in play.
When all was settled as much as possible, the day of change wasn’t easy for the manager.
"Selfishly, we want them all back," Maddon said of Lowe, Nix and Betemit. "Unselfishly, I want what’s best for them. We do, as an organization, for them and their families. No question. But they all fit in really well here. It’s a very difficult moment trying to piece this all together with so many good options."