Bedard's status is uncertain

The Baltimore Sun

BOSTON -- Orioles ace Erik Bedard remains in significant discomfort with a strained right oblique muscle, and it's becoming more likely that he'll be sidelined for an extended period.

Bedard hasn't attempted to throw since Sunday, when he allowed six earned runs in six innings to the Minnesota Twins and suffered his first loss in more than two months. The left-hander, who leads the major leagues with a club-record 221, said the pain hasn't subsided and he has no idea when he'll be able to start again.

Bedard was scratched from his start in the current series against the Boston Red Sox. Asked if he'll be able to make his next start, Bedard said, "I don't think I'll be able to."

The oblique muscle is a thin muscle located in the ribcage area. The strained oblique has been a common - and painful - injury throughout the big leagues this season. Bedard, who had never heard of the injury before this season, said it was so painful that he had trouble getting out of bed earlier this week.

The same injury sent Orioles catcher Ramon Hernandez to the disabled list for nearly a month. Red Sox slugger Manny Ramirez is sidelined with a strained left oblique.

"It's extremely frustrating to have this at the end of the year when you're having a good year," said Bedard, who is 13-5 with a 3.16 ERA and is considered a Cy Young Award candidate. "It's not the way you want to finish the year. But what can you do?"

Orioles manager Dave Trembley said he had no update on Bedard, but did guarantee that he wouldn't start in Monday night's series opener against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. The Orioles don't have a starter scheduled for that game after trading Steve Trachsel to the Chicago Cubs yesterday.

"I don't know what he's going to do today," Trembley said of Bedard. "I don't know what his plan is, but I don't have an update. He wouldn't start on Monday. He wouldn't be the guy that fills Trachsel's spot."

The Orioles don't have to worry about putting Bedard on the disabled list because rosters are allowed to expand today.

An extended absence would take Bedard out of the running for postseason awards and probably will cost him a chance at winning the American League strikeout crown.

It also would be latest blow to an Orioles rotation that has been torn apart by injuries.

The Orioles' rotation consists of Daniel Cabrera, Jeremy Guthrie, Radhames Liz and Garrett Olson. Olson, who will start tonight against the Red Sox, has made five major league starts, and Liz made his second last night. Of that group, only Cabrera was penciled into the Opening Day rotation.

"We don't have any choice," pitching coach Leo Mazzone said when asked if the season's last month will give the club a chance to look at its prospects. "It's a good opportunity to see two young arms [Olson and Liz] and have them start on a regular basis and see what we have for down the road."

To fill the vacancy in their rotation, the Orioles could dip into their bullpen and call on Brian Burres, who has made 13 starts this season, or they can look to the minor leagues.

Prospect Hayden Penn is 2-0 with a 2.81 ERA for Triple-A Norfolk since returning from surgery to remove bone spurs in his right elbow. Jim Johnson, who is 6-12 with a 4.07 ERA for the Tides, is another option.

Whoever it is will be a serious drop-off from Bedard, who has been one of the few bright spots for a struggling team.

Asked if he was sorry to miss Bedard this series, Red Sox manager Terry Francona joked that he was "heartbroken."

"I know he's a terrific pitcher," he said. "You don't want to see a young pitcher and talk about his health not being good because this kid is a rising star in this league. But are we sad not to face him? No. No. This kid is tough."

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