Considering his lengthy injury history making this official with two weeks left in spring training seems sort of risky, but the Pirates announced that Erik Bedard will start Opening Day.
Manager Clint Hurdle told reporters that he’d planned to give the Opening Day assignment to A.J. Burnett after the Pirates acquired him from the Yankees, but then Burnett went and fractured his orbital bone while practicing bunts. That and his ERAs the past two seasons were 5.26 and 5.15.
Bedard was very effective when healthy last year for the Mariners and Red Sox, making 24 starts with a 3.62 ERA and 125/48 K/BB ratio in 129 innings. In fact, his ERA has been under 3.80 in each of the past five years, which is why he was worth a $4.5 million investment and gets the Game 1 call ahead of James McDonald and Kevin Correia.
Robert Murray and MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand reported earlier, respectively, that the Phillies signed pitcher Francisco Liriano and infielder Neil Walker to minor league contracts. If he makes the major league roster, Liriano will earn a salary of $1.5 million with an additional $1.25 million available through performance incentives. Walker’s contract information is not yet known.
Liriano, 36, struggled from 2016-18 but enjoyed a productive year out of the bullpen for the Pirates this past season. He posted a 3.47 ERA with 63 strikeouts and 35 walks over 70 innings. The lefty was quite effective against same-handed batters, limiting fellow lefties to a .659 OPS. That would figure to be a key component if Liriano makes the Phillies’ Opening Day roster.
Walker, 34, hit .261/.344/.395 with eight home runs and 38 RBI over 381 plate appearances with the Marlins last year. The veteran is versastile, having played first, second, and third base along with both corner outfield spots in recent seasons. Despite Walker’s versatility, it is tough to see room on the Phillies’ roster for him, barring injuries to other players. It never hurts to have depth.