Pirates pick Bedard as Opening Day starter

Pirates pick Bedard as Opening Day starter

Pirates pick Bedard as Opening Day starter
BRADENTON, Fla. -- Erik Bedard, the free agent left-hander signed in the offseason to lend veteran leadership to his younger partners in the Pirates rotation, can start leading on Day One.

Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle announced on Thursday he has chosen Bedard as the Bucs' Opening Day pitcher. He will face the Phillies and Roy Halladay on April 5 at PNC Park.

Hurdle conceded that his staff was "planning on giving the ball to A.J. [Burnett] to start the season," before a Feb. 29 bunting accident knocked Burnett, the other veteran newcomer, out of the season-starting picture.

Bedard will be followed in the rotation by Jeff Karstens and James McDonald for the other two games of the season-opening series against Philadelphia, then Kevin Correia will launch the road season on April 10 at Dodger Stadium.

Hurdle made his announcement following Thursday's exhibition at McKechnie Field. As routine for pitchers not scheduled to pitch in that day's game, Bedard had by then departed the park and was not available to comment on the third Opening Day assignment of his career.

Bedard dropped the 2007 opener while pitching for Baltimore, and in 2008 had a no-decision as Seattle's Opening Day starter. In those two starts, he allowed 13 hits -- including three home runs -- and seven earned runs in 9 2/3 innings.

"We looked at a whole bunch of factors," Hurdle said of the staff choice. "We looked at what the best matchups were for the first two weeks, heading into the month following.

"We felt this was our strongest rotation coming out. Bedard has done this before, it'll put Jeff in a good position to counter-balance the looks the Phillies will get, then with McDonald we get three different looks right out of the chute. And then Correia can try building on the momentum (10-3 record) he established on the road last season."