FORT MYERS — Rays pitcher Erik Bedard said he will explore other options if he doesn't earn the last spot in the rotation.
The left-hander, signed to a minor-league contract the day camp opened, said he would involve his opt-out clause and try to hook on with one of the many teams searching for rotation help.
“There's a lot of starters who have been hurt so there's a lot of chances and I'll probably go somewhere else,” Bedard said Tuesday afternoon. “Every day it seems like a starter goes down. There's a lot of opportunities out there if I'm not on the team.”
Problem is, Bedard's opt-out clause doesn't kick in until March 31, which is Opening Day.
“That's not a lot of time to go to another team,” he joked.
That might not be a problem.
Rays manager Joe Maddon said before Tuesday night's game against the Minnesota Twins at Hammond Stadium that he likely will announce the decision on the fifth start Saturday. By then, Cesar Ramos and Jake Odorizzi (Thursday) and Bedard (Friday) will have pitched one more time.
Maddon said the organization won't stand in Bedard's way if he doesn't make the rotation.
“We would not want to hold him back if he was not chosen,” Maddon said. “I really like this guy, I talked about it. He's really ingratiated himself to a lot of us in a very brief period of time. He's a professional. He's definitely still good. It's one of those things that if in fact he wasn't a fit for us and he hears from somebody else, you want him to be able to take advantage of the opportunity.”
When he signed, there was talk of Bedard possibly moving to the bullpen as the long man if he didn't earn a spot in the rotation.
“We've been just focused on the starting thing. Honestly, I haven't talked about that,” Maddon said. “We talked about it earlier in camp, but I think with all the different reliever candidates it'd be hard to want to do that, because there are so many great candidates among the other guys, even if (Juan Carlos) Oviedo is unable to answer the bell in the beginning. ... Not saying that we wouldn't, but we have not discussed that.”
When asked if the risk of losing Bedard could factor in the decision, Maddon said, “No, it does not.”
Ramos will start Thursday night against the Minnesota Twins at Charlotte Sports Park. Odorizzi is scheduled to follow Ramos to the mound.
Bedard will start Friday afternoon in Port Charlotte against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Maddon said he's “confident” he will announce the fifth starter Saturday.
“I think we'd all like to know,” Ramos said.
The winner of the Bedard, Ramos, Odorizzi derby will fill in for Jeremy Hellickson, who had arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow Jan. 28 and has set June 1 as the target for his return.
If Odorizzi does not claim the last spot he will head back to Triple-A Durham.
Ramos, who served as the Rays' long man in the bullpen until he was entered in the competition for the fifth spot, is out of options. Ramos said he's glad for the chance to earn a spot but knows his fate if it goes to either Bedard or Odorizzi.
“That was my role coming in,” Ramos said about returning to the bullpen. “A few things happened, and if I get the opportunity and I win a spot, good. If I don't, then just back to what was supposed to be from the very beginning.”