PORT CHARLOTTE — The Rays continued to add depth to their pitching staff Friday when they signed LHP Erik Bedard to a minor-league contract with an invitation to spring training.
“He’s a guy that we’ve liked in the past. We’re anxious to get him in here and be around him more,” Tampa Bay executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said. “He’ll come in and compete for the fifth starter job. I don’t know how that will transpire, but he’s also a candidate to pitch out of the pen.”
Bedard, a 10-year veteran who spent last season in Houston, is the second pitcher added in the last two days of the offseason.
With RHP Jeremy Hellickson (elbow surgery) out until at least the middle of May, the Rays’ depth at starting pitching will be tested. RHP Jake Odorizzi appeared to be the favorite to replace Hellickson until Bedard was signed.
Also in the mix is RHP Alex Colome, who finished the 2013 season on the disabled list because of a strained elbow.
LHP Mike Montgomery, RHP Matt Andriese, LHP Enny Romero and RHP Nate Karns, acquired Thursday from the Nationals in exchange for C Jose Lobaton and two minor-league prospects, are on the radar, but they might not be quite ready to join a big-league rotation out of camp.
Yet Friedman wants to stockpile as many starting pitchers at Triple-A Durham as he can to guard against injuries at the major-league level. The Rays had three starters — LHP David Price, LHP Matt Moore and RHP Alex Cobb — head to the disabled list last season.
“We’re going to need it,” Friedman said of the depth at Durham. “We don’t know when, how, what’s going to happen, who, but we’re going to need it.
“For us to have any chance winning 90-plus games we have to have quality arms down below who can come up and help us win games, and so instead of us making excuses ... well we lost Price and Cobb for this amount of time. That might help us at an end-of-the-year press conference, but it doesn’t help us with what we’re trying to accomplish, so we try to get out in front of it as much as we can.”
Bedard, who turns 35 next month, is 67-76 with a 3.94 ERA during his career.
C Ryan Hanigan said his Australian shepherd, Copperridge What’s Your Dream, which won best in breed earlier this week at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show at Madison Square Garden, is a typical dog despite her lofty title.
“She’s a great dog. A lot of fun. Loves playing ball,” Hanigan said.
When asked for Astro’s reaction to another dog in camp garnering national attention, Price said, “Astro’s OK with it.”
Price said Astro, his popular French bulldog, is not the dog-show type.
“No,” Price said, “he’s blue collar.”
Hellickson has been in Port Charlotte this week working with the Rays’ training staff after having minor surgery Jan. 28 to remove loose bodies in his right elbow.
“It feels good. It feels nice and free and easy,” Hellickson said. “It feels loose. It just feels great.”
Hellickson, who plans to rejoin the rotation in mid May, said he does not have a timetable for when he will begin his throwing program.
Proceeds from ticket sales to the March 11 game against Minnesota at Charlotte Sports Park will benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Sun Coast, the Charlotte County Family YMCA, Charlotte County Habitat for Humanity and the Charlotte County Homeless Coalition. ... Today’s workout begins at 10 a.m. Gates open at 10 a.m.