By Kirby Arnold Herald Writer
The Seattle Mariners cleared their final arbitration-eligible player off the books Wednesday, signing first baseman Casey Kotchman to a one-year contract.
Kotchman, acquired Jan. 7 from the Red Sox in exchange for utility player Bill Hall, will make $3,517,500 this year. He had filed for $3.9 million and the Mariners offered $3.1 million.
He was the last of the Mariners’ arbitration-eligible players to sign, following pitchers Felix Hernandez, Mark Lowe, David Aardsma and Brandon League. No Mariner has gone all the way to an arbitration hearing since Freddy Garcia in 2003.
Kotchman is a defensive specialist who has played 185 games since last committing an error. A left-handed hitter, he’ll be the Mariners’ primary first baseman although they could choose to platoon him with right-handed-hitting Ryan Garko, who they signed Monday.
Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik is continuing to pursue pitching, and a report Wednesday on MLB.com said they may be close to re-signing Erik Bedard to an incentive-heavy contract for 2010.
Bedard, 11-7 in two injury-filled seasons since the Mariners acquired him in a trade with the Orioles, had surgery Aug. 14 to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder.
The original recovery time was estimated at about 12 months, although those who’ve monitored his rehabilitation believe he could be able to pitch as early as May.
Bedard has progressed well enough in a throwing program at his home in Canada that he’s expected to fly to Arizona to continue his workouts and stretch out the distance he’s able to throw. He has been throwing at an indoor workout facility in his home but has been limited to about 70 feet.
Also, outfielder Endy Chavez’s recovery from a serious knee injury has gone so well that he could be playing sooner than first expected, possibly by April or May. Chavez tore the anterior cruciate ligament and the medial collateral ligament in his right knee on June 19 when he collided in the outfield with shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt. Because of the severity of the injury, doctors originally expected Chavez to need a full year to recover.
Although the Mariners have monitored his recovery, Chavez is a free agent and is speaking with teams about a contract for 2010.
Read Kirby Arnold’s blog on the Mariners at www.heraldnet.com/marinersblog