Odds and ends on Kotchman, Bedard and a polite young catcher

We bring you the news of the day — Casey Kotchman’s signing to avoid arbitration — a couple hours after it broke because, believe it or not, I was at the Mariners’ spring training complex showing a friend around.

There’s something poetic about a quiet, empty and perfectly manicured baseball stadium. That’s what Peoria Stadium, home to the Mariners’ and Padres’ exhibition games, was today. In less than a month, it’ll be buzzing.

While at the stadium souvenir shop (where you can get some smoking deals on last year’s garb — how about a Team USA World Baseball Classic fitted cap for $5 … provided you wear size 8), I ran into one of the most polite teen-agers you’d want to meet.

It was Steven Baron, the Mariners’ supplemental first-round pick who’s among the select 40 prospects taking part in the organization’s mini-camp. Baron was buying some souvenirs. He played last year at Class A Pulaski and, as a catcher, got the full effect of the Mariners’ personable catching coordinator, Roger Hansen. Like most catchers, he loves Hansen despite the grueling work Roger puts his players through. “I just keep my mouth shut and work hard for him,” said Baron, who probably will play at Class A Clinton this year.

More on Baron for another day. As Mark McGwire once said, I’m not here to talk about the past.

The Mariners made more news today by signing first baseman Casey Kotchman to a contact for 2010, avoiding arbitration with him. He will get $3.5 million this year, splitting the difference between the $3.9 million he’d filed for and the $3.1 million the Mariners offered. That clears the Mariners’ decks of arbitration-eligible players and continues their streak of not having gone to a hearing since 2003 with Freddy Garcia.

There also are some rumblings on the Erik Bedard front, courtesy a blog item by Jim Street, who covers the Mariners for MLB.com. Street writes that the Mariners “could soon re-up with the Mariners” on an incentive-filled contract. Street later wrote that the deal could be worth about $1.5 million.

Word of that makes me go “Hmmmmmm” because just last night I spoke with a source familiar with the labrum surgery Bedard had last Aug. 14 on his left (throwing) shoulder. While there have been reports that Bedard may not be pitching again until July, this person believes Bedard’s rehab has gone very well and that a comeback in May is possible.

Bedard has progressed so well in his throwing program that he’ll be coming to Arizona soon to continue it. One reason is that the place he’s throwing at his home in Canada is only 70 feet long, and he needs to start stretching it out. So Bedard will continue his work in Arizona under the same personal trainer who helped extend Randy Johnson’s career with the Diamondbacks.

The Mariners aren’t saying a word about Bedard right now. However, if a comeback as early as May is a realistic possibility, I can see them being interested.

Until the Mariners see him do something more than long-toss, the timetable on is return will need a lot of fudge-factor. When a pitcher gets back on the mound and throws on that downhill plane, that’s when the shoulder will undergo a true stress test.

Remember, Bedard had two surgeries on that shoulder in less than a year’s time (in September of 2008 and August of 2009) and a labrum is about the worst injury a pitcher can have. So even if he signs, the latest saga of Bedard and the Mariners will just be beginning.

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