- The Washington Times - Monday, March 19, 2007

From combined dispatches

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Erik Bedard will start the Baltimore Orioles’ season opener in Minnesota on April 2, a move manager Sam Perlozzo said validates the left-hander’s status as the team’s ace.

“There’s always been so much talk about potential, his potential. I think in this particular case, I think he knows his potential is here now,” Perlozzo said.

Bedard, who was 15-11 with a 3.76 ERA in 33 starts last year, was informed of the assignment by Perlozzo during the morning stretch before the Orioles played host to the Boston Red Sox in an exhibition game.

“He just said, ‘You’re starting the first game.’ I said, ‘OK.’ … It is an honor, I guess, to start the first game of the season, to be called the ace, I guess,” Bedard said. “But other than that, anybody could be the ace on our team.”

Perlozzo believes Bedard was thankful for being selected to face Twins left-hander Johan Santana, the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner in the season’s first game.

“I thought he seemed flattered and, I don’t know, very humbled and appreciative,” Perlozzo said.

Bedard was the odds-on favorite for the assignment, and Perlozzo had lined up his spring training pitching rotation so that Bedard’s normal pitching day would fall April 2, when the Orioles open on the road for only the 16th time in 54 seasons.

“You’ve got a pretty good idea of what you’re doing, and you want to make sure nobody gets hurt, nobody gets a sore arm,” Perlozzo said.

Bedard, who underwent ligament replacement surgery on his left elbow in September 2002 and missed most of the following season, posted a seven-game winning streak from June 16 to July 23, 2006, and more than doubled his previous career high for victories, which was six. He struck out 171 in 1961/3 innings.

“He realizes his stuff is good enough, and he’s a pretty smart kid — he understands he gets really good hitters out and he competes,” Perlozzo said. “He has that confidence now that I don’t think he had in the past.”

Bonds gets three-day break

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Barry Bonds went home for a three-day spring break in the middle of spring training.

Bonds will return from his excused absence tomorrow, the day after the San Francisco Giants’ only scheduled day off of the spring.

Nearly all of the players who did not make the trip to Tucson on Saturday were given the day off. With the entire team off today, manager Bruce Bochy gave the slugger yesterday’s game against the Kansas City Royals off as well.

Bonds has been in good form at the plate this spring, hitting four home runs in his past seven games. Overall, Bonds is hitting .348 with four homers and nine RBI in 23 spring training at-bats.

Bonds enters the 2007 season with 734 career home runs, needing 22 to break Hank Aaron’s career mark of 755.

Chipper: Side ‘just a tweak’

KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Chipper Jones was held out of the Atlanta Braves’ lineup for the third straight game with a sore muscle on his right side, but he doesn’t think the injury is serious.

“It’s just a tweak,” Jones said through team spokesman Brad Hainje.

The third baseman hopes to play Wednesday but could be held out much longer. Jones, who turns 35 next month, said his absence from the lineup is “precautionary to make sure it’s 100 percent.”

Jones was pulled out of Friday night’s game after feeling soreness during batting practice. The injury caused alarm because he missed a total of 27 games with two trips to the disabled list because of a strained left oblique last season.

Braves manager Bobby Cox has taken a cautious approach with Jones’ injury. On Friday, Cox proclaimed he would hold Jones out and wait for him to get completely healthy “if it takes the rest of spring.”

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