ST. PETERSBURG — The way Erik Bedard started Thursday's 9-7 loss, walking four in an ugly three-run first inning, allowing nine of the first 12 Twins to reach base, throwing 67 pitches to get his first six outs, it seemed a fair question if the Rays would even take him on the flight to Chicago.
Instead, he's staying in their tattered rotation, slated for his next appearance on Tuesday night when they move on to Boston's Fenway Park.
The reality for the Rays, right now anyway, is they don't have any better options to fill out their starting five — after David Price and Chris Archer — than Bedard, Cesar Ramos and Jake Odorizzi.
With Alex Cobb, Jeremy Hellickson and Matt Moore injured, with Alex Colome suspended, with prospects Nathan Karns and Enny Romero not ready, manager Joe Maddon said the Rays — known for their vaunted pitching depth — are better off sticking with who they have, and hoping they improve.
"Sometimes you've just got to be patient, and sometimes patience is rewarded," Maddon said. "I don't think we're normally a knee-jerk kind of a group, so just keep working the plan and see how it plays out on the back side.
"For right now it obviously hasn't been fun. But you, but you've just got to keep working the plan and believe in what you philosophically have in place."
That patience has been tested over the past couple of weeks. Bedard's outing on Thursday marked the eighth time in the past 10 games one of the Rays' starters didn't last more than five innings, and an American League-high — and very un-Rays like — 11th time overall, and in 22 games.
"How long could you take it? Hopefully it's not much longer," Maddon said. "But as long as it needs to (be). If they're the best guys you have to do it with right now, you've got to keep going and keep supporting. …
"Guys like Odorizzi and Erik and Ramos, you've got to believe it's going to come back to them and they're going to pitch better than that on a more consistent basis."
The team had high hopes Thursday for Bedard, especially after the bullpen was forced to cover 8⅔ innings after Odorizzi's short outing in what turned out to be a 12-inning game Wednesday.
But Bedard, the 35-year-old veteran who signed back with the Rays on a minor-league deal after not finding a job elsewhere at the end of the spring, failed them from the start.
He walked the first two batters, then after getting two outs, allowed the next four to reach base in a 41-pitch first. The second inning didn't start much better —walk, single, single — and the fact that he settled in enough to get through four innings (throwing 90 pitches total, 55 for strikes) provided only marginal relief.
"I couldn't really throw strikes that first inning," Bedard said. "I was just trying to battle."
The Rays hitters tried to make it up with a three-run second, but working with a shorthanded bullpen, Maddon turned next to Heath Bell, and he allowed five more runs in less than two innings.
"I felt like I should have pitched a lot better than I did," Bell said. "I feel like I let the team down."
That the Rays came back again was valiantly notable, as they cut the lead to 9-7 by the eighth inning and had the bases loaded before Desmond Jennings, swinging at a first-pitch fastball, popped up.
But Bedard's deeds were most damning, and after the game even he didn't know if he would get another chance. Told that Maddon said he would, Bedard seemed relieved.
"Hopefully next start I throw more strikes and get quicker outs," he said.
At this point, that's about all the Rays can do is hope.
Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]bay.com. Follow him on Twitter at @TBTimes_Rays.