Erik Bedard is on his way back from labrum surgery. He has shown encouraging signs after his stint in the Arizona Rookie League, most recently last Saturday throwing 68 pitches and hitting 93 mph on the radar gun.

On Thursday, Bedard will kick off July with a Triple-A start in Tacoma, Wash., and could start for the Mariners on July 6th against the Kansas City Royals.

The biggest news in this chain of events is that Bedard’s apparent happiness. He’s as healthy and as happy as he has been in a long time. Remember his first two years in Seattle where it seemed he never cracked a smile?

The injuries and the pressure of performing up to expectations based on what Seattle gave up to acquire the left handed pitcher mounted up and sapped the life out of Bedard in his first stint with Seattle.

However, he was absolutely golden when he was healthy last year, so Seattle surprised many by signing him to a contract in the off-season with an option year for 2011.

If Bedard can stay healthy and happy, he could be a huge addition to the M’s for the rest of this year and next season.

He may find himself on the trading block if he performs well in the 4-6 starts he could get before the July 31st trade deadline. Lefty pitching is a valuable commodity these days and the Mariners already are dangling Cliff Lee in front of several teams.

Lee’s departure would mean the Mariners could rely on a healthy Bedard slipping into the rotation and keeping the pitching staff afloat. Somebody has to take the rotation spot vacated by Lee. Mariner fans dread the idea of Ian Snell coming back up from the minors to fill Lee’s spikes.

The timing of Bedard’s health seems perfect.

A rotation of Felix Hernandez, Erik Bedard, Jason Vargas, Doug Fister, and Ryan Rowland-Smith is still pretty solid. Without Bedard, the starting rotation would be very pedestrian outside of Felix Hernandez.

Baseball in the Emerald City is pretty much on life support for 2010 and the Mariners should be looking at what the team will look like next year.

Trading Lee for prospects will help replenish the farm system and could add a piece or two to the 2011 roster. A one-two combo of Hernandez and Bedard at the top of the rotation would be a nice start to making the M’s more competitive as well.

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