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02/07/08 7:28 PM ET

Deal for Bedard appears imminent

Reports have lefty en route to Seattle for trade-clinching exam

It appears the long-awaited trade between the Mariners and Orioles could be hours away from completion.

Reports out of Baltimore and Seattle on Thursday afternoon said left-handed pitcher Erik Bedard had left his home in Ontario and was headed to Seattle for a physical, possibly the final step in finalizing the six-player trade.

The trade could be announced on Friday, although a Mariners club official told MLB.com on Thursday afternoon that there "was nothing new to report."

It is club policy, however, not to discuss any pending deal -- trade or otherwise -- until it becomes official.

The Mariners would send highly touted outfielder Adam Jones, left-handed reliever George Sherrill and Minor League pitchers Chris Tillman, Kam Mickolio and Tony Butler to the Orioles for Bedard, regarded as one of the best left-handers in Major League Baseball.

Bedard would, along with right-hander Felix Hernandez, give Seattle a terrific one-two punch at the top of the rotation and possibly make the Mariners serious threats to unseat the Angels in the AL West.

Bedard, 28, won nine of his last 10 decisions last season and posted an overall record of 13-5 with a 3.16 ERA. He was a 15-game winner in 2006.

The Mariners went into the offseason hoping to bolster the starting rotation. They added right-hander Carlos Silva via the free agent market and have been pursuing Bedard for nearly two months.

After reaching an agreement in principle -- pending physicals -- news of the deal first broke on Jan. 27 when Jones, playing for the Venezuela Winter League Lara Cardenales, told a Venezuelan reporter that he'd been traded to the Orioles and was supposed to fly to Baltimore the following day for a physical.

That sent both teams into reactionary denial mode, and the story soon spiraled out of control. There have been rumors that Orioles ownership had nixed the deal and that Jones had a medical condition causing the delay, but the deal has still progressed.

Bedard is under contractual control for two more seasons, and is eligible for salary arbitration. A hearing is scheduled for later this month. He requested an $8 million salary while the Orioles countered at $6 million.

When the trade becomes official, the Mariners would assume the salary arbitration situation, but general manager Bill Bavasi has a perfect record of never going to a hearing with one of his players.

Hot Stove

Jones, 23, has long been regarded as the Mariners' most prized prospect. He hit .314 with 25 home runs and 84 RBIs for Triple-A Tacoma last season and was named Seattle's Minor League Player of the Year. That was the second time he's earned that designation. Jones, a former shortstop and former first-round Draft pick, made his big league debut before his 21st birthday and has hit .230 in 139 Major League at-bats.

Tillman, Seattle's Minor League Pitcher of the Year, has averaged nearly 10 strikeouts per nine innings in the Minor Leagues. The former second-round Draft pick made 20 starts in the offense-friendly California League last year, notching a 6-7 record and a 5.26 ERA. The 19-year-old rung up 105 strikeouts and walked 48 batters for Class A High Desert.

Sherrill and Jones went to Baltimore earlier this week for physicals. Sherrill has been working out at the Mariners' Spring Training Complex in Peoria, Ariz., while awaiting word on the final chapter of the saga.

Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.