Commentary

O's ace building a strong Cy Young case

Erik Bedard prefers to avoid the media, but his dominance this season is making it difficult for him to remain anonymous.

Originally Published: August 17, 2007
By Amy K. Nelson | ESPN.com

Much of what makes Erik Bedard so talented is also what enables him to successfully shield himself from the public eye. The Orioles' ace is consistently stubborn, whether it's on the field, in the clubhouse or with the media. He's also one of the best pitchers in baseball you know the least about. If it's up to him, the O's left-hander wants to keep it that way.

"I don't want to reveal anything about myself," says Bedard, who's revered by teammates. "If you want a quote, don't come to me. I won't give it to you. Anything baseballwise, that's fine. Other than that, don't ask me any other questions. I don't want my life to be out there."

"Baseballwise" is the reason why anyone cares. Bedard is on an incredible streak. He hasn't lost in 12 starts, dating to June 15, a span in which he has a 2.19 ERA. He leads the league with 207 strikeouts -- 33 more than second-place Johan Santana -- but has just 12 wins. Devil Rays outfielder Carl Crawford recently told reporters that Bedard's stuff is so good, he uses just two pitches to get him out.

Pitching coach Leo Mazzone says Bedard throws a "four-way fastball," meaning he throws a power fastball, a sinking fastball, a cut fastball and what Mazzone calls a comebacker. Bedard has two variations of a curveball, and he's working on improving his changeup. But it's his ability to throw two pitches six different ways that has hitters batting a league-low .210 against him this year. And since June 15, he's struck out 104 batters while allowing just 49 hits.

"He's been pretty much been doing that to the entire league," Derek Jeter told reporters after another dominant outing by Bedard on Wednesday, holding the Yankees scoreless through seven innings for a no-decision.

Not that fans will be hearing much about, well, any of it. Bedard insists his formal interaction with the media -- which is horrible at best, and nonexistent at worst -- will never change, much to the chagrin of team officials, who have begged him to be more available.

"It's not acceptable" to avoid the media, Orioles vice president of baseball operations Jim Duquette says, "but for some reason he thinks it is."

Erik Bedard
Jim McIsaac/Getty ImagesErik Bedard has developed into one of the most dominating pitchers in the major leagues.
Bedard is at times rude, standoffish and disinterested, and perversely takes pride in his attitude. "Stupid question, next," is a frequent answer from the 28-year-old. On average, he'll take fewer than a dozen questions after he pitches, and then usually walks away without a word, or just announces that the interview is over. When Bedard pitched a two-hit shutout and struck out 15 Rangers on July 7, according to the Washington Post, his postgame session with reporters lasted just 2 minutes and 11 seconds, and he answered 12 questions -- a rarity for a player following such a stellar outing.

That brusqueness ends, however, once reporters put down their notebooks or turn off the red light. Unlike Red Sox outfielder Manny Ramirez, whose abstention from the media is nearly unmatched, Bedard will gladly engage in conversation as long as it's not for posterity. He suddenly morphs into the self-described country boy he is. The one from small-town Lambert, just outside Ottawa, who throws in his uncle's freezing chicken barn during the winter and once said he'd probably be an elevator mechanic if baseball didn't pan out.

His dominance this season is not aiding in his quest for anonymity. Already, players around the league and in his clubhouse say he's a contender for the Cy Young Award. Bedard quickly dismisses such talk.

"Cy Young? I'm not even close to Cy Young," he says. "How about [Josh] Beckett with 15 wins and I got 12. … If I finish with 12 wins and a 2.50 ERA, you think I'm going to win the Cy Young? Probably not."

Bedard says he doesn't care and thinks goals are pointless, because they only set you up for disappointment. But the recognition of his lack of wins hints at some sort of awareness, desire even. Or maybe it doesn't. With Bedard, it's tough to tell.

"He's very, very private," O's manager Dave Trembley says. "He's not a [bad] guy. He just doesn't like people asking him obvious, stupid questions."

What has made Bedard so successful, Mazzone says, is his talent and consistency. He has made every single start the last two seasons. Bedard had reconstructive elbow surgery five years ago, and takes pride in his ability to do his job. In fact, Bedard says that's part of the reason he dislikes the press: He just wants to do his job and be left alone.

"He doesn't have time for meaningless conversation," Mazzone says, then laughs. "He doesn't like to play many games. He can weed out who he thinks can help him a little. He can weed out the ones who he thinks are full of it."

Trust is important, and it seems to affect the way Bedard interacts with teammates and coaches, in particular. It took Mazzone until midway last season to finally feel as though he and Bedard had a rapport. Prior to that, Bedard's stubbornness would take over, and those he did not trust became white noise.

His teammates, who would often answer for him when he blew off reporters, seem to find humor in Bedard's attitude. Some even admire it. One veteran player says it's because Bedard acts the same: He avoids the media when he pitches well, and also when he doesn't.

He's very, very private. He's not a [bad] guy. He just doesn't like people asking him obvious, stupid questions.

-- Orioles manager Dave Trembley on Erik Bedard

"He's consistent," the player says. "That's what matters."

Whether that will play in another city is difficult to know. Bedard will be a free agent after the 2009 season, and the Orioles have failed to sign their rising star to a long-term contract. Asked whether he would consider playing in New York, with one of the toughest and biggest media corps, Bedard takes a long pause before answering.

"I don't know," he says.

Why?

"I don't know how long I would last [in New York]," he says, with a sheepish smile. "I would probably be the same, and I don't know if the media would embrace me or reject me. … Maybe I'll need a clause in my contract saying I won't have to talk to them.

"Just kidding."

Or is he? That's for Bedard to know, and for nobody to find out.

Amy K. Nelson is a staff writer for ESPN.com.