He isn't among the biggest names in the Orioles' organization, but no one is making a better impression than Erik Joseph Bedard.
Quietly, yet effectively, the left-hander taken in the sixth round in 1999 has woven his way through the lower echelons of the system and is continuing to thrive at Frederick, the high Single-A stop.
Bedard credits a shift to the starting rotation last season at Delmarva as the turning point.
"I had always started my whole life," said the native Canadian, who grew up in the suburbs of Ottawa. "When I got that opportunity, I was really happy."
He completed 2000 eighth ranked among all minor-league starting pitchers with 10.73 strikeouts per nine innings, went 1-0 with a 2.70 ERA in the South Atlantic League playoffs and - minus one disastrous outing when he was roughed up for 11 earned runs in 2 1/3 innings - compiled a 2.73 ERA for the season.
Over the first 140 innings of his pro career, Bedard permitted three home runs, and this season he went 23 2/3 innings without giving up one.
"I'm not an overpowering pitcher like Richard [Stahl]," he said. "I like to move the ball around, in and out, up and down and feed off my fastball. Then I use the breaking pitch for the putaway."
Bedard was scouted by both Canadian teams as a youth, and Toronto showed particular interest. The Orioles did the drafting, however, and after a period of negotiation, he bypassed playing NCAA Division II baseball.
After several rough outings, Bedard bounced back to strike out 13 Salem hitters in a 2-0 victory eight days ago that was televised by parent company Comcast.
"Sometimes, young pitchers are focusing on too many things," said Keys pitching coach Larry Jaster. "He might have been focusing on strikeouts or the fact that he was in the top 10 in ERA in the Carolina League. I like them to focus on one thing at a time, one batter at a time, one inning at a time, one game at a time."
Jaster said the 13-strikeout effort was a return to the way Bedard pitched in April, when he and Beau Hale anchored a league-leading staff.
Personnel shifts were the order for a team that trailed first place by more games (15) than it had wins (14). Released were closer Rick Huisman (0-1, 6.35), who never worked out, and outfielder Kenny Woods (.240 and in a 1-for-34 slump). Struggling pitcher John Stephens (0-3, 5.48) returned to Bowie. Added were outfielder Darnell McDonald and closer Jorge Julio from the Baysox. In addition, Josh Towers returned to have a rocky outing against Norfolk (six runs in six innings), Jeff Wilson moved into the rotation, and John Parrish went to the bullpen. ... The Red Wings had a 4-15 home record at Frontier Field and had lost 11 of the past 12 there entering the finale of a homestand. The only victory came in 13 innings. They had hit only five homers at their own park and, with 16 overall, were on pace to hit 61 all season. ... The shining light offensively has been shortstop Brian Roberts, the International League leader with 12 steals (he is 22 of 24 overall, counting his time at Bowie earlier), a streak of 11 consecutive times reaching base and a .328 average. The team's 38 stolen bases ranked third in the league. ... After going 0-for-26 against left-handed pitchers, Calvin Pickering had three consecutive hits in that situation. He remains the team leader in RBIs despite no homers this month. ... John Bale still has not pitched since returning from the Orioles on April 24 but is expected to eventually join the rotation.
The hot hitter at Bowie was outfielder Larry Bigbie (15-for-33 with 11 RBIs over eight games). Bigbie packed all three of his home runs into that stretch, including an inside-the-park job against Trenton. He went 235 at-bats without a homer, then amassed three in the next 12 at-bats. Bigbie was the only batter who had solved Erie ace Nate Conejo (5-for-6 entering a weekend game). The rest of the team was 1-for-41 against him. ... The Baysox received catcher Mike Lopez-Cao from Frederick, and pitcher Jason Lakman went to the Keys. ... Over a five-game stretch, the team scored 10, 15, 0, 0 and 10 runs. It was the first time Bowie had suffered consecutive shutouts since July 1-2, 1994. ... Tim Raines reached base in his first 14 games and hit safely in 12 of them. ... The team pulled off the suicide squeeze play twice in six days with Bigbie and Edwin Rogers doing the bunting. ... Reliever Scott Eibey allowed just eight hits and one run over a 13-inning span. He struck out 11 and walked none.
The Keys reeled off their longest winning streak in more than a year (five) and attracted 9,981 fans on May 13 when televised on CN8. ... Since moving into the starting rotation, Sonny Garcia is 2-0 with a 2.52 ERA. He ranks second in the Carolina League in ERA (1.63). ... Lakman, who struggled at Bowie, and Thomas Ford (2-0, 4.50) at Delmarva, joined the staff. ... The team leads the league with 29 home runs, with Doug Gredvig and Ray Cabrera tied for second individually with six each.
Shorebirds starters have been prosperous lately, pitching to a 2.18 ERA over the past 11 games. The team won seven of those but is still 13-16 since beginning the season 8-4. ... Ruben Francisco is tied for second in the South Atlantic League in triples despite appearing in only two-thirds of the team's games. ... The Shorebirds have not lost when they lead after six, seven or eight innings. ... Matt Schwager, a long-time reliever, won his first start.