The difference between good Erik Bedard and bad Erik Bedard is clear.
The one who looks like an ace throws three pitches for strikes. The one who doesn't struggles to control anything but his fastball. Good Bedard has re-emerged in his three most recent starts using a new changeup grip he learned from teammate Kris Benson.
It's a circle change passed down from off-speed master Tom Glavine. Bedard hopes the new grip will give him enduring confidence in a pitch that has often betrayed him.
"I just haven't found a grip I am comfortable with or consistent with," he said. "Before I had kind of a split-fingered grip, and some games it would be good and some games it would be terrible. I just have to try to find something that is consistent."
The left-hander knows a consistent changeup could make all the difference for him
"I know I have to throw a changeup or else I will be a two-pitch reliever," Bedard said. "That's all I had my whole life, two pitches - a fastball and a curveball. Even in the minor leagues, I never threw a changeup. I only got one here when you face the best hitters."
Still confident in Williams
Reliever Todd Williams has allowed runs in each of his past two outings and has a 4.44 ERA on the season, but manager Sam Perlozzo said he hasn't lost confidence in the veteran as a late-inning specialist.
"I think he's still sinking the ball," Perlozzo said. "Sinkerball pitchers, I mean sometimes you're unlucky. You get your ground ball, it just happens to be where they aren't playing."
Williams has allowed 38 hits in 26 1/3 innings and his ground ball-to-fly ball ratio has dropped from 3.11 last season to 2.25 this season.
He missed the first month of the season with shoulder and calf injuries and said he's still having trouble changing speeds with his fastball.
"I just know that I'm not where I was last year in terms of taking some off the pitches," he said. "I've never really had to change anything. It's just not doing what it used to do. It's staying up."
Rookie relievers Kurt Birkins and Chris Britton have outpitched Williams, but Perlozzo said he's still comfortable using the veteran in tight spots.
"I think Todd's more of a late-inning guy," he said. "He's got more experience. You know, we try to match him up the best way we can. Brit's coming out of Double-A and still getting his feet wet in the big leagues, so he's more of an early guy. I think Birkins can do either depending on how the lineup shakes out."
Williams agreed with Perlozzo's suggestion that he's been unlucky on grounders.
"I can't get away from what I do," he said. "I'm a sinkerball pitcher and as long as I'm getting ground balls, I can't get discouraged. I think a few times I've gotten to a point where I'm trying to get a strikeout instead of getting a ground ball, and it's not me."
In the beginning ...
Catcher Ramon Hernandez handed out cigars to all of his teammates yesterday to celebrate the birth of his daughter, Genesis, on Monday
Hernandez said he's been present for the births of all three of his children despite his busy baseball schedule. "It was great planning," Perlozzo said of the day-off birth.
Around the horn
Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has signed off on a $75 million funding package that will allow five of the six cities that apply, of which Fort Lauderdale is one, to upgrade their spring training facilities. The Orioles, who have trained at Fort Lauderdale Stadium since 1996, will now work with city officials to craft an application for the funds. ... Members of the Orioles' on-field and front office staffs are scheduled to meet with investigators from former Sen. George Mitchell's steroid probe today and tomorrow. Perlozzo, executive vice president Mike Flanagan, vice president Jim Duquette, pitching coach Leo Mazzone and minor league director David Stockstill are scheduled to be questioned. ... Top pitching prospect Hayden Penn is rehabilitating at the team's minor league complex in Sarasota, Fla. He could throw off a mound this weekend, Perlozzo said.