By Jorge Arangure Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 24, 2005
TORONTO, April 23 -- There are times when Baltimore Orioles Manager Lee Mazzilli wants to grab a pin to prick pitcher Erik Bedard to make sure he has a pulse or to see whether he shows any emotion. Bedard seemed remarkably unmoved Saturday by his first professional appearance in Canada, a 4-1 win against the team he idolized, the Toronto Blue Jays, at Rogers Center.
"My parents were here," Bedard said almost half-heartedly. "It was pretty exciting."
Born five hours from Toronto in Navan, Ontario, Bedard was somewhat of a big story heading into Saturday's game. He had never pitched professionally in Canada -- both of his starts for Class AAA Ottawa last season were on the road -- and several friends and family members were going to attend the game. Bedard followed the Blue Jays as a child.
"The Blue Jays were my number one team when I was younger," Bedard said. "I always watched the '92 and '93 World Series. After I got drafted, I switched to the Orioles."
When the Orioles arrived at the ballpark on Friday for the start of the three-game series, several Canadian reporters were waiting for Bedard, who proceeded to make every one of them wait while he finished a card game. He hardly seemed to know what the whole fuss was about.
At the start of the game, Bedard didn't appear nervous or even overthrow while trying to make an impression. It was simply another game.
"He was totally himself," catcher Javy Lopez said. "He looked pretty comfortable."
Most remarkable was Bedard's performance. He pitched seven shutout innings, allowing seven hits while striking out a season-high six for his first win of the season. He worked out of a jam in the first inning by getting a double play that only happened because the pitcher covered first on a ball hit to first baseman B.J. Surhoff.
"Those are the little things that pitchers can help themselves out with," Surhoff said. "Stuff like that gets overlooked and if he doesn't get over there, it's a run. He gets much credit for that play for getting over there."
With the Orioles clinging to a 1-0 lead in the seventh inning, Surhoff provided what was perhaps the play of the game. Toronto catcher Gregg Zaun singled with two outs and men on first and second. The ball dropped in front of Surhoff, who had moved to left field. Alex Rios rounded third and headed for home. In one motion, Surhoff picked up the ball and sent it to Lopez on a line drive.
"I made a good break on the ball, but I couldn't quite get there," Surhoff said. "If I didn't think I had any chance I wouldn't have thrown it. But I thought I had a chance in a 1-0 game. I just waited for the call."
Lopez appeared to have blocked the plate and Rios was called out. Toronto Manager John Gibbons rushed out of the dugout and argued the call. He bumped home plate umpire Larry Vanover, who ejected the manager.
"My opinion, he was out," Lopez said. "As soon as he hit the ball, in a 1-0 game, I was going to do what it took to block the plate."
Bedard has pitched well in three of four starts this year, but seems to be unlucky when it comes to run support. Before the Orioles scored three runs in the ninth inning to pad their lead to four runs, Baltimore had scored just six runs in Bedard's four starts. The Orioles began the game with Brian Roberts's seventh home run of the season, but did not score another run against Toronto starter Dave Bush, who pitched eight innings.
"I guess I'm the pitcher that doesn't get a lot of runs," Bedard said.
The only run against Baltimore scored on a home run by Vernon Wells against closer B.J. Ryan in the ninth inning. Bedard had done his job.
"This kid has the stuff to be a pretty good pitcher," Mazzilli said. "The only thing you look at with him is pitch count."
Pitch count was never really a factor on Saturday. Bedard exited after the seventh after throwing 110 pitches.
"He was mixing his pitches well," Lopez said. "He kept the opposing hitters off balance."
After Bedard finished his postgame interview with the group of reporters, mostly from Canada, he walked out the door without even so much as a grin.