PHILADELPHIA -- Steve Bedrosian listened to a couple of talk shows on the radio over the weekend, and the callers were tearing him up.

Phillies fans are known for being tough, but this was a little too much. After all, he had tied a major league record by getting a save in 11 consecutive appearances.

And in the first game of a doubleheader Monday night, he earned a save against the Pittsburgh Pirates to set the record.

So why was everybody giving him so much grief? Well, it seems that after he tied the record, Saturday night against the New York Mets, he revealed that he had twice declined to mop up in games when the Phillies were so far behind he couldn't get a save. Selfish, decreed the fans, already in a mutinous mood because of the team's slow start.

What should have been the best of times was quickly becoming the worst of times. He hastened to explain. The calls to the bullpen, he said, were simply to find out if he or Kent Tekulve wanted to work an inning. He had let Tekulve do it. It was that simple.

"As soon as I took over," said Manager Lee Elia, who replaced John Felske June 18, "Bedrock came to me and said, 'To heck with the streak.' He said he'd pitch whenever we thought it would be best for the team."

That out of the way, Bedrosian stepped proudly into the record books. At the moment the dry, formal language used states that the standard for Most Saves, Consecutive Appearances, Season is held by Stephen W. Bedrosian. NL: Phil. May 25-June 29, 1987.

You could look it up.

"To be able to pitch that well consistently over such a long period of time is phenomenal," said Tekulve, once the ace of the Pittsburgh Pirates' bullpen and now Bedrosian's set-up man. "If you get five saves in a week, say, you might just be on a hot streak. But to cash in on every opportunity over such a long period of time is amazing. Obviously, it's a big deal since nobody has ever done it before."

Maybe, but while Bedrosian admits he's happy to have a record to call his own, he doesn't show it outwardly.

"It's an honor," he said after getting his 12th save in a row. (He made it 13 in a row Tuesday). "But it's over with now. Now we just have to try to keep on winning as a team."

That's typical of him. An intense competitor, he doesn't show much emotion off the field about anything except his beloved Boston Celtics. "I had kind of thought about getting the record," he said. "Sure, I wanted to get it. But I couldn't have done it without the rest of the team to set up the save opportunities." The rest of the team seems more excited for him than he is.

"It's borderline amazing," Elia said. "It's awesome. Just to think that he came in that many pressure situations. A lot of times he would get the ball even though the other team had a bunch of left-handed hitters coming up."

A fact about saves: they can be ridiculously easy to accumulate. A pitcher can work the ninth inning with nobody on base and a three-run lead and get a save. He can come in with a five-run lead, get one out and earn a save as long as the potential tying run is on deck.

"But most of his have not been cushion situations," Tekulve said. "Most of his have been with runners on base and him needing to pitch out of a jam. And somewhere along the way you would think that he'd come in with a one-run lead and the other team would tie the game, and maybe he gets a win. Or a save just plain gets away. But it hasn't for him. That's not easy to do, not easy at all."

During his streak, Bedrosian's earned run average has been 0.50. And in the appearance before the streak started, he got a victory. And in the six outings before that, he got saves. The last time he came into a game and didn't come out with one or the other was May 3. Overall, with three victories and 19 saves, he's figured in 22 of the Phillies' 35 victories this season.

Is it any wonder that, in a city that still ridicules the Phillies management for dealing Ryne Sandberg, you don't hear a peep about the fact that the Phillies gave up Ozzie Virgil, who has 20 home runs already, to Atlanta for Bedrosian before last season.

The first couple weeks of the season, this sort of a streak seemed inconceivable. Bedrosian was being hit hard and often, and for a week he was used in middle relief, with Tekulve as the closer.

"It was just a matter of working hard and getting my mechanics together," he said. "Sure, it was frustrating. There were times when I began to doubt myself. But I'd done it before {29 saves last season}, so I had to believe I could find that groove again."

Once he slowed his stride and kept his left shoulder closed, he picked up velocity and control and hitters haven't had a chance since. He was the National League's pitcher of the month in May and now has broken a record Sparky Lyle had held since 1973. In June, he was one of the few achievers on a team that hasn't achieved much this season.

How badly would the Phillies be trailing the St. Louis Cardinals now if he hadn't been pitching so well?

"I don't even want to think about it," Elia said.