NEW YORK -- Steve Bedrosian always thought of himself as "a tough guy who could take any pressure." After all, that's what closers do, what he'd always done so well. But before this season, the San Francisco reliever never knew what it was like to carry on his shoulders the pain and anxiety of a father whose toddler is suffering from leukemia.

"People ask me, 'Is it hard to concentrate when you go out on the mound?' " Bedrosian said. "It's not so much when you are out there. It's the other 23 hours of the day when your mind is absorbed by other things and you're not mentally ready for baseball. I was so caught up in Cody and my family being okay, calling home every five minutes when I was on the road, wondering what doctors' appointments I had to make. It took a lot of thought away from baseball."

The significance of saving a game pales when you're preoccupied with saving your 3-year-old child's life. The tragedy that befell the Bedrosians on the eve of this season isn't greater because dad throws fastballs for a living; it's just more public.

There has been an outpouring of support for the Bedrosians from those fans who don't regard ballplayers as wind-'em-up rotisserie league investments. However, the good wishes haven't helped Bedrosian avoid the descent from late-inning tough guy to deposed closer.

The 1987 Cy Young winner -- he had 40 saves for the Philadelphia Phillies that year -- has been unable to help the Giants the way he did in 1989, when he recorded 17 saves after the June 18 deal that brought him from Philadelphia. The hard thrower from Methuen, Mass., became Manager Roger Craig's second choice, behind now-injured Jeff Brantley.

"I can take just about any pressure in baseball, but when it comes to something like this, it's pretty hard to do," said Bedrosian, who had 161 saves for the Atlanta Braves, Phillies and Giants in seven seasons prior to 1990. "I tried my best to cope with it. I don't want to say Cody is why I have had a bad year, but I'm almost hoping that is why. I don't think I've lost it. But I'm being tested this year."

Through Sunday, Bedrosian (7-8, 4.54 ERA) had 11 saves in 59 appearances this season.

The news that shook Steve and Tammy Bedrosian came in early April, just as the Giants embarked on their pennant defense in Atlanta, where the Bedrosians still live. Cody had been sick awhile. He had been treated with antibiotics for a possible virus, given shots for a suspected case of pneumonia and examined for rheumatoid arthritis before a bone marrow biopsy told the tale.

"When the doctor called us into his office, we thought we were going to get some medication and go home like we always do," Bedrosian said. "But he said, 'I wish I could tell you good news, but he has leukemia.' My reaction was devastation. Not my kid. Not me. That happens to somebody else. We were pretty down. The doctor let us know, then left us alone to grieve."

The Bedrosians didn't have time to feel sorry for themselves. "We were supposed to check into the hospital that night, get a room and start his chemotherapy right away," Bedrosian said. "It turned out he has acute lymphoblastic leukemia, the kind where he would have an 80 percent chance of making it. There are cures. Seven or eight years ago he wouldn't have lived six weeks. He wouldn't have lived to see his third birthday" in June.

The first couple of weeks were the toughest. "There were a lot of intravenous hookups," Bedrosian said. "It was something we had to deal with. We said to ourselves, 'He's got it. Let's beat it.' And they talked to us about how cancer affects the whole family."

But they didn't tell Steve Bedrosian how to concentrate on shutting down major league hitters while his heart was breaking. Still, the season was in progress and there was a job to do. "My wife said, 'You need to go join the team, get out of the hospital room, be with your friends and have a little release,' " he said.

But his first day back with the team Bedrosian gave up a game-winning home run to San Diego's Benito Santiago.

As if Cody's illness wasn't enough of a strain, the Bedrosians decided it was best to go ahead with plans to adopt a baby {Carson} and add to a family that included Cody and 5-year-old Kyle.

Things are far from normal, but the outlook has improved. Cody's cancer is in remission.

"He will be continuing with his chemotherapy for three years. He's gone through his intensification stage and is entering a maintenance stage. He takes his oral medications every day. Once a month, he has an IV. Once every three months he has a spinal tap.

"He's been a real trooper. He knows the word leukemia, but he doesn't know it's life-threatening. He thinks this is what every 3-year-old goes through, that everybody gets these shots."

Bedrosian continues to play, summoning as best he can the concentration to play a child's game while carrying an adult's burden. "Cody will know someday what we went through and what fighters we are," he said. "I know he'll be too."