"When I came
[to Baltimore] I said to him, 'Let me be clear about something: Nobody wants to
face you,'" says Millar. "'Big Papi, Mike Lowell, Derek Jeter, Alex
Rodriguez—they don't want to face you.'"
Red Sox first
baseman Kevin Youkilis says, "The strike zone looks a lot bigger the way he
pitches; when a guy throws to just one side of the plate it seems smaller. He's
one of those guys where if you go 2 for 4 you had a great day, and if you go 1
for 3, you're still excited. And 3 for 4? He's either off his game, or you're
playing out of your mind that day." Youkilis has never had such a day
against Bedard. In 23 career plate appearances against him, Youkilis has one
hit—a single—and has struck out nine times.
Even when he's
performing at the peak of his ability, though, Bedard's countenance rarely
changes. Last July he allowed the Texas Rangers two hits and no walks while
striking out 15 in a complete-game shutout, and faced the minimum 27 batters.
"I showed the most emotion I ever have in my life during that game,"
Bedard acknowledges. "I pounded my fist."
mound presence came about in part because he was not a ballyhooed prospect.
It's another way in which Bedard, a sixth-round pick by Baltimore in 1999, is
like Santana, who was a centerfielder growing up in remote Tovar, Venezuela,
and didn't become a dominant starter until his mid-20s.
Few players in
Ottawa even touch a baseball between October and March, and most high schools,
including Bedard's, don't field teams. Bedard pitched his team into the Babe
Ruth World Series as a 13-year-old, but his lack of size (he was 5'4", 150
pounds at 17) and velocity got him cut from the area's elite travel club twice
as a high schooler. He went to Norwalk ( Conn.) Community-Technical College only
because he tagged along when a friend tried out there in December 1997. "He
threw the ball real easy, but he was hitting 80," recalls Mark Lambert, his
coach. "I figured he'd be a pretty good reliever."
By then Bedard had
sprouted to almost six feet, and thanks to his first work with weights, he
added 30 pounds to his frame and 7 mph to his fastball at Norwalk. He became a
starter as a freshman and went 7--1, leading the Panthers to a 44--5 record and
the National Junior College Athletic Association Division III World Series
title. The next season, in which Norwalk went 50--2 but was the national
runner-up, he was named the NJCAA Player of the Year after going 11--0 with a
0.48 ERA. "It was junior college," says Bedard, never one to talk up
his accomplishments. "It's not like I was playing Division I or
EACH FEBRUARY for
the past six years, Bedard has loaded up his truck and made the 1,600-mile,
24-hour trip from Navan to Fort Lauderdale for the start of Orioles spring
training. He enjoys the drive, using it to make the mental transition from the
familiar rhythms of home to the pressures of big league life.
When SI went to
press, Bedard was planning to leave for Florida this Monday, although he was
also ready to head to Peoria, Ariz., where the Mariners train. Wherever he ends
up, he has to show that he can avoid injury and sustain his dominance in the
way that Santana has for five years. "I just pitch," Bedard says, with
a poker face, "and if it works, it works."
No matter what,
he'll return to a more Cribs-worthy fortress of solitude. He's completing
construction on a new house, which is more than four times the size of his
parents' place and will feature a wine cellar, a gym, a screening room, an
outdoor pool covered by a dome and an extra-long garage in which he's already
begun throwing to his brother, who will live with him. It's a 10-minute drive
from his parents' house. Even the brightest of spotlights won't be able to
penetrate the five acres of forest that surround it.