Who is Erik Bédard? Players and coaches find the Mariners ace as much of a mystery as reporters do. But with some prodding from The Mag, Bédard agreed to field questions from his peers. Since Seattle is languishing in the cellar, the 29-year-old lefty may be on the trading block again come July. So potential future colleagues ought to clip 'n save.
Aubrey Huff, Orioles DH:
"Why do you hate the media?"
"I'm not going to answer that one. That just stirs up stuff and leads to more questions."
Huff remembers Bédard trying to elude reporters after striking out 15 Rangers in a shutout last year. Bédard finally asked the deadline-driven pack surrounding his locker, "What are you guys waiting for?"
Ryan Rowland-Smith,Mariners reliever:
"I'm always fighting myself on the mound, while you're always so tranquil. Nothing seems to faze you. How do you do it?"
"I learned early in my career that if you let things faze you, you get off track and give up the big inning. If you minimize the big inning consistently, you'll have a good year. Some people like the fact that I don't show emotion, and some people don't. You get criticized either way. My brother is really outgoing, my dad is hilarious, and my mom is more conservative, like me. Some of my friends and family want me to show more emotion when I do good. They want me to jump around, but it's just not me. I give a little tap of the glove every once in a while when I'm excited, but that's it. I think it might be different in October."
After getting lit up by the Yankees in late May, Bédard was typically unaffected, bouncing back with 8 K's in a win over the Red Sox. "It was all right," Bédard said with a shrug.
Sam Perlozzo, Mariners third base coach:
"Do you have any fun out there?"
"I might be having fun, but you'll never know it. I might be miserable, but you'll never know it. Obviously, I love playing baseball, or I wouldn't be doing it. I love the competitiveness and the pressure."
Perlozzo, a former Orioles manager, is a veteran Bédard watcher. Current O's skipper Dave Trembley likes to talk about how much Bédard enjoys taking batting practice between starts. Sadly, the extra BP hasn't helped: The pitcher is just 2-for-11 in his career.
Kurt Birkins, Rays reliever, former Orioles teammate:
"What are the benefits of that noni juice you drink?"
"My mom got into it a couple of years ago, and some athletes in other sports said it helps them, so I started drinking
it in the morning and at night. It helps your immune system and boosts your energy level. Or it says it does."
The 6'1" Bédard was a 5'4", 120-pound runt as a high school senior. He finally had his growth spurt the summer after he graduated. Now that he's become an avid weightlifter, he's a strapping 190.
LaTroy Hawkins, Yankees reliever, former Orioles teammate:
"Where did you come up with your twisting, Luis Tiant delivery?"
"During my third pro season, I just started doing it instinctively. The coaches said it was fine as long as I threw strikes. It helps me hide the ball better and gives hitters a split second less time to make their decision."
Hawkins and Bédard had adjacent lockers during the 2006 season. "I hardly knew him," Hawkins says.
Miguel Batista, Mariners pitcher:
"Where do you see yourself in 10 years?"
"I'd like to play a lot of golf, get a cabin on a lake and fish a lot. Then in the winter, I'd snowmobile and hang out
with friends. I'm a very simple guy. I can guarantee I'll go back home."
Bédard's rep is that he's not the most coachable of pitchers. So it's a bit surprising that he admits he's willing to consider coaching. "I'm not going to say no, and I'm not going to say yes," he says. "A lot of coaches early on in my career were as stubborn as I am. But I've learned that nobody throws the same way. As a coach, you have to be open and adjust."
Willie Bloomquist, Mariners utility man:
"What part of Canada are you from?"
"Navan, Ontario. My uncle owned a huge farm, and summer or winter, we were on his land. Snowmobiles, motorcycles, four-wheelers, shooting BB guns, building tree houses, campfires, jumping in pools—we did all that stuff. We'd go on two-week fishing trips. We didn't play video games or anything; everything we did was outdoors. I like the way I grew up. I go back to Navan in the off-season as soon as I'm done with baseball. I like the peacefulness, the country, and not having so much traffic. It's the simple life."
Bédard, who's single, is building a large house next door to his parents' place in Navan. Mariners starter Jarrod Washburn says his longest conversation with Bédard had to do with insulation.
Daniel Cabrera, Orioles pitcher:
"Why do you hate pitching in day games?"
"I hate mornings; I have a hard time getting up. For day games, I set two or three alarms for 10 a.m. just so I don't miss the game. It's never happened, knock on wood."
Here's an eye-opening stat: Bédard's career ERA is 3.80 in day games, 3.87 at night.
Brian Roberts, Orioles second baseman:
"What is your biggest individual goal?"
"Winning a Cy Young, I guess. I don't particularly try for individual goals. I'd rather win as a team; it's always more fun. I won championships in college and in A-ball, but other than that, I've never won any awards."
Bédard won a clubhouse arm-wrestling championship at Norwalk (Conn.) Community-Technical College, even though he was smaller than most of his teammates and competed with his right arm.
J.J. Putz, Mariners closer:
"You're from Canada, so why did you decide to play baseball instead of hockey?"
"Hockey was too expensive. Skates are $500, and when you're younger, you have to buy new equipment every year. Baseball was cheaper, and I had some friends playing, so that helped. A pair of cleats costs 50 bucks, so it's not so bad when you have to get a new pair. A glove costs 100 bucks tops, and that's a good one when you're young. I had a signature Ken Griffey Jr. glove that lasted me a couple of years."
Bédard didn't play competitive baseball until he was 13. Before that, he played mostly softball.