Red Sox

Bedard: The pitcher that almost wasn't

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Bedard: The pitcher that almost wasn't

By Jessica Camerato
CSNNE.com Follow @JCameratoNBA

With two games left in the regular season and the wild card on the line, the Boston Red Sox turned to Erik Bedard on Tuesday night against the Baltimore Orioles. The 32-year-old took the mound with his characteristically calm demeanor, just like he had been doing this all his life.

The truth is, though, Bedard didnt begin playing baseball until he was a teenager and, after only a few years, his career nearly came to an end after high school.

One phone call transformed the future of a computer science student into the Red Sox starting pitcher in a critical September win.

Canada is a hockey country. Bedard knew the popularity of the sport when he began playing softball at a young age in Navan, Ontario and switched to baseball as a teen. He also knew there were no high school teams to play and landing a professional career would be a challenge with the lack of recruiting in his town.

The only fans at his games, he said, were the parents.

Bedard didnt take to hockey the way he took to baseball growing up. He played it recreationally -- Every little town has an outdoor rink, he told CSNNE.com -- but baseball was a more feasible option. Besides, he loved pitching.

Baseball was fun, said Bedard, whose father worked as an elevator mechanic and mother did administrative work for a Senate member. Hockey was too expensive, so baseball was pretty cheap. If you want to play hockey competitively, its a lot of money. The equipment is super expensive.

Bedard played summer league ball through high school. College was the next natural step, and he enrolled at La Cit collgiale in Ottawa to study computers. At that time computers had boomed, he explained.

While his love for baseball was still there, the opportunities to play professionally were not.

I didnt give it up, it was over, he said. Youve got to move on after a while. I live in Canada. If it was a hockey thing I would have kept going because theres a lot of scouts at home for hockey, theres a lot of teams, and theres a lot of leagues. Baseball, after 18, its just mens league. You just go drink beer and play mens league (laughs) . . . Go to school, get a job like normal people.

Bedard settled into the college life. In his first fall semester, though, he received intriguing news from a friend. There was be a chance to play baseball again in Norwalk, Connecticut.

The guy that owns the this baseball facility at home, his son went to Norwalk Community College, he said. The coach from that college called the facility and asked if he had a catcher. One of my good friends was a catcher and he told me about it. I said, Just ask the coach if I can go throw a bullpen. If he likes it, Ill consider playing there. If he doesnt, it doesnt really matter. Ill just go there for fun.

I tried out and he said, If you want, you can come play.

That trip to New England began a seven-year major-league career. The Baltimore Orioles selected Bedard in the sixth round of the 1999 amateur draft. Three years later, he made his Major League Debut with the Os and made a permanent spot for himself in 2004.

Bedard was traded to the Seattle Mariners in 2008 and, after more than three seasons on the West Coast, he was dealt to the Boston Red Sox in July.

I just feel fortunate and lucky that I made it where I have, he said. When I was young, it was a dream, but I never thought I would get to where Im at. So Im really fortunate and I try not to take it for granted.

Now a starting pitcher in one of the biggest markets in baseball, Bedard isnt one to showboat under the bright lights of Fenway Park. He is more concerned with letting his play do the talking rather than making a name for himself in the media.

I just got taught by my dad, everything you do act like youve done it before, he said. And thats what Ive been doing my whole life. You always have some guys that think theyre better than other people and I just didnt want people to think that. Ive always been humble. Thatll never change.

What he does hope will change, however, are the results at the end of the season. After spending many years on the losing side, he looks forward to experiencing victory with the Red Sox.

Its always fun to succeed and have everybody behind you, he said. Especially being in a team game, seeing everybodys faces after you win and everybodys happy. When we were in Baltimore and Seattle we always lost, so this is way better.

Jessica Camerato is on Twitter at http:twitter.com!JCameratoNBA.

Why the Red Sox should sign not one but two relievers

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Why the Red Sox should sign not one but two relievers

BOSTON — There is a world outside of Giancarlo Stanton. 

Stanton, at this point, simply doesn’t appear likely to end up in Boston. That should feel obvious to those following along, and so should this: it can change. 

But there are other pursuits. Besides their search for a bat or two, the Red Sox have been actively pursuing left-handed relief options. Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski is a fast mover, but this year’s market has not been.

MORE RED SOX:

Robbie Ross Jr. and Fernando Abad are both free agents, leaving Robby Scott as the lone incumbent southpaw from last season's primary group. Brian Johnson is bound for the pen, with Roenis Elias as a depth option too.  Still, even if Johnson’s transition pans out, the Sox still have an opening for a late-inning reliever with the departure of free agent Addison Reed. 

Reed is a righty, but between Matt Barnes, Joe Kelly, Heath Hembree, Carson Smith, and Craig Kimbrel, the Sox have more right-handed choices than left. Coming back from surgery, Tyler Thornburg, should be in the mix eventually too, but it's difficult to expect too much from him.

What the Red Sox should do: sign one of each for the bullpen, one righty, and one lefty. And then trade a righty or two. Turn some of that mishmash into an addition elsewhere. Be creative. 

Because inevitably, come midseason, the Sox will want to add another bullpen arm if they sign just one now. Why wait until you have to give up prospect capital when you can just add the piece you want now?

Go get a near-sure thing such as Pat Neshek, a veteran who walks no one and still strikeouts a bunch. At 37 with an outgoing personality, Neshek also brings leadership to a team that is looking for some. He walked just six guys in 62 innings last season. Entering his 12th season in the majors, he’s looking for his first ring.

All these top of the market relievers may be handsomely paid. But relievers are still something of a bargain compared to position players and starting pitchers. One of the key words for this winter should be creativity. If there’s value to be had in the reliever market, capitalize on it. 

Comeback kid Mike Minor, Jake McGee and Tony Watson headline the crop of free agent lefties available. Brad Hand of the Padres could also be had by trade but his market isn’t moving too quickly (and he won’t come cheaply).

Minor, 29, who posted a 2.55 ERA in 2017 after health issues kept him out of the majors in 2015-16, is expected to be paid handsomely. He is also open to the idea of potentially starting if a team is interested in him doing so. The Royals reportedly could give him that shot.

McGee’s American League East experience could be appealing.

He's 31 and had a 3.61 ERA with the Rockies in 2017 and has a 3.15 ERA lifetime. He’s not quite the strikeout pitcher he was earlier in his career — he had an 11.6 K/9 in 2015 — but a 9.1 K/9 is still very strong, particularly when coupled with just 0.6 homers allowed per nine.

For what it’s worth: McGee has also dominated the Red Sox, who have a .125 average, .190 on-base percentage and .192 slugging against him in 117 regular-season plate appearances. 

McGee throws a mid-90s fastball with a low-80s slider. He can operate up in the zone, and he actually has been even more effective against righties than lefties in his career, including in 2017. McGee’s been a closer, too, with 44 career saves.

The Sox had the second-best bullpen in the majors by ERA in 2017, at 3.07. Yet, come the postseason, there wasn’t a sense of great confidence or even a clear shape to the pecking order behind one of the absolute best relievers in the game, Kimbrel. 

HOFer Joe Morgan's letter urges voters to keep steroid users out of Hall

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HOFer Joe Morgan's letter urges voters to keep steroid users out of Hall

Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan is urging voters to keep “known steroid users” out of Cooperstown.

A day after the Hall revealed its 33-man ballot for the 2018 class, the 74-year-old Morgan argued against the inclusion of players implicated during baseball’s steroid era in a letter to voters with the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. The letter from the vice chairman of the Hall’s board of directors was sent Tuesday using a Hall email address.

Read the full text of Morgan's letter here. 

“Steroid users don’t belong here,” Morgan wrote. “What they did shouldn’t be accepted. Times shouldn’t change for the worse.”

Hall voters have been wrestling with the issue of performance-enhancing drugs for several years. Baseball held a survey drug test in 2003 and the sport began testing for banned steroids the following year with penalties. Accusations connected to some of the candidates for the Hall vary in strength from allegations with no evidence to positive tests that caused suspensions.

About 430 ballots are being sent to voters, who must have been members of the BBWAA for 10 consecutive years, and a player needs at least 75 percent for election. Ballots are due by Dec. 31 and results will be announced Jan. 24.

Writers who had not been covering the game for more than a decade were eliminated from the rolls in 2015, creating a younger electorate that has shown more willingness to vote for players tainted by accusations of steroid use. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens each received a majority of votes for the first time in 2017 in their fifth year on the ballot.

Morgan said he isn’t speaking for every Hall of Famer, but many of them feel the same way that he does.

“Players who failed drug tests, admitted using steroids, or were identified as users in Major League Baseball’s investigation into steroid abuse, known as the Mitchell Report, should not get in,” Morgan wrote. “Those are the three criteria that many of the players and I think are right.”

Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez were inducted into the Hall of Fame in July. They were joined by former Commissioner Bud Selig and retired Kansas City and Atlanta executive John Schuerholz, who were voted in by a veterans committee.

Some baseball writers said the election of Selig, who presided over the steroids era, influenced their view of whether tainted stars should gain entry to the Hall.

Morgan praised BBWAA voters and acknowledged they are facing a “tricky issue,” but he also warned some Hall of Famers might not make the trip to Cooperstown if steroid users are elected.

“The cheating that tainted an era now risks tainting the Hall of Fame too,” he wrote. “The Hall of Fame means too much to us to ever see that happen. If steroid users get in, it will divide and diminish the Hall, something we couldn’t bear.”

© 2017 by The Associated Press