By Louis Berney
At the outset of the 2006 season, the Orioles knew that if they were to climb in the standings or simply better their 2005 record, they would need to see improvement in the performances of two of their young starting pitchers, Daniel Cabrera and Erik Bedard.
The first two months have not been encouraging.
Cabrera, 25, has battled his own wildness as much as he has battled hitters. Though he has shown flashes of brilliance, holding hitters to a .228 average, fifth among AL starters, he walked a frightening 39 batters and unleashed seven wild pitches in just 41.1 innings before going on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation on May 15.
In 12 starts so far this season, Erik Bedard is 5-5 with a 5.97 ERA.
By June 1 of last year Bedard and Cabrera combined for a 9-5 record and a 3.71 ERA with 108 strikeouts and 44 walks. Through June 1 this year, however, they are 7-7 with a 5.67 ERA, 81 strikeouts and 66 walks.
That's not the improvement the Orioles were hoping for from the two talented pitchers.
Oriole officials are still high on Bedard and Cabrera, however. Management still has faith in their raw ability and outstanding potential. Yet each pitcher joined the Baltimore rotation two years ago and each has yet to prove himself.
Cabrera acknowledges that he isn't happy about the way his season has evolved so far, explaining that "it should be better."
Activated from the DL to the rotation the first week of June, Cabrera understands that better control would be the key to his becoming a dominant Major League pitcher. His 6'7" frame adds velocity to his fastball but can cause him mechanical problems. His delivery must be more consistent if he is to become a winning pitcher.
Bedard, meanwhile, has become an enigma to many baseball professionals, both within and outside of the Orioles organization.
"He has great stuff," says one Major League scout. "He should be pitching better than he has." This type of comment seems to be the refrain for those watching Bedard this year.
People offer a variety of reasons in trying to explain why Bedard has failed to meet expectations.
Some cite his inability to consistently master his control. Others say he has not really learned to truly pitch, and is still just throwing. Many think he lacks the intensity to parlay his talent into great pitching. Some suggest that Bedard just doesn't take to coaching, ignoring what mentors tell him. Lack of experience also is offered as a reason.
Bedard has his own explanation. First, he points out that his season began strongly, with wins in his first four games. Recently though, he says, "I'm not getting my secondary pitches over for strikes." In other words, he feels his curve ball and change-up lack command, making him depend on his fastball.
He has been working on developing a new fastball with pitching coach Leo Mazzone. Like Cabrera, his fastball can be explosive. However, without the ability to throw breaking pitches over the plate, Bedard's pitching will not stand up to Major League talent. At this level, hitters are too good to be dominated by a pitcher who can throw only a fastball, no matter what the velocity.
With two-thirds of the season yet to be played, Cabrera and Bedard have plenty of time to turn their seasons around. If they don't step it up though, the Orioles' outlook for the remainder of 2006 is bleak.
Issue 1.7: June 8, 2006