Steve Bedrosian

Bedrosian never saved a game in his four years in the minors, but became one of the star relievers of the 1980s soon after his arrival in the major leagues. “Bedrock” was groomed as a starter in the Braves organization, but was moved to the bullpen for his first full major-league season in 1982. As an understudy to Gene Garber (who inherited the closer’s job when Rick Camp moved to the rotation) Bedrosian had an outstanding season, winning 8 games with 11 saves and a 2.42 ERA.

The 6′ 3″ Bedrosian used his size and strength to overpower hitters. He relied on a 96-mph fastball and a hard slider, which made him especially effective against right-handed batters. Bedrosian’s durability was never a concern (he averaged nearly 130 innings in his first two seasons with the Braves) but his lack of a decent change-up kept him in the bullpen. Nevertheless, the Braves were starved for starting pitching and toyed with the idea of moving the tall right-hander to the rotation. Had they been able to sign free-agent Goose Gossage before the 1983 season, Bedrosian would have probably made the switch.

Bedrosian spent most of 1984 in the pen even after owner Ted Turner inked veteran fireman Bruce Sutter to a multi-year contract, but was finally shifted to the rotation in 1985. It was a failed experiment. Bedrosian started 37 games, lost 15, finished none, and after the season was dealt to Philadelphia for catcher Ozzie Virgil. Veteran sportswriter Maury Allen wrote that the Braves were to be commended for giving up “a large, losing pitcher” — calling the deal “addition by subtraction.

From the Phillies’ perspective, they had finally added a closer to replace Al Holland, who had posted two consecutive 20-save seasons for Philadelphia in 1983 and ’84 but was shipped to Pittsburgh for Kent Tekulve after reporting to spring training out of shape in 1985. Bedrosian thrived with the Phillies, posting a career-high 29 saves in ’86 and a major-league-high 40 in 1987 to edge Rick Sutcliffe for the Cy Young Award. In 1988, he missed the first month of the season with walking pneumonia, but managed to save 28 of the Phillies’ paltry 65 victories.

In June 1989, Philadelphia traded Bedrosian to San Francisco for pitchers Terry Mulholland and Dennis Cook and third baseman Charlie Hayes. The veteran closer, who was forced to shave his trademark beard to conform to team policy, played a key part in the Giants’ successful pennant run, saving 17 games in 40 appearances down the stretch and another three in the NLCS before the Giants upset the A’s in the World Series.

Bedrosian saved another 17 for the Giants in 1990, but his fastball was no longer overpowering and for the first time since 1981 he finished the season with an ERA above 4.00 and more walks than strikeouts. In December he was dealt to Minnesota for two prospects, but saved just six games for the world champion Twins. Suffering from numbness in his fingers (which doctors attributed to circulatory problems caused by chewing tobacco) and concerned about his son, who had been diagnosed with leukemia, Bedrosian decided to retire.

As both hand and son recovered, Bedrosian made a comeback with the Braves in 1993. Working out of the bullpen, he failed to record a save but pitched well in middle relief in the first two seasons of his second stint in Atlanta. But Bedrosian didn’t have much success as a long reliever in 1995 and decided to retire for good in mid-August when it became clear the Braves were planning to release him.