Erik Bedard gets save: Houston Astros’ fifth starter goes final 3 1/3 innings opening night

David Brown
Big League Stew

The Houston Astros obviously are going to do things differently now that they're in American League. On opening day, they used one of their starting pitchers to get the save.

Erik Bedard, whose turn in the rotation isn't scheduled to come until next weekend, went the final 3 1/3 innings of Houston's 8-2 victory against the Texas Rangers on Sunday night. Bedard retired the first eight batters he faced and threw 26 of 38 pitches for strikes in setting down the Rangers. He allowed only a shallow single to Nelson Cruz.

Starter Bud Norris allowed two runs over 5 2/3 innings, with Bedard starting his "piggyback" by getting out of a mini-jam in the sixth and the Astros ahead 4-2. And he didn't leave until the final out was recorded. Bedard's appearance recalled a time when men were men and they went multiple innings to get the save, notably before the 1990s.

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Of his first 192 career appearances, 189 of them came as a starting pitcher — and all of his bullpen work had come in 2002 and 2004, Bedard's first seasons in the league. His first start of 2013 will be Saturday, so he knew appearing against the Rangers was possible. What he didn't want, the Houston Chronicle reports, was to warm up in the bullpen and then for manager Bo Porter to not use him:

“I knew that if I would warm up in the game I was going in. … I didn’t want to get dry-humped and stuff,” Bedard said.

Uh-huhhhhh. Bedard often has a way with words — but that's really the colloquial expression relief pitchers use when that happens.

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Regardless, using him for that long was a good and practical move by manager Bo Porter and a great sign for Bedard, who has endured a career full of arm problems, but is a very good pitcher when healthy.

[Also: Marlins add 20-year-old pitching prospect to opening day roster]

Coincidentally or not, throughout their minor-league system, the Astros are going to use a tandem system of starting pitchers — meaning they will designate eight pitchers for four rotation spots. Each starter and a buddy will be expected to go about four innings per outing. It's a way to give them roughly the same amount of innings over the course of a seasonwithout overextending them during any given outing, GM Jeff Luhnow says.

Might Bedard's opening-night save portend things to come for the big-league team? Maybe. Luhnow is innovative, or at least open to new things. And possibly old things. For the moment, it's a neat happenstance, thanks to a quirk of the schedule.

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