Cam Bedrosian will be ready to pitch for the Los Angeles Angels in Atlanta this weekend, near his hometown and in front of his father.
That is not entirely unexpected. Cam, 22, was a first-round draft pick whose fastball has hit 99 mph on a radar gun, and he is the son of Steve Bedrosian, one of the most dominant relievers of the 1980s and winner of the 1987 Cy Young award.
What makes it surprising is that Cam started this season at Class-A Inland Empire, eons away from the big leagues.
When Cam got called up to the Angels this month, one of the first things he did was look at the schedule. What he saw fired him up even more.
Not only was he going to get to go home on his first full big league trip, the timing was perfect — Father’s Day weekend.
“It’s going to be pretty crazy, actually,” he said this week. “I can’t imagine playing on that field.”
Two years ago, it seemed as if he was going to have a hard time getting to the big leagues at all, much less this early. After missing all of 2011 recovering from Tommy John surgery, Cam hit a wall out of the gate the following season.
There were dropped balls behind him, bloop hits that hit the chalk, and enough control issues he finished the year with more walks (52) than strikeouts (48) in 21 starts.
Steve texted Cam after every game, telling him to hang in there and keep the windshield wipers on during the storm. He didn’t share pitching philosophies or tips on mechanics. The conversations were mostly about confidence.
“He was spiking balls, he was searching for command, and (had) bad luck too,” Steve said. “All I could tell him was, ‘Hang in there, it’s going to turn around.’ ”
Thinking it could help his control issues and knowing that Steve made a similar transition in his career, the Angels moved Cam to the bullpen after two bad starts in 2013.
Steve said the move worked like a light switch. His son no longer had to worry about going seven innings and keeping his pitch count low. No more conserving himself. He could just go out there and let the fastball fly.
After a short stint with Inland Empire, Cam spent 10 dominating weeks in Double A, ringing up 30 strikeouts with just six walks in 18 innings.
When he skipped Triple A and was promoted to the Angels, his first call was to Steve, who had a simple message.
“I told him, ‘I know you’ve seen all the moves. I know you’ve seen guys come up for a few days and go back down. ... Don’t pitch out there thinking that if you don’t make this pitch, you’re going down. You go out there, and you pitch with your hair on fire, and you pitch like you belong.’”
Cam’s debut was against the Houston Astros. One inning: three batters up, three batters down.
Perhaps more impressive was the way he reacted two days later, after walking the bases loaded and allowing three runs in an Angels loss. He accepted responsibility for his failings despite some questionable calls on balls and strikes, even though he knew he might be sent back to the minors. True to his father’s advice, he faced the adversity like a veteran, like he belonged.
His next outing, Cam went two scoreless innings in a 14-inning win over the Oakland Athletics.
“I had no idea he was going to come in this quickly and be this dominant out of the pen,” said Bobby Scales, the Angels’ director of player development. “The guy this year has just been ridiculous. The strikeout numbers are absurd, and he just doesn’t walk people. ...
“A lot of this came from the adjustments he made for himself. There’s nothing really earth-shattering we did.”
According to Steve, the missing ingredient in Cam’s ascension was his confidence, which began to snowball once he started throwing the ball by people as a reliever.
In his outing against the A’s, Cam entered the game in the top of the 10th inning with the score tied, 1-1. One glance at his son’s face prompted Steve to remark to his wife, Tammy, “He looks cool as a cucumber, doesn’t he?”
If Cam pitches this weekend, it will be interesting to see whether the same can be said of Steve.