All Tyler Beede wanted after his freshman season was rest.
Sure, a 1-5 record with a 4.52 ERA in his first 11 collegiate starts was less than ideal, especially for the only first-round draft pick in 2011 who didn’t sign a professional contract. But Beede was more focused on the shoulder keeping his powerful right arm intact.
Those extra innings the previous fall added up and Beede spent most of his first season at Vanderbilt battling a sore shoulder. So he was determined that by the time he took the mound in his sophomore year the only resistance he’d face would be the batter 60 feet, six inches away.
Thus, he took a summer off. No competitive baseball. Limited throwing. He hit the reset button.
“It was kind of bothering me, limiting me and getting in my head,” he said. “So I really wanted to get that out of the way this summer.”
With pain no longer a factor, Beede is showing why the Toronto Blue Jays reportedly threw $2.5 million at him two summers ago. Heading into the final regular-season series against Alabama, which starts Thursday, Beede is off to the best start in Vanderbilt history. Through 13 starts, he is a perfect 13-0 with a 1.73 ERA. He leads the country in wins and already has tied the school's single-season record (Grayson Garvin went 13-2 in 2011).
“I definitely couldn’t have imagined it,” Beede said. “There is a lot of luck involved, a lot of great offense and run support. Expectations? I really didn’t have any. I just wanted to get better, get as good as I could for the season and be competitive for this team.”
With a fastball in the high 90s and a misleading changeup that “hides my curveball” and reaches 85 miles per hour, Beede has been hard to score against.
In 83.1 innings, he has allowed just 16 earned runs. That number is even more astonishing considering he has walked 49 batters and given up just 47 hits. Walks have been his biggest holdup — but not enough to hurt him. Over five games in March and April, he walked 27 but gave up just three earned runs.
“It comes with the experiences you go through,” Beede said. “The more you pitch with guys on base, the better you’re accustomed to getting out of those situations. I think I have to just let it be something that is normal and really just pitching the way I pitch and pitching to my strengths. Just trying to stay the same. Taking deep breaths. Trying to stay in the moment and get the next batter out.”
The 6-foot-4, 215-pounder from Auburn, Mass., has been the lynchpin of the weekend starting rotation.
In the rare instances that fellow SEC Pitcher of the Year candidate Kevin Ziomek (10-2) has lost his Friday night start — there have been two — Beede has responded by giving the Commodores an opportunity to salvage a series win on Sunday. As a result, No. 1 Vanderbilt (46-6, 24-2) has won all 13 series this season.
After Ziomek dropped a decision to Florida in March, Beede came back the next day and gave up just two hits in 6.1 scoreless innings. A month later, he didn’t have his best outing against Georgia but scattered seven hits and allowed four runs in seven innings of work.
With an arsenal of pitches, solid defense behind him and good fortune, he surpassed the previous best start by a Vanderbilt pitcher — 11-0 in 11 starts by David Price in 2007.
“You don’t do that unless you have good stuff,” coach Tim Corbin said. “I’m not going to even say good because it is better than good. What you’re seeing now is only the beginning of what he is going to become. He is going to get stronger and become more knowing. That mind that he has is a special mind. He is going to continue to grow and blossom.”
And he should have plenty more opportunities to showcase his talent.
Vanderbilt is a heavy contender for the overall No. 1 seed and another trip to the College World Series, which would run the season into late June. Once his college season concludes, Beede will quickly turn around and fulfill a lifelong dream. Last month, he was named to USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team.
Therefore, unlike last summer, these dog days should be filled to the brim. Not that he is complaining.
“It has been a dream,” he said. “Being able to go from last season to this season, make Team USA, being in a position we are right now to go to a regional and host, it has been everything I’ve expected and wanted to do when I came down to school here. It has been amazing.”