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Autopsy planned for today after death of Orioles pitcher



Published: Tue, February 18, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



Steve Bechler may have been taking a supplement.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) -- A medical examiner will sort out the circumstances that caused the death of Steve Bechler, a newlywed, expectant father and pitching prospect for the Baltimore Orioles.

Bechler died of heatstroke Monday, less than 24 hours after a spring training workout that sent his temperature to 108 degrees.

He was an overweight athlete pushing himself in warm, humid weather much different from the climate in his native Oregon. And he may have been taking a dietary supplement that has been linked to heatstroke and heart attacks.

Broward County medical examiner Dr. Joshua Perper acknowledged a published report that a bottle of a supplement containing ephedrine was found in Bechler's locker.

Regarding the bottle, Perper said: "My understanding is it exists, but we don't have it."

Autopsy today

Perper said his office planned to begin an autopsy today, and that it could be two or three weeks before the final results are known.

A workout Sunday left Bechler pale and dizzy. When his condition deteriorated, he was carried from the clubhouse to an ambulance on a stretcher. He spent the night in intensive care and died at 10:10 a.m. Monday at Northridge Medical Center.

Bechler, 23, died of "multi-organ failure due to heatstroke," said William Goldiner, the Orioles' team physician.

"He would rebound at times," Goldiner said. "They thought they were getting ahead of it, and then another organ system would fail."

Wife due in April

Bechler's wife, Kiley, due to deliver their first child in April, was at his bedside. They married last year.

At 6-foot-2 and 239 pounds, Bechler had battled weight for much of his five-year professional career. Asked about the pitcher's conditioning, manager Mike Hargrove was quoted as saying it was "not good."

Goldiner said he wasn't aware of any evidence that Bechler had been taking a dietary supplement such as ephedrine, which has been banned by the NCAA and NFL but not by major league baseball. The Orioles' policy is to discourage the use of the amphetaminelike stimulant, he said.

"Weight-loss drugs are never prescribed by us," Goldiner said. "They're never condoned by us."

Orioles spokesman Bill Stetka said he could neither confirm nor deny a report by The Washington Times that a bottle of a supplement containing ephedrine was found in Bechler's locker.

"We'll cooperate in every way with the medical examiner's office," Stetka said. "Everything we find we'll turn over and apprise them of."

Said baseball spokesman Rich Levin: "We're going to wait to find out more about what happened."

Draft pick

A native of Medford, Ore., Bechler was a third-round draft pick by the Orioles in 1998. He made his major league debut last September, going 0-0 with a 13.50 ERA in three relief appearances. He was expected to begin this season with the club's new Triple-A affiliate in Ottawa.

Bechler spent most of last year at Triple-A Rochester, going 6-11 with a 4.09 ERA in 24 starts.

"He was one of my favorite players that I had ever been around," said Joe Castellano, a radio play-by-play broadcaster for Rochester. "He had a great personality. He was everything that was good about baseball."

Bechler's wife was driving from Oregon to Florida when she was reached by cell phone with the news her husband had been taken to the hospital. She took a flight from Salt Lake City on Sunday and arrived in Fort Lauderdale shortly before midnight.

Bechler's parents learned of his death when they arrived Monday in Miami, Orioles executive vice president Jim Beattie said. They had traveled from Oregon after Bechler fell ill.

Schedule called off

Players were briefed about Bechler's condition during a clubhouse meeting before Monday's workout. They were summoned inside a short while later and told of his death, and the rest of the day's training schedule was called off.

"Everybody was in shock," pitcher Rodrigo Lopez said.

Bechler fell down while running drills Sunday and Hargrove said he could tell Bechler wasn't feeling well.

Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.




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