Erik Bedard was used to being creative.

Being a major league starting pitcher and spending the offseason in snowy Ottawa isn’t the simplest of combinations. Bedard had thrown inside his uncle’s chicken farm before, firing off fastballs on a sticky floor that was cleaned every 45 days.

But even Bedard acknowledged his recent offseason was strange.

While the Astros tweaked their revamped 2013 roster and Bedard weighed offers – including a potential deal with his home-country Toronto Blue Jays – the Ontario winter produced some seriously sub-zero temperatures.

Bedard, 33, knew the upcoming season was crucial to his career. In Baltimore, the 6-1, 200-pound lefthander had been one of the most promising young pitchers in the game, going a combined 28-16 from 2006-07 with 392 strikeouts in 378 1⁄3 innings and finishing fifth in the 2007 American League Cy Young voting. Since then, he has gone just 23-30, including a 7-14 mark and 5.01 ERA with Pittsburgh in 2012, which resulted in his being released by the Pirates at the same time a club with 20 consecutive losing seasons began another late-season nosedive.

Bedard believed he still had more.