PITTSBURGH — For much of this season, David Bednar has been lights out for the Pittsburgh Pirates as the team’s closing pitcher.
The two-time National League All-Star converted 22 of his first 23 save opportunities to begin the season and carried a sparkling 1.21 ERA through his first 43 appearances.
Over his last three outings, Bednar has blown two of his three save opportunities and has been scored upon in all three appearances. He’s allowed nearly as many runs (5er/3.0ip) in his last three times out than he did in his first 43 games (6er/44.2ip).
His latest blown save came on Tuesday night, when the Atlanta Braves rallied for three runs against him in the ninth inning to sink the Pirates.
Bednar’s workload has increased of late. He’s pitched in five of the Pirates’ eight contests in the month of August and seven of their last 10 games overall, with only one off day in that stretch.
Still, despite his usage and his recent struggles, the Pirates aren’t worried about fatigue starting to settle in.
“I think it’s lack of execution,” manager Derek Shelton said. “The fatigue would have concerned me, I mean, he was 97-98. Normally when you see fatigue, if we would have seen 94, 95, that would be one of the concerns there. But it was more execution because the velocity was there.”
Last season, Bednar missed all of August and the bulk of September after being placed on the injured list with low back inflammation.
With the missed time, Bednar is only four innings shy of matching his 2022 workload. Still, the 28-year-insists he’s alright health-wise in the simplest of terms.
“I feel good,” he said.
It’s unusual to see Bednar struggle as he has over his last handful of games.
Ever since joining the Pirates prior to the 2021 season, Bednar has emerged as one of the best relief pitchers in baseball.
In what is now 152 appearances with the Pirates, Bednar is 9-7 with a 2.19 ERA and has recorded 45 saves. He’s already set a career-high this season with 23.
Bednar is confident he will be able to snap out of his recent struggles and return to the form he is used to seeing. That form is a high-level closing pitcher.
“Short memory. Same for the good and the bad,” he said. “That’s the good thing about being a reliever. You’re in there the next day or two, and it doesn’t matter what I did today. Just help the team win tomorrow.”
His teammates certainly haven’t lost faith in him yet. They’ve seen what he’s done this year. They believe he will get back to that.
“David is a savage. He’s going to shake it off, for sure,” Josh Palacios said. “This is baseball. It goes up, it goes down. Nobody has a zero ERA in the league — things happen. He’s an All-Star. He’s the best closer in the game in my opinion. He’s going to bounce back from this with ease.”
Even if the belief is that fatigue isn’t a factor, Bednar might need a day… or two… or even three off to reset.
To say the Pirates have even a sliver of hope at reaching the postseason is an oversell at this point. There’s no sense in risking a potential long-term issue to one of the team’s best weapons.