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Perrotto: David Bednar Wonders What Could Be, Not What Might Have Been

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David Bednar, Pittsburgh Pirates

David Bednar has not spent the offseason wondering what might have been.

The Pittsburgh Pirates closer had 39 saves last season, tying for the National League lead with the San Francisco Giants’ Camilo Doval. Bednar also finished five saves behind the Cleveland Guardians’ Emmanuel Clase’s major-league-leading total of 44.

It was a great year by any measure as the Mars High School graduate also was selected to pitch in the All-Star Game for a second straight season.

However, it’s easy to speculate how many saves Bednar could have had if the Pirates had not faltered in May after starting the season with a 20-8 record. He went almost a month without a save opportunity from April 30-May 29.

Yet Bednar hasn’t thought about how much that drought affected a season in which he had a 2.00 ERA in 68 games.

“I wish, then we probably would have won some more games without that little lull,” Bednar said about the absence of May save opportunities. “It’s fun to think about but there is nothing you can do.”

As it was, tying for the NL saves lead was a noteworthy accomplishment even if Bednar isn’t one to bask very much in personal accomplishments.

“It’s always cool when you see yourself on the top of those (saves leaders) lists but, honestly, I think for me I was able to help the team win that many more games and was able to have an impact on that many games,” Bednar said. “I think that’s more of where I see it and where it comes into play. That’s the biggest thing: What can I do to help the team win on any given day? That’s one of my favorite parts about being a reliever, being a closer. I can pitch any given day.”

The Pirates went 76-86 last season, a 14-win improvement over their 62-100 record of 2022. They also ended a streak of four consecutive last-place finishes in the National League Central.

The Pirates won 18 of their final 31 games, giving Bednar and his teammates hope they are turning the corner and ready to be contenders this year.

“It was very important at the end of the year, just to win with the group that we had,” Bednar said. “That’s how you learn as a group. You learn how to win together and that’s how you build that trust with one another. It was really good to end on that high note and finish the season strong.

“The big thing was, nobody gave up and everybody was playing hard until the last game. That speaks volumes about the group we had. I know as a whole, we’re really excited to get back to spring training.”

Bednar and his wife took a vacation to Italy shortly after last season ended. He has also spent the offseason cheering for the Penguins and Steelers.

Yet, like most baseball people, Bednar knows that once January rolls around it’s time to get ready for another season. Pitchers and catchers begin spring training workouts on Feb. 14 in Bradenton, Fla.

What particularly gives Bednar hope the Pirates can be good in 2024 is that the backend of their bullpen will return intact. Right-hander Colin Holderman will handle set-up duties along with righty Carmen Mlodzinski and left-hander Ryan Borucki.

“We already knew what Holderman had going into last year. For him to shove like he did, you know the stuff is unbelievable. He was awesome all year,” Bednar said. “The big surprise was Carmen. I didn’t really see him throw (last spring) but I was really impressed with his work ethic and how he prepared and went about his business every single day.

“As a group, as a whole, we have a lot of guys coming back. It’s a tight-knit group, and that’s one of the things that makes us good. Everybody is pulling for each other. That’s one of the big things about it. As a group, we’re excited to get back to spring training and work to continue to get better.”

And try to ensure that Bednar doesn’t go nearly a month without a save opportunity this year.

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