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Perrotto: Rowdy Tellez’s Heart Definitely in Right Place, But …



Pittsburgh Pirates' Rowdy Tellez (44) is introduced before the Pirates' home opener baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles in Pittsburgh, Friday, April 5, 2024. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Rowdy Tellez’s heart was certainly in the right place.

The Pittsburgh Pirates’ new first baseman came to the defense of struggling closer David Bednar on Tuesday after a 5-3 loss to the Detroit Tigers at PNC Park. Bednar had a rough outing, giving up four runs in the ninth inning to squander a 3-1 lead after eight outstanding innings by left-hander Martin Perez.

Bednar’s early-season struggles continue and have been one of the few negatives of the young season for the Pirates. Their 9-3 record is the best in the National League.

For the first time since he joined the Pirates in 2021, Bednar drew some boos from the crowd as he left the PNC Park mound. That was a bit jarring because Bednar hasn’t given the fans many reasons to boo, especially while being selected to the All-Star Game the last two seasons.

It was also surprising because Bednar is beloved by the fans for his everyman persona that comes from being born and raised in Western Pennsylvania. The only Pirates player more popular is Andrew McCutchen, a franchise icon.

When reporters approached Bednar’s locker in the Pirates’ clubhouse after Tuesday’s game, Tellez stepped in front of the media without being asked and gave his teammate a vote of confidence.

“This is the pride of Pittsburgh,” said Tellez, who signed with the Pirates in December as a free agent. “To everybody: We don’t do that out here. … What happened today is, I think, unacceptable. We as a group in Pittsburgh have got to be better. He’s an All-Star for a reason and we just have to be better.”

It was a nice gesture, especially since Tellez is in his first year with the Pirates. It shows he is a good teammate.

Tellez is also a player that Pirates’ fans could come to love. He has that Western Pennsylvania vibe, a no-nonsense approach to the game and a good heart beneath a somewhat crusty shell.

However, Tellez also went too far in his defense of Bednar with the “we as a group in Pittsburgh have got to be better.”

Tellez has not been in town long enough to truly understand the city and the fans. It has taken some players years to fully grasp the frustration of 27 losing seasons in the last 31 years and no playoff series victories since beating the Baltimore Orioles in the 1979 World Series.

That’s not a knock against Tellez. He just hasn’t experienced the region long enough.

The fans haven’t turned on Bednar. He’s beloved to the point that he is pictured on cans of Iron City Beer. That’s about as high of an honor as anyone in this region could ever receive.

It was frustration coming out as a win suddenly turned into a loss. Fans’ natural inclination is to boo in that situation and here’s an example:

The St. Louis Cardinals are noted for having the best fans in baseball. Those fans have a reputation for never booing the home team.

On opening day in 2009, the Pirates opened the season in St. Louis. They scored four runs in the top of the ninth inning off closer Jason Motte to rally for a 6-4 victory.

Motte was booed off the mound by the Busch Stadium crowd of 45,832. In St. Louis. By the fans who supposedly don’t boo the home team.

Getting booed is part of a closer’s job and Bednar understands. The next time he takes the mound at PNC Park, it will be to raucous cheers as usual.

While Tellez meant well, he has played just five games as a Pirate at PNC Park. That’s not long enough to criticize fans who haven’t had a reason to get excited very often for most of the last five decades.

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