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Ten Positives for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2021 – No. 4: The Hometown Kid

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David Bednar was acquired from San Diego in the offseason trade that sent Joe Musgrove to the San Diego Padres, coincidently, the hometown of Musgrove . The Pirates acquired five players in the three-team swap that also included the Mets. Bednar wasn’t viewed as the headliner – or even the best secondary piece for that matter. Instead, the Mars, Pennsylvania-native gave the Pirates a feel-good story in the form of an intriguing yet unproven arm.

Bednar had a good minor league track record and had some brief MLB experience with the Padres in parts of two seasons. The former 35th-round pick out of Lafayette College posted a 6.75 ERA in 17.1 innings with San Diego between 2019 and 2020. With the Pirates, Bednar immediately received a more consistent role and he made the most of it.

The right-hander made his Pirates debut on Opening Day at Wrigley Field against the Cubs and pitched a scoreless seventh inning in which he recorded two strikeouts in the Bucs’ 5-3 win over the Cubs. The performance was a sign of things to come as Bednar finished the season with a 2.23 ERA/2.69 ERA, 77 strikeouts, 19 walks and just 40 hits against in 60.2 innings over 61 appearances. Opposing hitters batted just .185 against him while managing on OPS of .577.

From Aug.12 up until his final appearance of the season, Bednar did not allow a single run – a span of 13.1 innings. In his final 33 games, he posted an immaculate 1.07 ERA/1.77 FIP with 43 strikeouts in 35.2 innings. Opponents could only muster a .453 OPS against him as Bednar didn’t allow a single home run from June 16 through the rest of the year.

Bednar’s power fastball took a big step forward in his first full season, as did his curveball and split-finger which both turned into effective pitches for the righty. His fastball velocity averaged nearly 97 mph, and he combined to use both his off-speed offerings nearly half the time to keep batters of balanced.

Heading into 2022, Bednar is the leading candidate to take over the Pirates’ full-time closer job if that’s the direction the coaching staff decides to take for the bullpen. Regardless of titles, Derek Shelton will make the call to the bullpen to utilize Bednar’s services in high-leverage situations whenever he is looking for the reliever to shut the door.

The Pirates will be counting on Bednar to continue the huge leap forward he took during 2021 to anchor the Pirates bullpen that has a few question marks heading into the offseason. Until then, Bednar can enjoy the offseason while watching the Steelers and Penguins compete for the city he calls home. It won’t belong until “Renegade” serenades PNC Park as Bednar makes the trot in from the Pirates’ bullpen again.

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