January 29, 2023

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'Very deserving': Bednar named May's top reliever in NL

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PITTSBURGH — The words just spilled out.

David Bednar had just thrown a career-high 50 pitches across two innings to nail down a win against the Dodgers, the first of three the Pirates took in Los Angeles en route to a sweep. Bednar allowed two runs in the eighth inning, blowing his first save of the season. The Pirates scored two of their own. Bednar got a second crack at closing the door. He slammed it. The win was gritty. The adrenaline was high. So, when reporter Robby Incmikoski placed a microphone in front of Bednar, the words just spilled out.

“(Expletive) exciting, man,” said Bednar, who instantly realizing he used a pirate’s vocabulary on live television. “Sorry.”

Bednar did not earn the save, but it was his signature moment of the month, if not the entire season. The outing was one of many performances that net Bednar National League Reliever of the Month.

“It’s cool,” Bednar said. “It’s definitely an honor. Ultimately, it means when I’m throwing it well, it gives our guys a chance to win games. That’s ultimately the main thing that matters.”

“Very deserving,” said manager Derek Shelton. “I would be hard-pressed to find somebody that deserves it more, with what he’s done, the situations he’s done it in with the leverage and the non-traditional — well, non-traditional now — two-inning saves and just the way he’s performed. I’m very happy for him. I think he’s very well-deserving of it.”

Bednar was plenty deserving. In May, Bednar posted a 1.65 ERA and 1.74 FIP. He struck out 21 batters and walked just two. He recorded seven saves on eight opportunities. What arguably stands out the most from this month, though, was Bednar’s workload as he posted those numbers.

The right-hander’s 16 1/3 innings were the second most thrown by a reliever in May and the most by any reliever in the National League. His 26 innings on the season are tied for the fifth most by a reliever. Of his seven saves this month, three were of the two-inning variety.

“Well, I think the way David’s built, it definitely handles that endurance because he’s a strong guy,” Shelton said. “The one thing with David is there’s not a lot of effort. You watch him warm up, there’s not a lot of effort there. When he plays catch, there’s not a lot of effort. So he conserves everything for that, then he’s strong as an ox.”

With the way Bednar has been pitching, Reliever of the Month may not be the only accolade he receives.

Bednar has evolved into one of the game’s best relievers. He has 12.12 K/9 and 1.73 BB/9. Through two months, Bednar has posted a 1.38 ERA and 2.03 FIP. His 0.9 fWAR is tied for fifth among all relievers. As things stand, Bednar has a very compelling case to return to Dodger Stadium for the Midsummer Classic. And should that happen, Bednar will likely be more cognizant of his language when the cameras are rolling.

“It was raw emotion,” Bednar said of the on-air slip. “I was fired up.”

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