BRADENTON, Fla. — Talk about stating your case.
In his bid to earn a spot in the Pittsburgh Pirates' bullpen this spring, Mars graduate David Bednar was unscored upon in his first 8.2 innings of Grapefruit League play.
Bednar, 26, has allowed only three hits. He's struck out 18 and walked one.
Not in his mind.
“I showed up down here just wanting to pitch to the best of my abilities,” Bednar said. “I'm not looking at or approaching what's going on here any other way.
“I want to attack hitters and get outs. That's all I'm worried about.”
That's the approach of the Pirate coaches as well. Bednar has been working closely with pitching coach Oscar Marin, bullpen coach Justin Meccage and minor league pitching coach Joel Hanrahan.
“They've all been great,” Bednar said. “We share the same philosophy, that's for sure.”
“He attacks the strike zone,” Pirates bullpen coach Tyler Meccage said. “There is no fear in this guy. He has ice in his veins. He's so cool and calm out there.”
Since coming to the Pirates as part of the San Diego Padres' return package for veteran pitcher Joe Musgrove in the off-season, Bednar has been impressed with the Pirates' organization.
“Everyone has been welcoming and I like the young talent being assembled here,” he said. “Lecom Park and Pirate City are beautiful facilities. It didn't take me long to feel comfortable.”
He's pitching like it.
At 6-foot-1, 245 pounds, Bednar's fastball is consistently being clocked at between 96 and 98 miles per hour. And the right-hander is throwing strikes.
“Getting ahead of hitters has been a big part of this,” he said of his solid spring. “This is the hardest I've ever thrown during spring training.
“When the season goes on, arm strength builds up and you naturally throw harder. I've thrown this hard before in the summer, not at this time of year.”
The quality of Bednar's off-speed pitches has been every bit as effective as his fastball.
“His four-seam fastball has been outstanding,” Meccage said. “But he's developed a curve ball over the past month that he'll throw at any time in the count. His power split is often his strikeout pitch.
“He's adjusted his grip on the baseball a little bit and that's helped his command. He's throwing everything for strikes and that keeps hitters guessing.”
Bednar has had hot stretches on the mound before. He was unscored upon in his first 5.2 innings of pitching in the big leagues — all in relief work — with San Diego.
He had a dominant run out of the bullpen at Class AA Amarillo in 2019 — fanning 86 hitters while walking only 18 in 58 innings — prompting a late-season promotion to the major league club. His junior year of college ball at Lafayette, he led the team with a 3.92 earned run average, 72 strikeouts and 59.2 innings pitched.
Bednar has always been a high-strikeout guy, fanning 28 in 16.1 innings pitched in 17 career games with the Padres.
“My fastball's been playing well and I've been getting my off-speed stuff over, making everything more effective,” he admitted. “But I'm not projecting anything.
“This has been a fierce camp in terms of guys competing. That's what you want. Nobody's worried about the outside stuff (predictions of 100-plus losses). We're just concentrating on playing the best baseball we can.”
In terms of his role on the team, Bednar said that “all of that stuff sorts itself out as the season goes on.
“My plan is to be ready to take the mound and produce outs whenever they call on me.”
Meccage believes that could be at any point in the game.
“We're counting on everryone in our bullpen to play multiple roles,” the coach said. “That may mean throwing multiple innings at times.
“I don't think it will matter with David. He carries the same demeanor no matter what inning or situation he's pitching in. We've already used him in multiple roles and he's always the same.”
Bednar pitched as a closer at times in the Padres' minor league system.
“Does he have closer stuff? Absolutely,” Meccage said. “To be a closer, the mental part is a big part of the game. You have to have the mental attitude to handle the ninth inning.
“Honestly, I think he'd be very comfortable in that role,” Meccage added.