Notes: Bednar at home; Tucker banged up

March 3rd, 2021

BRADENTON, Fla. -- is Pittsburgh through and through.

Bednar grew up in Mars, Pa., just outside of Cranberry Township in the North Hills, where he pitched for Mars Area High School. He was undrafted out of high school, and he stayed in Pennsylvania to pitch college ball at Lafayette College and returned to western Pennsylvania to play for the Butler BlueSox in collegiate summer ball. His family still lives in the same place, and his house is in Pittsburgh, too.

So when he was dealt to the Pirates from the Padres as part of the return for Joe Musgrove this offseason, the story didn’t come full circle for Bednar. It just fell right into place. And on Monday against the Blue Jays, the right-hander made his first appearance in the Bucs’ black and gold, pitching a scoreless inning with two strikeouts.

“Just shagging [batting practice] yesterday, I looked around and saw all the Pirates jerseys,” the 26-year-old Bednar said. “It just kind of hit me. It was like, ‘Wow, this is real.’”

When he was traded to the Pirates, a bevy of Pittsburgh pitchers came to his mind: A.J. Burnett, Mark Melancon, Matt Capps, Jason Grilli and Joel Hanrahan, whom Bednar will get face-to-face time with. The former Bucs reliever serves as the Triple-A Indianapolis pitching coach and is at Spring Training.

But it’s not just Pittsburgh greats who have helped the 35th-rounder in the 2016 Draft carve out a spot in the Majors.

Bednar learned his most dangerous pitch -- a split-finger fastball -- from 12-year MLB veteran Hideo Nomo during his first fall instructional league with the Padres. Bednar copied Nomo’s grip and said the pitch was a perfect fit because it needed to be thrown in an aggressive manner, which he said fits his game. Nomo continued to be a mentor for Bednar years after that experience.

“He’s been very helpful,” Bednar said of Nomo. “Throughout my Minor League career, whenever he was in town, he’d stop by, we’d talk a little bit about it and he’d help me out.”

The Bednar family could soon hold claim to two Major League pitchers, too. David’s younger brother, Will, is a standout pitcher at Mississippi State and the No. 41 overall prospect in this year’s Draft, per MLB Pipeline.

But for now, it’s just the older Bednar trying to work his way back into a Major League bullpen mix with the Pirates, and he has a lot of competition in camp.

“I think right now, I just need to go out and continue to get outs and earn the trust of the coaching staff and continue to prove that I can get outs at the big league level and make the most out of every opportunity I’m given,” Bednar said

Tucker out of lineup with injury
was removed from the lineup before Wednesday’s 3-1, six-inning loss to the Rays due to a left hand contusion, the Pirates announced after the game. Tucker has played in one Grapefruit League game, going 0-for-3, as he tries to win the open competition at shortstop. He hit .220 with three doubles and one homer in 37 games last season.

Cruz-ing in center
The Pirates are set on giving No. 64 overall prospect Oneil Cruz a majority of his reps at shortstop, where he has played most of his pro career. But they got their first look this spring at the 6-foot-7 standout in the outfield on Wednesday, as Cruz moved to center field in the fifth inning.

Cruz didn’t have a ball hit to him, but it’s worth seeing where he could be put in the outfield this spring. General manager Ben Cherington said he sees Cruz primarily as a shortstop, but the Pirates want to see his versatility on display as well.

First base and outfield coach Tarrik Brock said that whether Cruz plays the infield or the outfield is manager Derek Shelton’s decision. But Brock knows that Cruz’s blend of speed, size and arm makes him an exceptional prospect in the outfield.

“He’s an athlete, that’s for sure,” Brock said. “He has a nickname of KD [Kevin Durant] for a reason, because he can move around and flow, and I just can’t wait to see him in the outfield.”

Up next
Tyler Anderson will make his Pirates spring debut on Thursday against the Braves at LECOM Park at 1:05 p.m. ET. Anderson was signed to a one-year deal at the beginning of Spring Training to bolster the rotation depth after recording a 4.37 ERA with the Giants last season. Kyle Crick, Sam Howard, Bednar, Chasen Shreve, Clay Holmes and Blake Weiman are also scheduled to pitch for the Pirates.