Bednar to help star-studded Team USA defend title

February 16th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Justice delos Santos' Pirates Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

Thirteen players in the Pirates' organization are headed to the World Baseball Classic, a group headlined by big leaguers David Bednar (United States), Duane Underwood Jr. (Puerto Rico), Roansy Contreras (Dominican Republic) and Jarlín García (Dominican Republic).

Along with those four, Pittsburgh’s representatives will include Tsung-Che Cheng (Chinese Taipei); Alessandro Ercolani and Jeffrey Passantino (Italy); Santiago Florez (Colombia); Antwone Kelly and Josh Palacios (Netherlands); Tahnaj Thomas and Chavez Young (Great Britain); and Rob Zastryzny (Canada).

“It’s really cool to represent the country and play alongside all those guys,” Bednar said.

There is a bit of a tricky tightrope to walk for those competing, especially the pitchers. On the one hand, players want to compete. On the other, they’re competing during a time of the year that’s traditionally reserved for building up.

“I do think it is a tricky balance. But with that being said, I think being a reliever, it’s a little bit easier because you’re going out there for an inning or so,” Bednar said. “My mindset in Spring Training, I always come in kind of guns blazing. … That’s what I’ve been doing the past couple years.

"So really, where I’m at arm-wise and body-wise, it’s pretty similar to where I always would be. I think you can try to think about the long season all you want, but once you step on the mound, it doesn’t matter where you are. It doesn’t matter if I’m here or there -- obviously, the energy is going to be significantly different -- but I’m just looking forward to compet[ing] when I get on the mound.”

Along with the competition itself, Bednar said he’s looking forward to the opportunity to learn from his teammates. The United States is the defending champ and one of the favorites heading into the tournament, featuring four MVP Award winners in Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, Paul Goldschmidt and Clayton Kershaw, as well as a laundry list of All-Stars.

“That’s probably one of the things I’m looking forward to the most because, looking at the roster, there’s a lot of guys that you see making all the big plays,” Bednar said. “They’re at the top of the game, so I’m really excited to be teammates with them. On the pitching staff, I’m looking forward to picking some brains and watching how they go about their business.”