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Pirates reliever Bastardo taking nothing for granted

| Thursday, March 16, 2017, 6:27 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates reliever Antonio Bastardo pitches against the Orioles Wednesday, March 15, 2017, at LECOM Park in Bradenton, Fla.

BRADENTON, Fla. — Antonio Bastardo has experienced almost everything during his eight major league seasons.

The Pirates left-hander has been on pennant winners and last-place teams.

He has had seasons in which his statistics were dominant and seasons in which his ERA approached 5.00.

He has had stretches in which he served as a team's closer, and there have been times when he might have been his manager's last option out of the bullpen.

Bastardo even has gone from spending a decade with one organization to — over the span of 20 months — switching teams three times.

Through it all, what have Bastardo's experiences compelled him most to pass along to younger teammates?

“I learned that this game is not easy,” he said. “At all.

“It's not easy. When you think you've got it, that's what baseball will show you. It's not easy.”

Bastardo was referring, in part, to team success. When he made his debut with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2009, they were the reigning World Series champions, and they went back to the World Series that season. They won the NL East the next two years, too, and went 102-60 in 2011.

“Right now I realize how hard it is because back to that time, it was like that (Phillies) team was kind of perfect,” Bastardo said. “We were winning every day. We did that from '08, '09, '10 and '11, and in '12 we were kind of OK. But in '12 you kind of realize that four straight years of making it to the playoffs, you felt like it was easy, but it's not easy at all.”

The Pirates got a taste of that last season when they fell 20 wins off their 98-64 pace of 2015.

Of course, Bastardo didn't have the smoothest of years, either. He left the Pirates as a free agent to sign a two-year, $12 million contract with the New York Mets. When that didn't work out, he was dealt back to the Pirates (with the Mets picking up some of his salary) in exchange for Jon Niese.

Across the board, Bastardo's numbers improved upon rejoining the Pirates following the Aug. 1 trade.

“It's way different here than the other place that I was last year,” Bastardo said. “Here, we support each other, and everybody goes out there and does their job. We pull for each other every time and just try to help everybody else to do their best out there. That's the good thing about it.”

During his past two seasons, the 31-year-old has a 3.51 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 92 strikeouts and 58 hits allowed in 81 13 innings for the Pirates.

Bastardo's 2017 roster spot is all but a lock. His role? That's still up in the air.

Bastardo is one of five left-handed relievers (Tony Watson, Felipe Rivero, Wade LeBlanc and Tyler Webb are the others) on the 40-man roster. At least three will make the opening day roster, leaving manager Clint Hurdle some decisions to make.

Hurdle let it be known that no matter how it shakes out, Bastardo will have a prominent one.

“This guy has pitched meaningful innings for a lot of years,” Hurdle said. “When we acquired him, he was pitching closer to the back end of games in Philadelphia than he is now. And it doesn't matter to him. He wants the ball. He just wants to pitch. He's been a very valuable contributor to our bullpen.”

Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at cadamski@tribweb.com or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.

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