Jose Ascanio started tonight’s Indianapolis Indians game, making his final rehab appearance during his time on the 15-day disabled list. A quick look at the 40-man roster page shows that Ascanio is out of options, which means that when he is eligible to return, he will have to go on the 25-man roster, or be designated for assignment.
Ascanio started his rehab stint on April 11th. By rule, rehab time for pitchers can last up to 30 days, which means Ascanio needs to be added to the roster on Wednesday. The question is, who does he replace?
Joel Hanrahan, Chris Resop, and Jose Veras are out of the question, for the obvious reason of their performance (and side note, I’m not worried about Resop, since I don’t think his last two outings negate his first 14 of the season). Daniel McCutchen came up to replace Ross Ohlendorf on the 25-man roster, but has certainly earned his spot, with a 0.00 ERA in 14 innings so far this year. Joe Beimel is left handed, and would have to be designated for assignment, and is a better option for the pen than Ascanio.
The only two candidates that Ascanio could replace would be Michael Crotta and Daniel Moskos. Crotta got off to a great start this year, pitching 3.2 shutout innings in his first four appearances. Since then he’s struggled, with a 9.95 ERA in 6.1 innings over nine appearances. Not all of that has been his fault, as the movement on his sinker isn’t getting him many close strike calls, and more importantly, he’s allowing too many hits, some of which is due to his defense. Unfortunately for Crotta, he’s a sinkerball pitcher, getting an extreme ground ball rate, which isn’t a good thing with this infield defense.
Moskos was called up a few weeks ago to replace Evan Meek, after putting up a 1.69 ERA in 10.2 innings in AAA. So far Moskos hasn’t been used much. He last pitched a week ago, and has only made two appearances, with no runs allowed in 1.2 innings. Moskos gives the Pirates a second left hander in the bullpen, but the fact that he hasn’t been used doesn’t speak well for his chances of remaining in the majors.
On one hand, Crotta sees more action in the bullpen, so you would think that he would have the leg up on Moskos. On the other hand, Crotta hasn’t had the results, and it’s not like his issues that are leading to those poor results are going to change. He might start getting the strike calls, but he’s still going to have a bad defense behind him. Before we decide who should go down when Ascanio returns, I think we should ask whether Ascanio should even return at all?
Prior to his injuries, Ascanio looked like a potential late innings reliever, with an upper 90s fastball and a strong slider. When I saw him in Spring Training he didn’t look good, throwing around 91 MPH, and displaying poor command of his fastball. Neal Huntington mentions that he’s been throwing around 97 MPH, which would be an improvement. However, the results clearly haven’t been there. After tonight’s outing, Ascanio has a 8.59 ERA in 7.1 innings in his rehab work at the AAA level, with a 5:4 K/BB ratio.
Ascanio definitely hasn’t earned his way on to the 25-man roster. There are other players on the Indianapolis team who deserve it more. As an example, reliever Tim Wood also throws in the upper 90s, and has had much better results than Ascanio. We also have to ask whether Ascanio is even a better option than Crotta or Moskos.
One thing to consider here are the roster implications. A guy who can throw 97 MPH is rare, and if Ascanio has his velocity back to that level, the Pirates can’t afford losing him. That could be a possibility if he were placed on waivers. Regardless of whether you feel he’s better or worse than Crotta or Moskos, the overall impact on the bullpen wouldn’t be great, as Moskos isn’t even being used, and Crotta isn’t playing a big role, and is having some struggles in that role.
If we’re just basing the decision on performance, then I wouldn’t say Ascanio deserves to be added to the 25-man roster this week. If we’re looking at the big picture, and if Ascanio really is back to throwing 97 MPH, then sending one of Moskos or Crotta down wouldn’t be a bad thing, at least to give Ascanio a shot in the majors and a chance to prove he belongs on the 25-man roster.