After the Pittsburgh Pirates acquired right-hander A.J. Burnett during the off-season, Kevin Correia looked to be the odd man out of the rotation. Having six options, it looked as if Correia would start the season in the bullpen with the opportunity for a spot start if needed. But after Burnett’s fluke accident during a bunting competition, a spot opened for the right-hander. And after Jeff Karstens was forced to the disabled list due to shoulder inflammation, and Burnett returned, Correia once again found himself a spot.
Although he’s had four quality starts this season, he’s been lucky to start the 2012 season, and it has started to fade. Correia has a career 71.7% strand rate over parts of nine seasons in the Majors, but prior to his start tonight, he was at 77.1%. The right-hander saw that number regulate down to 70.2% on the year after his outing on Tuesday.
Correia allowed six runs on eight hits over 3.2 innings on Tuesday night in Miami — five of the runs coming in the fourth inning when nine players came to the plate. The 31-year-old saw his ERA jump from 3.47 to 4.50 on the season. Correia’s walk rate is up as well. Over his seven starts (40.0 innings), the righty has walked 15 batters after walking just 39 batters all of last year (154.0 innings).
Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle said last week that Karstens could throw a simulated game this upcoming weekend with a rehab start not to far in the distant future. While Karstens is still a ways away, should Pittsburgh replace Correia in the rotation?
Right-hander Brad Lincoln is coming off a very good spot start, where he allowed just two runs over six innings in place of Erik Bedard (back spasms). Lincoln was moved back to the bullpen, but his strong numbers this year could give him another opportunity.
“That’s big time effort,” Hurdle said of Lincoln’s start. “We could not have asked for anything more. To get [to] 80 pitches, hot night, that club’s coming off a big win [Sunday] night so they’re feeling good up there…His fastball command was excellent. His slider was off the plate, sometimes for chase, for strikes. He didn’t throw many changeups. I think he threw one or two so he was a two pitch guy tonight. He pitched as hard as he could, for as long as he could.”
The Pirates have two lefty prospects pitching very well in Triple-A as well. Rudy Owens is having a bounce-back 2012 season after struggling for the first time last year in his last three seasons. Owens has posted a 2.25 ERA over seven starts with Indy. He’s walked just four batters over 48.0 innings, while whiffing 32. Fellow southpaw Jeff Locke, who made his Major League debut with Pittsburgh in September, has also impressed at Triple-A. Locke has posted a 3.02 ERA over eight starts while walking 10 and striking out 36 over 47.2 innings.
Bedard to Make Start on Wednesday
Left-hander Erik Bedard, who was originally slated to pitch on Monday in Miami, will make the start on Wednesday in Washington against the Nationals. Bedard’s spams have subsided and just needed a couple of days off.
Bedard suffered the injury during the top of the second inning during an at-bat with Adam LaRoche of the Nationals. The lefty had back spasms back in 2008, where he also missed a start, but it had not flared back up until May 9.
“It seems to be kind of a fluke thing. Of course, we’re not blind to Erik’s injury history,” General Manager Neal Huntington said. “He’s worked hard. He knows his body. He knows what he needs to do. And thankfully he pulled the plug when he needed to and didn’t try to pitch through it and make it worse.”
“We signed Erik hoping he’d make 30-plus starts. With the financial investment that we have, he doesn’t have to make 30-plus starts for it to be a good investment for us. With our depth with Brad Lincoln and the other guys behind him, with the depth of our rotation up here, with the depth of our rotation in Triple-A, we need Erik to make as many good starts as he can for us. If he can’t go all 32, 33, 34 then we got a depth guy behind him ready to take his spot.”
Grilli Cheese Mowing Them Down
Righty reliever Jason Grilli has been very solid out of the bullpen this season with Pittsburgh. Pirates skipper Clint Hurdle has used the righty in high-leverage situations this year, and Grilli seems to embrace it.
In the Pirates 3-2 win over the Marlins on Monday, Grilli faced Miami’s heart of the lineup in the eighth and picked up two punchouts. Grilli has at least one whiff in all 15 of his appearances this year. He enters game action with 25 punchouts on the season, which is fourth in the Majors among relievers behind Aroldis Chapman (32), Kenley Jansen (30) and Ernesto Frieri (27).
“The number one thing is he’s pretty good with runners on base because he has the slide step that he can throw any pitch off of and doesn’t lose any velocity. Which is a very good weapon when he does have the traffic,” Hurdle said of Grilli’s late inning success. “They’re taking a gamble when they run. He commands all his pitches. You saw him throw the fastball for strikes, gassing up top a couple times. The breaking ball is very efficient for him as well. That’s not easy work.”
Presley Trying to Get Back on Track
Outfielder Alex Presley has gone just 3-for-39 over his last 14 games after starting the season of hot –303/.321/.395 line in 76 at-bats over his first 19 games. Presley has been looking at video of his swing from last season and said he has made a few adjustments. The outfielder has started in each of the last two games after sitting out five of the previous seven.
“Alex has got to get back to what has allowed him to be successful a year ago,” Huntington said. “And that was look to drive the pitches that are in his hitting area, command the strike zone and not expand the strike zone. When he does that, he’s a dangerous offensive player. When he gets inside his dome and tries to do too much or just becomes passive, and looks to slap, he’s not the same hitter that he was when he was successful a year ago.”
“I don’t think it’s him alone,” Huntington said on whether Presley is trying to do too much at the plate. “We have guys that care. We have guys that have worked their tails off. We’ve got a group that collectively wants to be the group that turns this around. When we struggle, they each try to do too much. It’s one of Clint’s pet peeves –trying to do too much. Do what you’re capable of. Stay within yourself. And when our guys are mature and capable of that, we’re going to be a pretty good club. We’ve got to move runners. We’ve got to score runners. But we’ve got to get more runners on. We’ve got to do all three of those things successfully for us to continue to move forward.”