PITTSBURGH, Pa. — Doug Slaten found out he was going back to the big leagues on Sunday after reporting to the field in Louisville. The lefty reliever hopped on a flight and will look to continue his dominant success he had in Triple-A in the Majors.
“It’s always nice to get the call. Definitely,” Slaten said. “It’s not the same as my first time, of course, but it’s definitely sweet still.”
The 32-year-old has spent parts of six seasons in the Majors, his last coming on September 27 of 2011 with the Washington Nationals. Slaten posted a 4.41 ERA over 31 games (16.1 innings) of relief last year. After signing a minor league deal with Pittsburgh on January 17, the lefty was in the mix to fight for a spot in the Pirates bullpen during spring training. Slaten posted a 9.00 ERA over his six appearances and started the season with Triple-A Indianapolis.
But it was with Indy that Slaten made an adjustment, and found success.
“A little bit of luck. Just went out there with the same mindset all the time. Just get my work in, stick to the same routine,” Slaten said. “I made a little bit of a mechanical adjustment [from] my pitching coach down there. That’s helped out, I’d say just getting in the flow of things and getting the season started…Just how I start my hands. It feels good.”
Slaten posted a 0.36 ERA in 20 games. He walked six batters and struck out 15 over 25.1 innings, allowing just one earned run. Entering game action, Slaten had produced the second-lowest batting average against (.161) among International League relief pitchers.
“He wasn’t just a left on left guy at Triple-A,” Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle said. “In his last appearance in Triple-A, he threw three innings. I think he can give us a little variety. I’m not so sure I’d need to link him to a three inning opportunity here. To get him an inning plus, where he gets up, gets down, get back up. Maybe throw a stretch of left-handers with a right-hander mixed in. He gives us another option from the left side…This series it could work out possibly to our advantage with [Joey] Votto and with [Jay] Bruce. We’ll see how it plays out as we go forward.”
“He’s earned this opportunity. He was challenged this spring, but I think all the hard work he put in through spring training, I think he finally got into shape sometime in early April. The last month, the bundle of work he’s done has been very efficient, very clean. And to his credit, we felt he deserved this opportunity in [Juan] Cruz’s absence.”
Slaten said he pitched from the seventh inning on, and notched eight saves while with Triple-A. He said he wasn’t aware with his role with the club.
“Just wait for the phone call,” Slaten said.
Cruz was placed on the restricted list and will return home to the Dominican to take care of a personal matter. Hurdle said they anticipate Cruz being back for the Milwaukee series (June 1-3). With the veteran gone, the Pirates have several options to help Jason Grilli in the late innings before giving the ball to Joel Hanrahan.
“This was something, a cross-road for Juan personally,” Hurdle said. “It was just time for him to get involved in a personal matter.”
“I think it will be kind of what you’ve seen so far, just without Cruz. [Brad] Lincoln has the opportunity to pitch back there. [Jared] Hughes has the opportunity to pitch back there. You’ve got [Tony] Watson back there if you need him.”