The Power of the Pirates Bullpen

PITTSBURGH, Pa. — The Pittsburgh Pirates bullpen has already shown their resiliency this season. Twice this year the ‘pen has been called upon to cover 8.0 innings. And they did so very efficiently. They’ve seen several guys come and go, but at the end of the day, the men in the bullpen have been solid for the Pirates.

“I’m pleased with the bullpen,” Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle said. “They’re without ego. There’s nobody out there banging the drum to be used any differently than they’ve been used. They’ve all contributed significantly. There’s not one guy that hasn’t given us a shot in the arm when we’ve needed it. They feed off one another. They know the goal is to get the ball to Joel [Hanrahan].”

The second of the two occasions the bullpen had to throw 8.0 innings of relief came on Wednesday at PNC Park. After Erik Bedard was removed from the game with an injury in the top of the 2nd inning, the relievers took over. Brad Lincoln, Jared Hughes, Juan Cruz, Jason Grilli and Joel Hanrahan held the Washington Nationals to one earned run while whiffing 11.

“We’ve had games in the last two weeks where they threw eight innings out of the bullpen,” Hurdle said. “That’s tough duty. And to do it twice. To have guys give you multiple innings then bounce back as quick as you would want them to. There’s been nobody that said I need another day. There hasn’t been overuse.”

“They’ve been very resilient. They’ve been very effective. They bent, but they didn’t break,” Hurdle said after their performance on Wednesday.

The latest addition to the group has been Brad Lincoln. The starter turned reliever seems to have found his niche in the bullpen. He’s posted a minuscule 0.63 ERA over 14.1 innings with a 16:6 K/BB ratio.

“When he’s throwing the ball the way he’s throwing up here recently, he can be a good starter, or he can be a good late inning reliever,” General Manager Neal Huntington said.

Cruz, who made the club out of spring training after signing a minor league deal over the offseason, has been scored upon just once in his first 13 appearances. He also filled in as closer for the club when Hanrahan was sidelined with a hamstring injury.

Righty Hughes pitched two scoreless innings in relief on Wednesday and has not been scored upon in his last three outings.

“His evolution is in place,” Hurdle said. “I like the man. I like the makeup. I like the arm. I like the sink at the end. Now, he’s reading swings a little bit. He’s feeding off the other guys. He’s been a very valuable asset out there for us.”

Hughes’s 16.2 innings in relief is most on the team, while lefty Tony Watson leads the team in appearances with 14.

“I think that’s one thing I think we’ve managed well so far. We’re well below 50 percent of their appearances for games,” Hurdle said. “We were redlining that earlier in the season. I do struggle with the 70 number, let alone, three guys over 70 last year. That’s the way the season played out. That’s why it goes back to the importance of starting pitchers pitching the innings that we need them to pitch. Historically it just goes to show you that guys that pitch over 70 times in a year, the next year can be challenged dramatically. Can they bounce back? Yeah, the next year usually after you let them go. They bounce back for somebody else.”

With the Pirates closer out until Sunday (Bereavement leave), Hurdle feels confident in right-handers Juan Cruz or Jason Grilli getting the late innings closed down in his absence. Until Hanrahan is back in Pittsburgh, Hurdle said the way he will use them in the late innings will depend on matchups.

“It basically comes down to a leverage situation,” Hurdle said. “I have my mind set up on who our best leverage guy is. Earlier on we were throwing Cruz much more against left-handers. Those numbers aren’t quite playing out the same way right now. It’s just assessing the situation. Where they are in the lineup. If their middle of their lineup is up in the eighth inning then Grilli is going to get the middle of the lineup in the eighth inning. Then we can go with Cruz or whatever direction later. I’m looking to leverage Grilli where I need to leverage him against the stiffer part of the lineup.”

“Our bullpen has been a pretty strong unit back there,” Hanrahan said. “We’re all pretty close. Lincoln has been throwing the ball amazing all year. No matter who goes in there, they put it on the line. Our bullpen, you can’t say enough about them.”

Enjoy this story? Pirates Prospects will be switching to a subscription site on 4/13, so that we can continue bringing you the best Pirates coverage there is. For a very small monthly price, you can continue getting articles like this, along with coverage from every minor league city. Get more information here, and subscribe today!

Share This Article

Exploring the Arsenal: Previewing the Astros’ Probable Starting Pitchers

Next Story »

Prospect Trends — Week Ending 5/13

Latest Analysis

  • Keller Supak Hinsz

    Even With the New Draft Rules, the Pirates Are Still Loading Up on Projectable Pitchers

    1 day ago

    From 2008-2011, the Pittsburgh Pirates spent a lot of resources on projectable pitchers out of high school. So far, this approach has led to breakout performances from ...

    Read More
  • Josh Bell made the move to first base over the off-season. (Photo credit: David Hague)

    Why Should You Care About Prospects?

    3 days ago

    Yesterday I had a shorter day than usual. The Pirates had cuts at the MLB level, and a road game. The day was shortened at Pirate City, ...

    Read More
  • Gregory Polanco

    Q&A: Trading Prospects For Rentals, Polanco Concerns, Meadows vs Appel

    4 days ago

    I missed the Q&A last week due to a common problem in Spring Training: I forgot what day it was. It was around 6:00 that I was ...

    Read More
  • Nick Kingham f

    Improving His Two-Seam Fastball will Make Nick Kingham a More Effective Pitcher

    5 days ago

    With Jameson Taillon returning from Tommy John surgery, and unlikely to make an impact at the Major League level early in the year, the top prospect to ...

    Read More
  • Arquimedes Caminero 3

    The Roster Situations That Could Impact the Makeup of the Pirates Bullpen

    7 days ago

    There are less than two weeks remaining in Spring Training, and the one area where the Pittsburgh Pirates had actual position battles is heating up. There were ...

    Read More
  • Jordan Luplow

    How the Pirates are Trying to Stay Ahead of the Curve With the New Draft Rules

    1 week ago

    The 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement brought a lot of changes to Major League Baseball. The biggest change for the Pittsburgh Pirates came in the draft. From 2008-2011, ...

    Read More
  • Alen Hanson

    The Key For Alen Hanson to Help the Pirates in the Majors This Year

    1 week ago

    When the Pittsburgh Pirates moved Alen Hanson to second base last year, part of the plan was to get him to the majors faster by putting him at ...

    Read More
  • Tyler Glasnow 2

    What the Stats Don’t Tell You About Tyler Glasnow

    1 week ago

    The stat line for Tyler Glasnow’s start at Pirate City yesterday looked great: 3 IP, 0 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 K. The lone run ...

    Read More
  • JaCoby Jones Josh Bell

    JaCoby Jones Did Fine in the Move to Shortstop, But Needs to Cut Down on Strikeouts

    2 weeks ago

    The Pittsburgh Pirates drafted JaCoby Jones as an outfielder in the third round of the 2013 draft, then surprised everyone the following year when they moved him ...

    Read More
  • Cody Dickson is a lefty with the upside of a middle of the rotation starter. (Photo Credit: Mark Olson)

    The Mental Adjustment that Led to Cody Dickson’s Dominant 2014 Second Half

    2 weeks ago

    Trusting his stuff and not trying to do too much — that has been the key for left-handed pitcher Cody Dickson so far in his professional baseball ...

    Read More
  • Browse More Articles

    More