With a tough stretch coming up for Pittsburgh in the month of August, the Pirates are considering several options in order to keep their starting staff fresh. After an off day on August 2nd, they will play 20 straight games without a day off. Nine of those 20 games are on the road, finishing with three games on the West Coast.
Both General Manager Neal Huntington and Skipper Clint Hurdle said that they are considering on using several spot starts during that stretch in order to give the Pirates starting staff an extra day of rest to stay fresh during the stretch. While it wouldn’t be a six-man rotation, it would push the rotation back a day giving them ample rest as they continue to battle in contention in the National League Central.
Right-hander Brad Lincoln, who is currently in the Pirates bullpen, and left-handers Jeff Locke, Rudy Owens and Justin Wilson, who are in Triple-A Indianapolis, were the names being thrown into the mix.
“We’re in a good spot where we can rest our starting rotation, give them that extra days rest during that three week stretch in August where we play 20 days in a row,” Huntington said. “Hopefully that will keep our guys fresh for September and into October in the ideal world. We feel good whether it’s Brad Lincoln or Jeff Locke, Rudy Owens, Justin Wilson coming out and making a spot start for us. It wouldn’t be a six-man rotation as much as a spot start to give those guys, our Major League starters an extra days rest each time through the rotation or a time through the rotation.”
Lincoln has bounced between roles this season with Pittsburgh. He’s made five starts, where he’s posted a 6.08 ERA. In his last start, the right-hander tossed six frames and gave up just one run while striking out a career-high seven. Since moving back into the bullpen at the end of June, Lincoln has allowed just one run over 13.0 innings of relief. The longest, however, that Lincoln has been stretched out to since has been three innings.
“He would always be a name that would come up in conversation if we get to that point and time again,” Hurdle said. “We’re going to have to look at some creative things to add to our rotation depth.
Locke has a 3.01 ERA over 19 starts so far this season with Triple-A. He’s struck out 99 batters and walked 33 over 110.2 innings and over his last 10 starts has sported a 2.86 ERA with a 52:23 K/BB ratio in 56.2 innings. Locke was a September callup in 2011 and made four starts in the Majors. He was also recalled earlier in the season in case the club needed an emergency starter, but was not used.
Owens has a 3.14 ERA over 19 starts with Indy, with an 85:25 K/BB ratio in 117.1 innings. The lefty had a sub-3.00 ERA on the season but hit a rough stretch in the month of July. Over his last four starts, Owens has 6.10 ERA in 20.2 innings, with a 17:9 K/BB ratio.
Wilson has a 4.25 ERA over 20 starts with Triple-A this season. Wilson has whiffed 108 batters over 103.2 innings, but has also walked 52. Like Owens, Wilson has gone through a recent rough stretch and has a 7.50 ERA in July. The lefty sported a 3.54 ERA the month prior and was named International League Pitcher of the Week twice this season.
Huntington said he’s not worried about their pitch counts and all are capable of throwing 90-plus pitches in a start at the Major League level. He also noted that they aren’t hindered by any inning limits.
“They’ve been fine,” Huntington said. “They haven’t dominated the way you’d like to see them do, but each one of them has had some really good starts, each one of them has had some struggles along the way. Overall they’re right on track.”