Who Could Take James McDonald’s Spot in the Rotation?

Andy Oliver could be an option to take over for James McDonald.

Andy Oliver could be an option to take over for James McDonald.

The Pittsburgh Pirates had Jeanmar Gomez in the rotation after dropping Jonathan Sanchez last week. Gomez was expected to be replaced this weekend by Francisco Liriano. Today, James McDonald went on the 15-day disabled list, which put Gomez back in the rotation for the short-term.

Liriano is still set to join the rotation on Saturday, but the Pirates will need a starter to replace McDonald on Sunday. Here are my thoughts on who could take that spot.

Jeanmar Gomez - He seems like an obvious candidate, since he’s already going to be starting in place of McDonald. Gomez has a 3.06 ERA in 17.2 innings this year, with a 5.1 K/9 and a 4.6 BB/9. In his start last week he went four innings, allowing three runs, two earned, on four hits. Gomez is alright as a short-term replacement, such as today, but if you’re planning ahead you could probably do better. UPDATE: Gomez might have improved his stock after throwing five shutout innings tonight.

Gerrit Cole - It’s not going to be Cole, according to Neal Huntington:

Charlie Morton - He was supposed to be back on the 14th, but a recent set-back will probably prevent him from being an option.

Andy Oliver - This would be my guess if I was making a prediction. Looking at the Probable Pitching Chart, Oliver’s next start is Saturday. They could push him back to six days rest, call him up, and have him start on Sunday. So far this year Oliver has a 2.82 ERA in 38.1 innings, with a 44:23 K/BB ratio. He’s having a very Justin Wilson-like season, with a lot of walks, but also a lot of strikeouts and a low BAA. In his most recent start, Oliver went six shutout innings, allowing two hits, four walks, and struck out five.

I spoke with Larry Broadway a few weeks ago about whether the Pirates would be comfortable calling Oliver up, rather than keeping him down to work on his control problems. Broadway’s response:

“If the need comes open in Pittsburgh and he’s next in line, then he’ll go up,” Broadway said. “We’re not going to just hold him back because we’re trying to do something with him. He’s already been there. He’s already contributed there. If we have the need, he’s going to go.”

Note that we don’t know if Oliver is “next in line”. That’s a key part to that statement. For now he’s putting up good numbers in Triple-A, he lines up with McDonald’s next start, and the Pirates won’t hold him back for developmental reasons. That doesn’t mean they’ll go with Oliver, but right now he’s my favorite for the role.

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Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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