Now it’s time for what seems like a weekly feature on the site: “Who could start for the Pirates on (Insert Day) with the recent injury to (Insert Pitcher Who is Injured)”. Today we fill in those blanks with Saturday, and A.J. Burnett. Burnett will miss his next start with a calf injury, causing Jeff Locke to move up a day to pitch on Friday, and leaving no options on Saturday. Gerrit Cole and Francisco Liriano would both be pitching on less than five days rest on Saturday. Therefore, here are the options in the minors and the bullpen.
[Update: A.J. Burnett has been placed on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to June 9. More information can be found here.]
Gerrit Cole - Call. Him. Up! Wait, they did that. Sorry, Cole was just number one in the template for this article.
Andy Oliver - He’s scheduled to start for Indianapolis on Friday. Oliver has had some serious control issues in Triple-A, but is having a very Justin Wilson-like season with a low BAA and a high strikeout rate. He wouldn’t be the worst option, while keeping him on a short leash and waiting to go to Bryan Morris or Justin Wilson if needed.
Brandon Cumpton - He’s scheduled to pitch on Saturday, which would be perfect timing. He’s been better than Oliver from a control standpoint, and has been putting up great numbers in Triple-A. The problem is that he’s not on the 40-man roster, and the Pirates are already having to clear a spot for Morton.
The best option in Triple-A would be Oliver, since he is on the 40-man roster, and is putting up good numbers even with the walks. The Pirates could also turn to their bullpen and give Bryan Morris a start. Morris has gone multiple innings, throwing 3.0, 3.2, and 2.0 innings in his last three appearances. He could go four innings, with Justin Wilson, Vin Mazzaro, or Ryan Reid taking a multi-inning role behind him. The downside is that this depletes the bullpen for the next few games, and the Pirates don’t have a day off until June 24th. Therefore it might be better to just go with Oliver or Cumpton and hope for the best for one game, rather than deplete the bullpen at the start of a long stretch of games, and hope for the best over the next several games of that long stretch.
Also, if you’re getting “Future Ace Making His Debut” happy and thinking Jameson Taillon skipping over Triple-A, the answer is no. Aside from the fact that the Pirates wouldn’t make that move, Taillon wouldn’t be on five days rest.