First Pitch: That Pitching Depth Disappears Quickly

It was only a few weeks ago that people were calling for the Pirates to trade from their pitching depth and add a bat to the lineup. That was when Jeff Karstens would be back soon, Charlie Morton was healthy, Erik Bedard was pitching well, Brad Lincoln looked like a possibility from the bullpen, and there seemed to be no hope of getting a spot opened up for Rudy Owens and Jeff Locke.

Karstens suffered a set back in his rehab, Morton had Tommy John surgery, Lincoln and Kevin Correia are both struggling, and Erik Bedard hasn’t looked as sharp lately. What looked like a rotation with one hole (Correia) a few weeks ago, now looks like a rotation with just two starters (James McDonald and A.J. Burnett).

I’m sure some of this is just short term. I’m less concerned with Erik Bedard than I am with Kevin Correia or Brad Lincoln. But it does show how quickly that depth can disappear. One more struggle out of Lincoln and Correia, and the Pirates have to seriously consider bringing up Rudy Owens and Jeff Locke. Then your depth is limited to Justin Wilson — who is more of a wild card due to inconsistent control — and Jeff Karstens once he gets healthy.

It’s also something to consider when talking about trading from their depth. The ideal situation for the Pirates would be trading from the bullpen depth, rather than the rotation. The impact of losing Joel Hanrahan or Jason Grilli isn’t going to be as big as losing a starter. And the Pirates have far more relief depth than starting depth, especially with Daniel McCutchen and Chris Leroux currently on rehab assignments.


Links and Notes

**The Pirates lost 12-6 to the Orioles. Kristy Robinson’s notebook looks at how it was a bad week for the rotation.

**Prospect Watch: Gerrit Cole pitches a gem, while Alen Hanson and Gregory Polanco both homer.

**Charlie Morton underwent Tommy John surgery.

**Pirates agreed to terms with Barrett Barnes.

**They also announced the signing of Jon Sandfort.

**A breakdown of the over-slot money the team has available.

**Matt Curry is close to returning from a hamstring injury.

**A lot of movement in the minor league system today, highlighted by Drew Maggi and Evan Chambers being promoted to Altoona.

**The State College Spikes released their mini camp roster.

**The Pirates have been checking on available hitting.

**I did a Q&A over at City of Champions.


  • BlueBomber72
    June 15, 2012 8:42 am

    Wonder what the Cubs want for Dempster? He would be an effective summer rental if we want to try to stay in it.

    • The Pirates have no reason to trade for SP when their need for hitting is so glaring. Even with Morton out they still have no fewer than 8 legitimate SP options for 5 spots.
      Reality is that they are not a contender, its time to see what Locke and Owens can do. Find that out first then later in the year assess McPherson and Wilson. If Locke and Owens pitch well you can trade one year guys like Bedard in late July.

      • BlueBomber72
        June 15, 2012 11:25 am

        I cannot disagree that the Pirates need hitting, but who’s to say they couldn’t add both? Dempster may be the best player available right now, and he could be one of multiple additions. I think the ‘reality’ is Neal needs try to improve THIS team right NOW. Unless we totally tank, I can’t see how giving MLB auditions to Owens, Wilson, or Locke helps us now. I’d rather see one of them sent out for a chance at being competitive all summer.

        • john.alcorn
          June 15, 2012 1:43 pm

          I guess we disagree on the importance of now. I just don’t see any realistic way that we are a playoff contender without significant moves. The price for SP is far greater than the price for hitters in trade. We arn’t close enough to being a playoff team to spend prospects to fill both areas. We could however spend on a multi-year fix on offense like Headley and solve one problem for the next Pirate contender.
          Honestly, I hate the way this team does not evaluate prospects during the season. They seem to want to delay looking at a player in the bigs in order to flirt with .500 (which as they state is not the goal). So, we end up the offseason not knowing what we have internally and we waste money on veteran one or two year fixes. For example, they should have seen what Hague could do last year, but they waited and now we have to use ab’s this year to do it. This year they should see what Owens, Locke, Wilson, Welker and Morris can do. They need to know if they need more SP/RP for 2013. Instead innings are wasted on Correia who stinks and will not be back. More innings go to guys like Resop who has no upside and shoudl be easily replaced.
          They claim they arn’t playing for .500, but that is exactly how they make decisions.

          • BlueBomber72
            June 15, 2012 2:34 pm

            They should be playing for every win they can scratch out. The absence of they guys you mention can only mean that Neal and co. have evaluated them and determined that they cannot help the team right now. Why else would they not be here? No one is blocking anyone at the MLB level. The Pirates need improvement at 7 positions and 2 or 3 pitching spots. If the minor leaguers can’t contribute now, go get someone who can. The Pirates are playing well in what appears to be a weak division plus there is another wildcard spot. 85 wins might be enough to get in the post season.

            • john.alcorn
              June 15, 2012 3:39 pm

              I would love to see 85 wins, but I highly doubt they can come near that without major upgrades offensively.
              They do have a lot of games left against Chicago and Houston, so that will help, but you can’t be dead last in runs and contend.
              I hope you are right, but I’m not seeing much difference between this year and last year. And we have two rotation spots for 2013 nailed down with AJ and JMac. That leaves 3 spots to fill and I’d rather audition for those now than guess in the winter.

  • Resop did well as a starter in AAA, although there’s no guarantee of him having the same success in the majors.

    There’s two sides to this. On one side, pretty much every major league reliever has had experience starting. With Resop, is he actually a candidate to receive starts, or is he a guy who just dominated AAA and can’t cut it in the majors as more than a reliever?

    On the other side, maybe his AAA success is legit, making him a sleeper candidate for the rotation.

    This isn’t the first time the Pirates have had this situation come up this year. There was also a call for Evan Meek to join the rotation earlier in the season. One of the problems the Pirates have had over the last few years is that they’ve played people out of position due to the lack of talent. They’ve had hitters batting 4th who were really #6 guys, just because they had no true cleanup hitter. They had guys in the rotation who should probably be bullpen guys, just because of the lack of rotation depth.

    The Pirates definitely have a need at starter, and Resop is looking good in relief. So should they weaken their bullpen with no guarantee that Resop has success as a starter? Or do they take the added bullpen depth, and hope they can fill the holes in the rotation elsewhere?

    If it were up to me, I’d have Resop making a spot start, or pitching a few extended outings. Maybe see how he did in some of those roles before throwing him out there as a full time starter.