Pirates Notebook: Why Brandon Cumpton Over Andy Oliver?

Brandon Cumpton
Brandon Cumpton faces Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers for his MLB debut.

Brandon Cumpton makes his Major League debut for the Pirates on Saturday afternoon facing the Los Angeles Dodgers at PNC Park. If his promotion came as a surprise to Pittsburgh fans, it was even more surprising for Cumpton.

“I was shocked. I had no idea,” Cumpton said Friday. “I didn’t see it coming at all. I was blindsided.”

Cumpton told reporters he has had a “pretty consistent” season for Triple-A Indianapolis, posting a 3.31 ERA and 49 strikeouts in 65.1 innings since being promoted from Double-A in mid-April. He has gone at least five innings in his last seven starts, offering the ability to give the Pirates multiple innings Saturday.

Hurdle said Cumpton’s recent strong outings separated him from other candidates to pitch Saturday and put him on the “express lane” to Pittsburgh, including allowing two earned runs or fewer in every start but one since April 26. But one huge factor was the fact that Cumpton was already scheduled to start Saturday for Indianapolis.

“Let’s be very factual — this is his day to pitch,” Hurdle said. “There’s a handful of guys you talk about [who] can’t make the start.”

Andy Oliver Pirates
Andy Oliver has walked 60 batters this year, by far the most in the International League.

Left-hander Andy Oliver, who started seven Major League games with Detroit, was one of the names discussed. He pitched five scoreless innings with seven strikeouts and three walks Friday night for Indianapolis, which Hurdle called “a much better outing.” However, Oliver needed 109 pitches to do so and is coming off three straight starts in which he walked six batters. He has not had an outing with fewer than three walks since April 29.

“His command has not been his best friend,” Hurdle said, but added Oliver will remain in consideration for future starts.

As it is, Brandon Cumpton will wear number 58 and take the PNC Park mound on Saturday for Hurdle’s team.

“It’s exciting when you can write a first time player’s name in the lineup. I get gassed up over these opportunities,” Hurdle said. “It’s one of the best parts of the job for me.”

Bonus Notes!

  • Left fielder Starling Marte remains day-to-day with rib discomfort and has not played since Wednesday night. Alex Presley will start again in left field. If Marte cannot play in Cincinnati on Monday, the Pirates will consider placing him on the 15-day disabled list.
  • Wandy Rodriguez (left forearm tightness) threw 15 pitches on flat ground before Saturday’s game, all fastballs. He said he felt good and will pitch a bullpen session Monday to integrate his offspeed pitches.
  • Brandon Inge
    Brandon Inge faces another left-handed pitcher Saturday. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

    Brandon Inge gets his fourth start of the year in right field Saturday with the Pirates low on outfielders. Hurdle’s reasoning: “I’m trying to give Inge some opportunities to get some type of consistency with at-bats, because we need his bat in play coming off the bench.”

  • The Pirates face former Cy Young Award-winning lefty Clayton Kershaw on Saturday. Kershaw pitched seven shutout innings against the Bucs in April at Dodger Stadium (I love my recap of that game, by the way). “We haven’t matched up as well as I thought we would against left-handed pitching,” Hurdle said. Pirates hitters have a .674 OPS against lefties this year vs. .687 OPS against righties.
  • Why did Hurdle remove Jeff Locke after seven innings Friday night? “It had nothing to do with Locke’s innings. It had nothing to do with him coming up [to hit]. It had everything to do with him walking seven last time out and pitching his backside off through seven and [Mark] Melancon needs to get back into play.”
  • Left-handed pitcher Mike Zagurski cleaned out his locker Saturday after being designated for assignment. “Sometimes things just don’t work,” Hurdle said. “The location was probably as much of a challenge for him at this level as anything. He wishes he would have done more.”
  • If Jeanmar Gomez (right forearm strain) makes another rehab start, he would get into an every-fifth-day pattern in order to return to the rotation. The Pirates are in discussions about when to get Gomez back to the Major League roster. Gomez completed three innings in his rehab assignment Thursday for Indianapolis, but threw a less-efficient 63 pitches.
  • The team is also discussing how to use James McDonald. The Pirates have until June 26 to put him back on the Major League roster, allowing him to make three more rehab starts. Rotation or bullpen? Hurdle said the team will “see what’s available and how it’s gonna best serve the ballclub.”
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Concerning the last Bonus Note re: JMac – Unless a miracle happens in his next 2 rehab starts, I think it is time to DFA JMac. He’s had every opportunity over the last year now to prove that the first half of 2012 wasn’t a fluke, but all he’s done is proven it was. I really liked him, but his lack of control and tendency to throw meatball pitches make him unlikely to help the team as either a starter or reliever. Even with our starting pitcher shortage, I’d rather go with a minor leaguer over JMac. This is a matter of accountability and showing the team and the fans that mistakes will not be perpetuated because a vet is out of options. The front office made the right decisions with Sanchez, and OldMac, though it perhaps took longer than it should have. It’s unfortunately time to let JMac go too.


I agree – unless he does a 180 in his remaining rehab starts, I would let him go….someone may pick him right up, as some teams are desperate for pitching – and maybe a change of scenery and a new start would be best for MacDonald as well. But, don’t put him on the MLB roster at the expense of someone who has earned that spot.

I think it is also time to DFA Inge. We cannot afford someone in his role, hitting below the Mendoza line. I’d rather have Harrison or d’Arnaud up.


Agree on Inge; completely disagree on McDonald.

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