Brandon Cumpton replaced the injured Wandy Rodriguez in the rotation today, and had another great outing in the majors. Cumpton gave up two runs on four hits in seven innings, with a walk and five strikeouts. That’s just a continuation of what Cumpton has done so far in the majors. In his 37.2 innings in the majors, he has a 2.15 ERA, along with a 27:6 K/BB ratio.
Rodriguez will be starting a rehab assignment soon, and it’s hard to say at this point how long it would be until he returns. Teams have up to 30 days to keep pitchers on a rehab assignment, once that assignment begins. Regardless of when Rodriguez eventually returns, he should be replaced by Cumpton in the rotation.
I don’t believe that Cumpton is as good as his career numbers in a small sample size in the majors so far. His stuff makes it more likely that he will be a number four or five starter over the long-run. But he also deserves a chance. He’s done nothing but put up strong numbers in the minors, and his numbers in the majors so far have been impressive.
On the other side, Wandy Rodriguez has a concerning drop in his velocity, and the numbers have been poor this season. It’s hard to say whether that was due to his knee injury, or if the knee injury is a convenient way to get him out of the rotation for now.
What we do know about Rodriguez is that he’s a free agent at the end of the year. The Pirates only have two starting pitchers under control next season — Gerrit Cole and Charlie Morton. Brandon Cumpton could emerge as another option for that rotation, especially if he keeps pitching the way he has been pitching so far in the majors.
Rodriguez might be better in his return, but if Cumpton continues his success, then we already know the Pirates have good production coming from that rotation spot. It would be foolish to replace a successful Cumpton in the hopes that Rodriguez suddenly reverses course and finds success upon his return from the DL.
Depth wouldn’t be an issue either. Rodriguez could move to the bullpen as a long-reliever, serving as depth. The Pirates also have Stolmy Pimentel in the same role. Jeanmar Gomez would probably be the odd man out in this scenario, so he couldn’t be counted on. However, Triple-A has Jeff Locke, Casey Sadler, and a few minor league free agents like Adam Wilk and Jake Brigham.
At this point, Cumpton has earned a look in the majors, and a shot at keeping his starting job for the long-run. He should get a few more starts with Rodriguez on rehab. If those starts go well, then there would be no reason to replace Cumpton with Rodriguez at the end of that rehab assignment.
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