PITTSBURGH — The Pirates have a couple pitchers that are starting to turn some heads in Triple-A. Over the last two nights, lefty Steven Brault and righty Drew Hutchison have both put together impressive performances.
Brault threw eight scoreless innings with four hits and nine strikeouts Friday night for Indianapolis. Hutchison followed that up with 6.2 innings of two-run ball Saturday. Before that, Hutchison had posted back-to-back scoreless starts. His ERA is down to 3.26. Brault’s is an eye-popping 2.04.
Count Pirates manager Clint Hurdle among those that have noticed.
“They’re becoming more consistent,” he said Saturday. “They’re executing pitches. Their command has gotten better incrementally.”
Of course, that’s led to calls for Brault, in particular, to be elevated to the major-league level, particularly with the continued struggles of Saturday’s starter, Chad Kuhl, who has a 5.58 ERA. Hurdle said it’s something they’ve considered.
“Now, the hard line is deciphering Triple-A numbers and big-league numbers,” he said.
That is the hard part. In an era of more and more data surround the game of baseball, transferring stats from Triple-A to the majors still remains something of a crapshoot. The Pirates have a couple of poster children for that phenomenon in Tyler Glasnow and Max Moroff.
“Have you watched (Glasnow’s) numbers since he’s gone back?” Hurdle asked. “You got to watch him pitch here. … I talk to scouts — our scouts and other scouts — and it seems that every year, that gap has gotten larger. The separation of Triple-A, the talent level there and what it is in the major leagues.”
Glasnow had a 1.87 ERA with Indianapolis last season and he currently sits a 1.50 after three starts there this year. Over 19 starts in the majors, his ERA is 6.49. It’s not just pitchers, either. Max Moroff had a .954 OPS with Indy this season and is sitting at .345 in the majors right now.
“It’s hard to gauge,” Hurdle said. “You can’t just say that this guy has got this (number) in Triple-A and that means he’s ready to pitch in the big leagues. You can give him the opportunity. He’s done what he can do there. Because there does come a point in time where they’ve done what they can do. Give them that opportunity, see what they can do here and see how it equates. That’s always going to be the interesting part of the journey for all of us in the decision-making process.”
There’s another factor to consider when it comes to pitchers. Sometimes, a Triple-A starter might be able to help a team but can’t crack the starting rotation. So then the question becomes if they’d be a better fit in the bullpen. Hurdle said that’s something that’s under consideration with Brault and Hutchison, as well.
“I think you have the conversations,” he said. “The challenging part is you take a guy like that and it’s going to be case-specific (when you can use them). They don’t pitch back-to-back days. You get him hot and then he doesn’t get in. How do they respond? That doesn’t mean you can’t do it, but those are some of the challenges that come with it. If you get a bullpen that’s air tight at the time, you can take on a different project. We’ve had a couple different projects going through our bullpen from time to time already. That is something to have a conversation about.”
WATSON A FIREMAN?
I wrote on Thursday about Hurdle using Tony Watson in a big situation in the seventh inning. I got the chance to ask Hurdle about it the benefits of putting a player back into a situation where he’s had success in the past and here’s what he had to say:
“It’s part of one of the tools you might grab in your experienced tool belt to help guys find their way back,” he said. “I’m not sure how comfortable it is ever to come on with men on base and you’re facing (Corey) Dickerson and (Evan) Longoria for me. He’s done it. He’s got the DNA for it. He’s got the software for it. … I will at times, talking to (pitching coach Ray Searage), plug guys back into situations that they had success in before to help reignite them.”
Watson hasn’t had a ton of success, even since he’s moved out of the closer’s role, but he has seen a constant uptick in his velocity over the course of the season. It will be interesting to see if the results follow.
Kuhl (5.58) vs Moore (6.04)
— Alan Saunders (@ASaunders_PGH) July 1, 2017
Andrew McCutchen got a clean bill of health after fouling a pitch off his ankle Friday. … Francisco Cervelli worked out extensively on the field before the game for the second straight day. … Moroff will start his second career game at shortstop.