PITTSBURGH — The Pirates are on a pretty incredible run when it comes to their starting pitchers.
Since the beginning of the 2017 season, they’ve used just six, with Trevor Williams covering Jameson Taillon’s absence due to cancer treatment and then taking over for Tyler Glasnow.
That means that Gerrit Cole (20), Ivan Nova (19) and Chad Kuhl (19) are all in the top 50 in games started in the majors.
Nova has been stellar for most of the season and Cole has worked through some rough patches while constantly going deep into games. Kuhl has gotten better as the season went on and all three are on pace to pitch near or exceed their career highs in innings.
But manager Clint Hurdle sees the experience as far more of a positive than a negative.
“What I’m most optimistic about is that our young pitchers are posting up, mounting up, they’re gaining experience and it’s putting them in a better position to compete in the second half,” he said.
Hurdle said that after the All-Star break, some extra rest for Nova was priority in resetting the rotation, but that all five of his pitchers should be good to go for the duration if they can keep it together.
“We’re very confident that everything is manageable at this point in time,” he said.
Maybe more impressive than the fact that the Pirates have gotten by with six starters is that they’ve done it with no injuries. Nova left a start early in Baltimore in early June with a knee issue, but didn’t miss a start. Kuhl didn’t either when he was struck by a line drive and had to be pulled in Miami. Only Taillon’s cancer diagnosis and his bout of food poisoning right before the break have kept the Pirates from starting the pitcher they’d have liked to every day. Hurdle said that’s a testament to the condition of his athletes.
“Health is huge,” Hurdle said. “Our preparation program, the work they do, the throwing the sessions that are monitored and the recovery portion of it plays. Then there’s just the fact that you keep pushing forward.”
Gm 96: #Pirates (47-48) v.
Taillon (3.06) v.
Jimmy Nelson (3.27)
— Alan Saunders (@ASaunders_PGH) July 20, 2017
MORE FOR MAX
Max Moroff will start in place of Jordy Mercer at shortstop after coming through with a walk-off hit on Wednesday. Hurdle said that the day off was planned ahead of time for Mercer, but the timing works well with Moroff getting hits in three straight games.
“There was a drought for a long time,” Hurdle said. “You keep giving guys at-bat, it’s going to come. … Max was in the lineup yesterday. I didn’t know he was going to hit a walk-off.”
It was also a scheduled rest day for Francisco Cervelli and David Freese. Chris Stewart will start his first game of the second half. Even with the team going for a sweep of the first-place Brewers, Hurdle remains convicted about the value of off days for his veterans.
“The old school train of thought is you play them until they go 0-for-20 and then you give them a day off,” Hurdle said. “So you let them be hot and then let them stink for a while and then you show your intelligence by getting them out of the lineup to give them a rest. Just with the information that’s out there now, the studies we do, the players are truthfully buying into it as well.”