ALTOONA, Pa. – On Tuesday afternoon, the Pirates made a very peculiar move in releasing Curve reliever Buddy Borden. The name might not jump off the paper to everyone, but Borden was in the middle of a fantastic season at Double-A, including a 2.37 ERA and .187 batting average against in 38 innings.
Borden was drafted by the Pirates in 2013 in the seventh round out of UNLV. He pitched extremely well in Jamestown and West Virginia in 2013 and 2014 before being sent to the Tampa Bay Rays as the player to be named later in the Sean Rodriguez deal. Borden struggled due to control problems in 2016, and the Rays released him in June. The Pirates signed him later in the month, and he continued to struggle; however, they moved him up to Altoona anyway.
This season, the results have been night and day. Yes, he still struggled with control, but his strikeout numbers were back, and his WHIP was manageable. Altogether, he had the fourth best BAA in the Eastern League and was a key part of the Curve bullpen.
That all came to a screeching halt on Tuesday afternoon when Yeudy Garcia was to be reinstated from the disabled list, and the Curve needed to make a corresponding move to make room. The Pirates decided to release Borden.
“He wasn’t going to get the innings that he was needing the rest of the way,” Manager Michael Ryan said.
The organization was deciding between putting Borden on the phantom disabled list or releasing him. Even if Borden did find a way to remain on the active roster, he would’ve been buried on the depth chart and only pitched if the team was “seven up or seven down.” As Ryan would call it, he would’ve been a part of the “touchdown club.”
“It wasn’t fair for Buddy Borden, for everything that he’s done for us, to sit on the phantom DL for the rest of the year,” Ryan said. “He probably wouldn’t have gotten off unless five or six pitchers got hurt. We wanted to give him to opportunity to go somewhere else and sign rather.”
So, how does an organization get to the point where they are releasing a Double-A pitcher with a 2.37 ERA and the fourth best BAA in the league? It’s easy how they get to that point, says Ryan.
“Because of the prospects that will be coming here that are priority bullpen guys that need to get those innings before Buddy Borden.”
Now is the time of year where you begin to see a lot of movement within a minor league system. There are at least four pitchers who are deserving of a promotion to Altoona from Bradenton, and those moves will begin in the very near future. The guys who highlight the Bradenton group right now are Mitch Keller and Pedro Vasquez from the rotation, and Daniel Zamora and Seth McGarry from the bullpen.
Those moves typically occur around the same time that players from Altoona are being sent to Triple-A; however, there isn’t much of that happening this year. There are some arms that are probably very deserving of a look in Indianapolis — Montana DuRapau, Miguel Rosario, and possibly a starter or two (Alex McRae or Austin Coley) — but the chances of multiple guys from Altoona moving to Indianapolis seem low based on the number of arms the Pirates currently have on their upper minor league teams.
This is all one big ripple effect that stems from the majors. Francisco Cervelli being activated from the disabled list from his concussion sent Edgar Santana back to Indianapolis. With Santana reporting, Casey Sadler was sent down from Indianapolis, as Brian Peloza reported yesterday, while detailing a similar issue in Indianapolis.
“He has to get more consistent work,” Indianapolis manager Andy Barkett said to Brian Peloza. “We’re loaded right now. We’re trying to find innings for guys and it’s difficult. A guy that is coming off Tommy John needs to pitch consistently and it’s hard to get him consistent innings in the spot we’re in right now.”
Other moves will need to be made to make additional room once Dan Runzler is activated from the disabled list for the Indians. You can also note that this situation was compounded due to the four pitchers who have recently returned from Tommy John surgery (Kingham, Cumpton, Sanchez, and Sadler) all coming back around the same time. In other words, there just simply aren’t enough innings to go around in Altoona or Indianapolis right now.
Of course, this all could change if the Pirates choose to look at the Triple-A club to strengthen their major league team. If, for example, Tony Watson is traded and Antonio Bastardo is sent far away, that opens up two spots for players to be brought up. There is also the chance that the Pirates could find a way to bring up Steven Brault, who is absolutely pitching lights out in Indy.
All of these scenarios are just thoughts and ideas, and we have no idea what the Pirates will ultimately decide to do. However, there is a real lack of innings for pitchers right now between Double-A and Triple-A. Under these current circumstances, it would not surprise me at all to see someone traded or another player released in the very near future. If it wasn’t for his injury, Mitch Keller would’ve already knocked down the door to be a staple in the Double-A rotation, and he isn’t far off right now anyway.
Current Triple-A Starters
Current Triple-A Relievers
Current Double-A Starters
Current Double-A Relievers