Morning Report: Nick Kingham Deserves a Longer Look in the Pirates’ Rotation

One start does not make a career. You don’t want to make big decisions based on one start. But it’s difficult to properly weigh one start when it matches up with what you expected going in.

No, I don’t think Nick Kingham will do that every time out. I didn’t expect to see his outing — seven shutout innings with one hit and nine strikeouts — and don’t expect that level going forward. Repeating that performance would make him a top of the rotation guy, and if you’re dreaming of that based on the one start, well, see my disclaimer above.

But I do think that Kingham is a good depth option for the Pirates. I think he can be a legit MLB starter in the future. I previously had him with the likely upside of a number four starter, with a shot at being a number three. That puts him ahead of a lot of guys in the mix for the fifth starter job or depth roles. The question is whether he can be that pitcher immediately.

I don’t know if yesterday was a sign that Kingham is ready to step into an MLB rotation for the long-term. You’d need more starts to determine that. But I’ve felt that Kingham has more upside than Steven Brault, and while Kingham isn’t fully proven, Brault hasn’t exactly shown that he’s more than a number five starter or a depth option.

Brault currently has a 4.97 ERA and a 5.58 xFIP over 29 innings. The Pirates brought him north to be a long reliever and an early-season depth option. He was needed right away when Joe Musgrove went to the disabled list with a shoulder injury. So far he has not looked like a pitcher who should have a spot locked down, immune from challenge.

That’s where Kingham comes in. Yes, it’s only one start. But it’s also four excellent starts in Triple-A. It’s Kingham possibly starting to live up to the upside that made him a prospect to watch in the first place. And it’s a lack of competition for that same spot from Brault or anyone else.

The Pirates really only need one more start from their fifth starter over the next few weeks. They have two off-days next week, along with an off-day on the 14th. They need a fifth starter this coming Friday, and after that, they don’t need a fifth starter until May 20th. Joe Musgrove could be ready to return after that start on May 20th, depending on how his rehab goes (he throws three innings tomorrow night in Bradenton).

I wouldn’t suggest altering the original plan of having Musgrove as a starter. It would be good to see what the Pirates have in him, and to see if he can follow last year’s success in the bullpen with success in the rotation this year. But there are two more starts needed before Musgrove should return, and those starts would be better given to Kingham over Brault.

From that point, we might get a feel for whether Kingham deserves to stick around in the majors in that long-relief role, serving as the number one depth option when another injury inevitably comes up.

Right now I think Kingham deserves at least one more start, and maybe a spot start on the 20th as well.


Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pittsburgh Pirates won 5-0 over the St Louis Cardinals on Sunday afternoon. The Pirates now travel to Washington, where they will take on the Nationals for four games. Jameson Taillon will start the opener. He has been hit hard in each of his last two games, giving up a total of 12 runs over 5.1 innings. The Nationals will counter with right-handed pitcher Tanner Roark, who has a 3.77 ERA in 31 innings over five starts. He has 28 strikeouts and a 1.00 WHIP. Roark faced the San Francisco Giants in his last start and allowed four runs over six innings.

The minor league schedule includes the fifth start from Tyler Eppler, who has thrown shutout ball in three of his first four outings. He went six innings last time out, allowing just two hits. Altoona sends JT Brubaker to the mound. He threw seven shutout innings in his last appearance. Brubaker has 27 strikeouts in 23 innings. Both Bradenton and West Virginia are off today.

MLB: Pittsburgh (17-11) @ Washington (12-16) 7:05 PM
Probable starter: Jameson Taillon (4.91 ERA, 24:7 SO/BB, 25.2 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (10-10) @ Toledo (15-6) 6:35 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Tyler Eppler (1.93 ERA, 19:5 SO/BB, 18.2 IP)

AA: Altoona (10-10) @ Richmond (14-8) 6:35 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: JT Brubaker (1.57 ERA, 27:5 SO/BB, 23.0 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (13-11) vs Dunedin (9-14) 6:30 PM 5/1 (season preview)
Probable starter: Joe Musgrove (0.00 ERA, 0:0 SO/BB, 0.0 IP)

Low-A: West Virginia (13-11) vs Augusta (17-6) 7:05 PM 5/1 (season preview)
Probable starter: TBD


From Saturday night’s Pirates win, Trevor Williams puts in a strong performance.


4/29: Pirates recall Nick Kingham. Enny Romero placed on disabled list.

4/29: Brett McKinney added to Indianapolis roster.

4/27: Bo Schultz promoted to Indianapolis. Adam Oller promoted to Bradenton.

4/27: Gavin Wallace placed on disabled list. Beau Sulser and Drew Fischer added to West Virginia.

4/26: Todd Cunningham traded to Chicago White Sox for a player to be named later.

4/25: Rafelin Lorenzo placed on West Virginia disabled list. Raul Hernandez added to roster

4/25: Released Julio Gonzalez from DSL Pirates

4/25: Jose Osuna recalled for Wednesday’s doubleheader.

4/21: Sergio Cubilete placed on disabled list. Hunter Stratton added to West Virginia roster.

4/20: Pablo Reyes promoted to Indianapolis. Brett McKinney assigned to Morgantown.

4/20: Kevin Krause released. Bralin Jackson and Jordan George added to Altoona roster.

4/20: AJ Schugel assigned to Indianapolis on rehab.


Three former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, including second baseman Phil Garner. He spent five seasons in Pittsburgh, with the highlight being his role during the World Series winning season in 1979, when he played 150 regular season games. Garner went on to hit .417 during the NLCS and .500 in the World Series. He had 12 hits and drove in five runs against the Baltimore Orioles. Garner helped the Pirates when he was traded to the Houston Astros, bringing back second baseman Johnny Ray in the deal. With Pittsburgh, Scrap Iron played in two All-Star games and hit .267 over 664 games.

Other Pirates players born on this date include 2003 infielder Jeff Reboulet and 1921 catcher Tony Brottem.

On this date in 1887, the Pirates (then known as the Alleghenys) played their first National League game. For five seasons, the franchise played in the American Association, which was a rival Major League to the NL at the time. The Alleghenys switched leagues for the 1887 season and opened up against the Chicago White Stockings (now the Cubs). The Alleghenys played at Recreation Park and 10,000 fans showed up for that first NL game to see Pittsburgh take a 6-2 victory. This link here has the highlights from that game, but unfortunately the pictures were lost last time we changed servers. Our Facebook Pirates history page has many of the scans that were shown in the article.

  • mazslostglove
    May 30, 2018 11:08 am

    I may be seeing something that that doesn’t exist but I found the change of Romero going from DFA to DL interesting. By moving him to the DL, and bringing up Kingham, I believe that the Pirates can now send Kingham back down and bring him back up without waiting 10 days since he was an injury replacement. Or do I have this totally ass backward?

  • rickmontgomery
    May 30, 2018 11:08 am

    There are a LOT of folks wondering what the f**&k goes on in the minds of the management of the Pirates. Failing to give Kingham another start after the performance he turned in yesterday would add fuel to that fire. If he can give another quality start, then, I say, he gets another on the 20th. If that is also a quality start, then the Bucs need to keep him up at least as a long reliever. If he gets knocked around in either of those next two opportunities, then the decision becomes more uncertain. But, until he falters, how can you not keep going to him as needed in May?

  • “But I do think that Kingham is a good depth option for the Pirates. I think he can be a legit MLB starter in the future”

    Tim, the issue I have here is his already 26 years old, been in professional baseball for 8 years now. The time is obviously now for him. I’m not saying he has to stay in rotation permanently this season but he’s ready for MLB. He would have been up 3 years ago if it wasn’t for injuries. He has nothing left to prove besides health in minors.

  • If nothing else, moving Brault to the bullpen gives the Pirates two left-handers in the pen. And once Romero returns from the DL, that would be three lefties.