Morning Report: Searching For Bullpen Help in the Pirates’ System

The Pirates clearly have a problem with their bullpen, which was on display in last night’s loss. They carried a 4-2 lead into the sixth inning, and ended up losing 7-4. Dovydas Neverauskas gave up two runs, and a three run homer allowed by George Kontos sealed the deal.

I’ve said a few times that this bullpen looks to be one guy away from being a good group. If you add a quality set-up man to pair with Felipe Rivero, then you improve the rest of the bullpen from the top down. Michael Feliz and Kontos become your 6th/7th inning guys, or backup 8th inning guy if the set-up man isn’t available. That puts someone like Neverauskas in non-important roles, rather than pitching in closer games like he’s doing right now.

The question is, where can they get that reliever?

I don’t think that reliever exists in their system, unless we’re talking about guys who can work their way into that role.

The Indianapolis roster doesn’t provide many options. Kyle Crick is interesting, but needs to show improvements in Triple-A, and even if he was promoted, it would be a long path until he could be trusted for the late innings. The starting pitchers are some of the best options for the bullpen, but as we’ve seen with Clay Holmes, the Pirates aren’t likely to use those guys in anything close to an important role.

I’d go into the prospects below Indianapolis, but at the best case you are looking at an addition later in the season, which doesn’t help the situation right now. And again, those guys wouldn’t jump right into an important role.

The best prospect options are in the majors already. I don’t think Neverauskas will be the guy for them. His breaking stuff is too inconsistent and doesn’t provide an out pitch. He doesn’t throw the breaking stuff for strikes often enough, which means hitters can sit on his fastball in the zone, making him easier to hit. The velocity makes him interesting, but until he can fool people with his breaking stuff more often, he’s not going to be a good option.

I think the best option is going to be Edgar Santana. He’s showing some promise early in the season, albeit with a few bumps along the road. That’s to be expected. The problem is that it would take a lot for the Pirates to move him past Feliz and Kontos, with Santana needing to show results to get there.

There are other options, like Tyler Glasnow or Joe Musgrove becoming power relievers. But the team seems hesitant to give Glasnow any type of increased role right away, as Matt Gajtka wrote yesterday, and they prefer Musgrove as a starter. So don’t count on either thing happening.

Maybe the best internal approach is hoping that Santana or Glasnow emerges as a quality 6th/7th inning guy this year at the least, and that Feliz emerges as the shutdown complement to Rivero, which is something I could see from him. That would essentially achieve the same result, avoiding situations where guys like Neverauskas or Josh Smoker are pitching important innings.

There is some help in the system to fix the bullpen issue, with the two biggest candidates being on the active roster. The problem is that it might take some time for Santana or Glasnow to gain the trust needed to be constantly placed in those roles, and that could mean a lot of trial-by-fire for some of the other relievers who I don’t project to be as effective.

TODAY’S SCHEDULE

Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pittsburgh Pirates lost 7-4 to the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday. Jameson Taillon will make his second start today. He struck out nine, and allowed two runs on four hits and no walks in 5.1 innings during his season debut. The Reds will counter with 23-year-old right-hander Tyler Mahle, who allowed one hit over six shutout innings in his season debut.

The minor league schedule includes the season debut of Mitch Keller, who is the top prospect in the system. West Virginia had their game snowed out on Saturday. They will play a doubleheader today with Gavin Wallace on the mound for one game and either Braeden Ogle or Evan Piechota starting the second contest. Ogle was supposed to start on Sunday, but the Pirates usually don’t like to use two regular starters on the same day unless a day off keeps their spots from coming up again on short rest. Luis Escobar also makes his first start of the season as he moves up to Bradenton this season.

MLB: Pittsburgh (6-2) vs Reds (2-5) 1:35 PM
Probable starter: Jameson Taillon (3.38 ERA, 9:0 SO/BB,  5.1 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (1-1) vs Columbus (1-1) 1:35 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Alex McRae (NR)

AA: Altoona (2-1) vs Akron (1-2) 2:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Mitch Keller (NR)

High-A: Bradenton (2-1) vs St Lucie (1-2) 1:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Luis Escobar (NR)

Low-A: West Virginia (0-2) vs Greenville (2-0) 12:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Gavin Wallace (NR) and Braeden Ogle/Evan Piechota (NR)

HIGHLIGHTS

From Indianapolis on Friday night, Austin Meadows makes a nifty catch in the snow

RECENT TRANSACTIONS

4/5: Pirates claim Jesus Liranzo from Los Angeles Dodgers.

4/2: Kevin Siegrist placed on suspended list for Indianapolis.

4/2: Pirates place Joe Musgrove on DL; Recall Clay Holmes

3/31: Pirates release Clark Eagan

3/29: Pirates placed AJ Schugel on disabled list.

3/28: Pirates release seven minor league players, including Barrett Barnes and Cody Dickson

THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY

The list of former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date includes shortstop John Peters, who played in the first game in franchise history back on May 2, 1882. He played 77 of the team’s 79 games at shortstop that season and finished seventh in the American Association in batting average.

Also born on this date, pitcher Tom Butters, who had a promising career derailed by a back injury. He pitched for the Pirates from 1962 until 1965.

Reddy Gray, left fielder for the Pirates on May 28, 1903, which ended up being the only game of his big league career. He had a single, walk, RBI and run scored in that game.

Pete Daniels, pitcher during the 1890 season, who won the season opener for a team that ended up going 23-113 that year.

Kirby Higbe, 1947-49 pitcher who won 22 games for the Dodgers in 1941 and made the All-Star game in 1946. Went 19-26 in 39 starts and 70 relief appearances for Pirates.

Brian Burres, 2010-11 pitcher. He had a 4.82 ERA in 93.1 innings with the Pirates. Burres played six seasons in the majors.

  • It is my opinion that both Brault and Glasnow were stretched out to be the first choice from the bullpen when the starter fails to go beyond 5 innings pitched. Now I understand for the time being Brault is a SP but the use of Glasnow completely puzzles me as he would be someone who could come in and pitch more than 1 inning and yet he has not been the first choice.

  • Starters are really stressing the bullpen. NH knew we needed 13 pitchers because our starters aren’t too reliable for long innings.
    Kind of like improving your defense by drafting offensive lineman, we need more from our starters or possibly Glasgow can slide into the rotation.
    I think Mitch Keller could be an excellent 7 th inning guy now. What’s wrong with developing a minor leaguer in the majors as a Bp guy? The Cardinals have had success with this, Carlos Martinez.

  • Maybe Miami is feeling generous and would trade Barraclough or Steckenrider…

  • The best solution for the 6th inning is having the starters get through 6.

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