Morning Report: The Pirates Boosted the Bullpen, But Haven’t Found What They Needed Yet

The Pirates made a few moves involving their bullpen this weekend. They started off by calling up Kyle Crick and Richard Rodriguez, sending down Josh Smoker and Clay Holmes. That was followed up yesterday with the waiver claim of left-handed reliever Enny Romero from the Washington Nationals.

The first set of moves weren’t a big surprise. I didn’t expect Holmes to be used for the long-term in such an unimportant role. The Pirates see him as a starter, and even if they did want to transition him in as a reliever, they would do so in a role where he’s actually pitching, rather than being on the team for two weeks and making one appearance. He should go back to Indianapolis and resume his starting duties.

As for Smoker, he showed some promise with his strikeout numbers, and the hope that he could fix the walks. He ended up having no strikeouts, still had walk issues, and was hit really hard. I felt during Spring Training that he would be an interesting guy to send to Triple-A, with the hope that he could work on some things and have a better shot at sticking when he arrives in the majors. The Pirates didn’t have a lot of guys stepping up for the bullpen, and went with him from the start. The hope is that he can get things figured out by the time he’s needed again.

Rodriguez looked interesting during Spring Training, and then again in his brief time in Indianapolis. However, I feel he’s taking over the Clay Holmes role of not pitching unless the game is really out of hand, and he seems like the choice to go down when Romero arrives.

Crick didn’t have the best Spring Training, and had some stuff to work on. He had some good numbers in his brief time in Indianapolis, and I don’t know if he’s figured it all out yet. However, it doesn’t make sense for him to be working on things in Triple-A while Smoker is working on things in the majors and struggling. We’ll see if he can have better results.

Then there’s Romero, who looks to be in a similar situation to Smoker. He’s a left-handed reliever who throws with a lot of velocity and gets a lot of strikeouts, but has been limited by control problems and hasn’t posted good results in the majors yet. He’ll get his shot to see if he can work out, or at the least, do better than Smoker did.

In all of these cases, the Pirates are getting something they already have. They’re getting interesting arms that show some promise, with the hope that they can be more than middle relief arms eventually.

What the Pirates need is a strong eighth inning guy to pair with Rivero. I like George Kontos, and I think Michael Feliz shows promise. But currently I’d like them a lot better in the 6th/7th inning roles, with a stronger 8th inning guy anchoring the later innings. That would allow for the interesting arms like Santana, Crick, and Romero to pitch only in lower-leverage situations, rarely being needed for the bigger innings.

It’s possible the Pirates could get this help internally. Feliz is the best candidate to me to step up and become the second best guy out of the bullpen. He had a rough Opening Day, but hasn’t allowed a run since, and has only allowed two hits and three walks in six innings. I’m not going to say that he’s ready for that bigger role based on six innings, but he shows promise.

If Feliz can step up, then the Pirates would need one of the other guys to step up into his role, emerging from the pack to give a solid 6th/7th inning guy. I think Edgar Santana is the best candidate for that, once he gets adjusted and starts learning how to effectively use his fastball and nasty slider combo. Crick could also be a good candidate for this role.

But if this doesn’t happen in either front, and the Pirates find themselves still contending with a poor bullpen in July, then it’s obvious that their big trade at the deadline needs to be for relief pitching help. And they shouldn’t stop adding waiver claim guys like Romero, or giving shots to guys in Indianapolis along the way.


Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pittsburgh Pirates won 1-0 over the Miami Marlins on Saturday night. The Pirates will now send Ivan Nova to the mound for the series finale. He allowed three runs over seven innings against the Chicago Cubs in his last start. Nova gave up five runs over 5.1 innings in his prior start at home against the Minnesota Twins. The Marlins will counter with 26-year-old right-handed pitcher Jose Urena, who has a 5.06 ERA through three starts. In 16 innings, he has 13 strikeouts and a 1.31 WHIP.

The minor league schedule includes the second start from Mitch Keller, who threw six shutout innings in his debut. Braeden Ogle also gets his second start. He had some control issues in his first outing, which got pushed back twice due to rain. He allowed three runs and four walks over four innings in that debut.  Ogle was originally listed for yesterday, but Ike Schlabach made a spot start. Austin Coley will try to bounce back from allowing six runs in the first inning during his season debut. Indianapolis had their game rained out yesterday, so they will play a doubleheader today.

MLB: Pittsburgh (10-4) @ Marlins (4-10) 1:10 PM
Probable starter: Ivan Nova (5.19 ERA, 13:4 SO/BB,  17.1 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (4-4) @ Buffalo (3-2) 12:05 PM DH (season preview)
Probable starter: Austin Coley (81.00 IP, 0:0 SO/BB, 0.2 IP) and TBD

AA: Altoona (6-2) @ Erie (3-6) 1:35 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Mitch Keller (0.00 ERA, 8:2 SO/BB, 6.0 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (8-2) @ Clearwater (1-9) 1:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Mike Wallace (1.50 ERA, 3:1 SO/BB, 6.0 IP)

Low-A: West Virginia (5-5) @ Hickory (1-8) 3:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Braeden Ogle (9.00 ERA, 4:4 SO/BB, 3.0 IP)


From Friday night, Elvis Escobar clears the bases with a triple


4/14: Pirates claim Enny Romero off of waivers.

4/13: Kyle Crick and Richard Rodriguez recalled. Clay Holmes and Josh Smoker sent to Indianapolis.

4/12: AJ Schugel assigned to Bradenton on rehab

4/11: Pirates sign Denny Roman and Cristian Charle

4/10: Bryan Reynolds placed on Altoona disabled list. Jason Martin activated from DL.

4/5: Pirates claim Jesus Liranzo from Los Angeles Dodgers. Placed on Altoona disabled list.

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



There have been five former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date and one small trade of note. Among the players born on this date, Ed Abbaticchio, infielder for the 1907-10 Pirates. He was a favorite of Pirates’ owner Barney Dreyfuss while with the Boston Doves (Braves) and Dreyfuss was willing to pay a large price to acquire him. The Pirates gave up center fielder Ginger Beaumont and second baseman Claude Ritchey, stars from the 1901-03 teams that won three straight NL pennants. They also included pitcher Patsy Flaherty in the December, 1906 trade.

Abbaticchio didn’t put up great stats for the Pirates and he was a seldom-used bench player for the 1909 World Series champs, but he is well-known for one reason. He was the first Italian star in baseball, and possibly the first Italian player in the league, making his debut 26 years after the first MLB game. We say possibly, because there is one player from the 1880’s named Lewis “Buttercup” Dickerson, who has very questionable Italian heritage, though he is in the Italian-American Sports Hall of Fame.

In four years with the Pirates, Abbaticchio hit .253/.348/.318 and spent most of his time at second base, losing the job in 1909 to rookie Dots Miller.

Other players born on this date include Jeromy Burnitz, Mike Diaz, Bill Pierro and King Cole. Pierro is an interesting player to read about because he was a strong minor league pitcher, who had his career cut short by a near-tragedy. He had just one year in the majors and was on his way to make the 1951 Pirates when a mystery illness shut him down. It turned out to be brain inflammation and he never played again. Pierro lived until 2006, so he had a long life, but the illness ended his baseball career at age 24.

On this date in 2009, the Pirates traded two minor league pitchers, Eric Krebs and Harvey Garcia, to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Delwyn Young.

  • scrappy2499
    May 30, 2018 11:09 am

    Schugel have a chance to get back in the mix or have they moved on from him? See other names being tossed around but he was pretty good if I remember right.