Morning Report: A Make or Break Situation For the Pirates’ Bullpen

The area where the Pirates have the weakest depth might be the bullpen. And that depth could get a major test if things don’t go well with Felipe Vazquez.

Vazquez has struggled in the last week, and now has forearm discomfort. There should be an update on his condition today, but we don’t need an update to realize how important Vazquez is to the bullpen.

Without Vazquez, Michael Feliz probably steps up as the closer. Feliz has looked good this year, although he has struggled in his last few outings. I think he could be as good as Vazquez eventually, but I don’t think he’s reached that consistency level yet.

The Pirates have guys like Kyle Crick, Richard Rodriguez, Edgar Santana, and Tyler Glasnow pitching well in relief, but none of them have really been tested in the final innings of the game. Santana is the only one who has come in with higher leverage situations, while the other three have been in lower leverage roles.

I think the bullpen has potential. Those five pitchers are all hard throwers with a lot of strikeout potential. But they’re also very unproven. And while the Pirates have other interesting guys in Triple-A like Clay Holmes, Tyler Eppler, or relievers like Tanner Anderson, they don’t have that established reliever that really adds comfort.

Not that comfort is a necessary thing. There was a time when we weren’t comfortable with Vazquez, and that only came over time with more consistent performances. If Vazquez does miss time, then we’re going to get a good chance to see what the other relievers behind him can do, and hopefully, see if a few of them can bring the same comfort over time.

PLAYOFF PUSH

Bradenton is in third place in their division, four games behind the leader with 21 games remaining in the first half.

West Virginia is in fourth place in their division, five games behind the leader with 21 games remaining in the first half.

TODAY’S SCHEDULE

Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pittsburgh Pirates lost 6-4 to the St Louis Cardinals on Sunday. The Pirates now take on the Cubs at PNC Park. They will send Chad Kuhl to the mound for his 11th start today. He allowed one run on five hits and one walk in six innings against the Cincinnati Reds in his last start. The Cubs scheduled starter is TBD as of last night.

The minor league schedule includes the second start from Max Kranick, who threw five shutout innings in his debut with West Virginia last Monday. Due to rain over the weekend, he was pushed back two days to today. Altoona starter Austin Coley was demoted from Indianapolis last week and makes his first Double-A start since last year.  Indianapolis starter says TBD, but it should be Clay Holmes, so I put his name/stats down below. Bradenton has off today. All three games are early afternoon games today.

MLB: Pittsburgh (28-24) vs Cubs (26-22) 1:35 PM
Probable starter: Chad Kuhl (4.52 ERA, 53:19 SO/BB, 55.2 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (25-22) vs Charlotte (19-29) 2:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Clay Holmes (4.37 ERA, 40:23 SO/BB, 35.0 IP)

AA: Altoona (22-23) @ Harrisburg (23-24) 12:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Austin Coley (0.00 ERA, 0:0 SO/BB, 0.0 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (26-22) @ Daytona (27-20) 7:05 PM 5/29 (season preview)
Probable starter: TBD (0.00 ERA, 0:0 SO/BB, 0.0 IP)

Low-A: West Virginia (25-21) vs Kannapolis (31-17) 2:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Max Kranick (0.00 ERA, 1:1 SO/BB, 5.0 IP)

HIGHLIGHTS

From Altoona’s five home run night, all five home run swings in one GIF. In order, they are Christian Kelley, Ke’Bryan Hayes, Jordan George, Jason Martin and Bralin Jackson.

RECENT TRANSACTIONS

5/27: Raul Hernandez placed on disabled list. Yoel Gonzalez added to West Virginia roster.

5/26: Starling Marte activated from disabled list. Jose Osuna optioned to Indianapolis.

5/25: JT Brubaker assigned to Altoona. Austin Coley assigned to Altoona.

5/25: Jacob Taylor retired. Kevin Mahala was released (possibly retired).

5/24: Trae Arbet released. Jesse Medrano added to Bradenton roster.

5/23: JT Brubaker assigned to Altoona.

5/22: Jesus Liranzo promoted to Indianapolis.  Jackson Williams assigned to Morgantown.

5/22: Tyler Jones released.

5/21: David Lee retired.

5/21: JT Brubaker activated from Temporary Inactive List

5/21: Cody Bolton added to West Virginia roster. Dylan Busby placed on disabled list.

5/20: Pirates activate Josh Harrison from DL. Nick Kingham optioned to Indianapolis.

5/19: Pirates recall Nick Kingham. Max Moroff optioned to Indianapolis.

5/19: Sean Keselica added to Altoona roster.

5/19: Brett Pope added to West Virginia roster.

5/18: Travis MacGregor and Joel Cesar placed on disabled list. Max Kranick added to West Virginia roster.

5/18: Pirates recall Austin Meadows. Starling Marte placed on the disabled list.

THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY

Five former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus a trade of note, which is where we will start. On this date in 1960, the Pirates made a deal that would help them on their way to their third World Series title and first in 35 years. They dealt two minor league players to the St Louis Cardinals for veteran pitcher Wilmer “Vinegar Bend” Mizell and infielder Dick Gray. Mizell would win 13 games that year for the Pirates.

Former players born on this date include 2000-01 first baseman Alex Hernandez, 1992 outfielder Kirk Gibson and 1906-07 pitcher James “King” Brady.

The other two players born on this date are 1947 pitcher Steve Nagy and 1957 pitcher Bob Kuzava. Both players passed away within the last two years and at the time they were among the oldest living former Pirates. Nagy made his big league debut with the 1947 Pirates, pitching six times, five of those games as a reliever. He would later pitch for the 1950 Senators. Nagy was 97 when he passed July of 2016. The younger Kuzava made his debut a year before Nagy and ended up pitching ten years in the majors, playing for eight different teams. He passed away at 93 last May, just two weeks shy of his birthday.

  • Very interested to see Burdi in September.

  • Hurdle must have been frantic yesterday having to use more than 3 guys out of the bullpen. Trouble is that when you are trying to win games you should use as many as you got!

  • Change the name back……….Rivero > Vasquez.

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