It was known that Vince Velasquez was going to make his return to the rotation this weekend against the Seattle Mariners. The surprising part of it all was the corresponding move to make space for him: the Pirates designated Duane Underwood Jr. for assignment.
Luis Ortiz seemed like an obvious choice to be sent down, despite his stellar outing against the Texas Rangers, but the Pirates instead opted to further shorten their bullpen by getting rid of Underwood.
This could provide an opportunity to shift Roansy Contreras to a bullpen role.
After being acquired by the Pirates in the Jameson Taillon trade, Contreras tore through the minors in 2021, making his major league debut at the end of the season. He bounced up and down a bit in 2022, before settling in the rotation by the end of things.
Contreras has really had to rely on the slider this year, having one of the highest usage among starters. He’s been essentially limited to just two-pitches — the fastball and slider — although the former has been hit incredibly hard.
The only issue with using only two pitches is that only one of them is having success at the moment. It’s hard enough to make it as a starter with two-pitches, but if only one is effective, then it’s easy to see why Contreras is struggling right now.
They are actually polar opposites of each other, at least when it comes to Run Value on Baseball Savant. The slider is one of the best pitches in the majors right now, with the fastball one of the worst.
Roansy Contreras, Nasty 81mph Slider. 😨 pic.twitter.com/CirY8wzAWp
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) September 26, 2022
Hitters have nearly a .400 batting average against his fastball this year, and rarely misses bats with it (7.4 Whiff%, second worst to Shane Bieber).
While it would be too early to give up on Contreras as a starter, getting a reset to be able to focus on re-establishing the fastball in shorter stints may have been the best course to get him back on track.
Mitch Keller was sent to the bullpen last year, and we have seen how things have gone since then.
Unfortunately, Velasquez was lifted from his start on Saturday with elbow discomfort. Not a great sign in his first start immediately after returning from the injured list.
Contreras has the stuff, and still just 23-years-old. We saw it took Keller a few years to figure things out, but Contreras may have an advantage, as there is now a roadmap to follow.
Daily Video Rundown
— Anthony Murphy (@__Murphy88) May 27, 2023
It does feel like there are times that Shalin Polanco is still a tad overmatched at Single-A, which at 19-years-old there isn’t anything wrong with that. He’s shown some impressive power and ability to barrel the ball, this one he got just enough of to drive in a pair.
— Altoona Curve (@AltoonaCurve) May 27, 2023
It was the most wild we’ve seen Jared Jones lately, but even through that, he was impressive. He struck out five batters in 4.1 innings, hitting 98 mph on the radar gun.
I did a breakdown of Anthony Solometo facing Top 100 prospects Carson Williams and Junior Caminero. This is the video of his entire start.
PIRATES PROSPECTS DAILY
By Tim Williams
Regular site articles resume on Monday. My column today looks at the start of the season for the Pirates.
Links from this week’s limited production schedule:
SONG OF THE DAY
I love this massive version of this song. 070 Shake is a sleeper artist to follow.