First Pitch: A Ten Day Decision

The Pirates optioned Daniel Moskos down to Triple-A, which puts the team one cut away from their final roster.

Yamaico Navarro, Josh Harrison, and Matt Hague will battle for the two bench spots remaining.

Jared Hughes and Chris Leroux will battle for the final bullpen spot.

The Pirates will then have to decide whether to keep an extra bench player or an extra bullpen spot.

I mentioned last week that my preference would be an extra bullpen spot. Early in the season you’re not going to get a lot of pitchers going deep in to their outings. It would be more beneficial for the team to carry that extra pitcher, as opposed to a sixth bat off the bench. The entire reasoning behind the extra bench bat seems to be centered around avoiding a tough decision between Hague, Harrison, and Navarro.

The thing about this decision is that it’s a short-term decision. Whether the Pirates keep an extra bullpen spot or an extra bench spot, that player will only be in the majors for ten days. The Pirates will need to bring up a starter on April 15th, which will likely be the return date for Charlie Morton to the rotation. At that point the extra bullpen/bench player will be sent down to Triple-A.

This isn’t a long-term decision, so the focus should be on the team’s needs during the short-term. The Pirates will play eight games in the ten day period before they need a fifth starter. Here are some figures from the first eight games of the 2011 season:

**The bullpen pitched 30.1 innings. Just under 4 per game.

**11 position players made starts. The players who weren’t in the opening day lineup but made starts were Matt Diaz (platoon role), Jason Jaramillo (backup catcher), and Josh Rodriguez.

**There were 20 pinch-hit or substitution plate appearances, or about two and a half per game.

Looking at those numbers, it’s clear that the need for early season relievers outweighs the need for an extra bench bat. Even if every starter goes six innings, the Pirates will need 24 innings in relief from their bullpen before Morton returns. At the same time, they will likely start the same players in the lineup for the first week and a half, and probably won’t need a pinch hitter as often as they’ll need bullpen innings.

There’s a desire to keep all of the bats in the majors, but that desire seems to be backed by a feeling that the Pirates will get to see something from all three players while they’re up. The fact is that the extra bench player probably won’t get a lot of playing time in the next ten days. A bullpen arm would be much more valuable in the short-term, and that’s where the focus should be when we consider that the extra player is likely to be sent back down ten days from now.

Links and Notes

**The Pirates lost to the Phillies 7-2. Game story here.

**The Pirates optioned Daniel Moskos to Triple-A.

**The season previews continued today with a look at the Pirates’ bullpen, and a look at the 2012 Altoona Curve.

**Pirates Notebook: Final Roster Moves Remain

**Baseball America released the top 20 prospects from the DSL and VSL last year. The Pirates had two players on the list with Dilson Herrera and Edwin Espinal making the cut. Both players were in Spring Training this year, and will make the jump to the GCL.

About Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He is a credentialed media member with every team in the Pirates’ system, including the Pirates themselves. He’s a regular guest on Extra Innings on 104.7, and makes regular appearances on ESPN 970, 93.7 The Fan, and TribLIVE Radio in Pittsburgh, as well as ESPN 1430 in Altoona and ESPN 1450 in State College.
  • Lee Young

    it’s funny how we get excited over that last man in the bullpen or on the bench each year.

  • john.alcorn

    Tim, isn’t it the 14th that they need a SP?  They play on the 10th-13th which will use all 4 guys. I keep seeing the 15th reported, but that’s wrong because the #4 SP isn’t going to start on short rest on the 14th.

    • Tim Williams

      That is correct, John.

  • Mike

    Hague deserves a spot on the team. Garrett Bum Jones has been an a/c creator in Bradenton most of the spring along with K’Dro Alvarez. Hughes has had the better spring then Chris 10 plus era Leroux but the Pirates will probably keep Leroux since i do believe he’s out of options.

    • cocktailsfor2

      I’ve mentioned this in a couple other places, but not here.

      It’s possible that Meek opens the season on the 15-day, as he’s not quite 100% (though he looked “good,” velocity-wise last night). That would enable the team to keep Leroux AND Hughes. For now.

  • burgh_fan

    I agree I think they should carry the extra arm but I don’t think we will see that. My choice would be to send Harrison down to AAA and keep Hague and Navarro on the bench. Reward Hague for his ST performance and with tough lefties like Lee, Hamels and Kershaw to begin the year he can help McGehee spell Jones and Alvarez at the corners. I know he isn’t the perfect platoon choice but he has to be a better match up against lefties than those two guys.

  • blackmax

    Since we have all heard that the players are real human beings and not strato-matic cards, we should keep in mind that it is important to reward those who work very hard and who achieve success in spiring training.  Giving Harrison or Hague a couple of weeks in the majors might inspire them to keep excelling even after they have been sent down.

  • sweetleb

    hey they have off days, so relievers can get rest. how about keep 14 bench players and have platoons at 1st and third, and  to be honest except for cutch do the pirates havs a 155 game position player on there roster?so lets say they try this, have 2 relievers on call in indy to shuttle back an forth, tired relievers with option get option to indy , relievers with out option if they get gased go on the dl. except for hanrahan. In other words use all your players in the best situations ,because the other way has failed for 19 yrs.

  • Tim Williams

    On the 155 game position player comment, you just mentioned they have off-days. So it’s not like the position players are playing 8 days in a row.

    What are they going to do with the platoon after the first week and a half of the season?

    Also, the reliever option wouldn’t work. If you option a guy, you can’t call him back up for 10 days. You’re going to run out of relievers in a hurry going that route. And you can’t just place a guy on the DL because he’s tired. You have to have a reason.