With Charlie Morton starting the 2012 season on the disabled list, the Pittsburgh Pirates have an extra roster spot available. They don’t have a need for a fifth starter until April 15th. By that point, Morton could be ready to return.
In the mean time, the debate revolves around how to use that final roster spot. Do the Pirates carry an extra bench player, or do they carry an extra bullpen arm.
If the Pirates kept an extra bench player, they wouldn’t have to worry about making a decision between Josh Harrison, Yamaico Navarro, and Matt Hague. Instead, they could keep all three.
If they kept an extra bullpen spot, it would make the decision process much easier. Currently there are three spots open in the seven man bullpen, with Jared Hughes, Chris Leroux, Brad Lincoln, Daniel McCutchen, Evan Meek, Daniel Moskos, and Tony Watson fighting for a spot.
Watson is a strong bet to make the pen as the main left-hander, leaving two spots for the other six relievers. If the Pirates didn’t keep Chris Leroux, they would have to designate him for assignment. But that doesn’t necessarily make him a lock. The other five relievers have options.
The appeal for the extra bench spot seems to revolve around making it easier to keep Matt Hague in the majors. But the Pirates would be better served with an extra bullpen arm. At the start of the season you’re not going to get a lot of long outings from your rotation. Having an extra reliever can be valuable to remove the pressure on the other six middle or late inning relievers. Not every starter will go six innings, and all you need is one bad start to really tax your bullpen.
The extra roster spot will really be around for just two weeks. Eventually you’re going to have to send the extra player down when Morton or another starter is ready to go. If the motivation is keeping all three hitters on the roster, all you’re doing is delaying the inevitable. The Pirates will have to send one of Hague, Navarro, or Harrison down to Triple-A eventually. The same is true for the extra bullpen arm. But the extra arm can provide much more value this early in the season.
Links and Notes
**The Pirates played a split-squad game today. They tied one and lost one. Game recaps here.
**The Pirates acquired Robby Rowland from the Arizona Diamondbacks. Here are two articles on Rowland: Fresh Start for Rowland, Story and Interview.
**Prospect Notebook: Starters Getting Ready for the Season
**Pirates Notebook: Leroux Loses the Change-up