At the start of the year, Kevin Correia was a great pitcher for the Pirates to have. He could start in the event of an injury to the rotation. He could pitch out of the bullpen as a long reliever, or in shorter roles. And he’s had the tendency to put together a few great starts at times, which means that if the Pirates did have to call on him, there’s a chance they could get the version that appeared most frequently in the first half of the 2011 season.
That’s exactly what happened. The Pirates lost A.J. Burnett to an injury, and Charlie Morton started the year on the disabled list. That moved Correia to the rotation. An injury to Jeff Karstens has kept Correia in the rotation. Of course, his performance hasn’t done much to give him the boot, at least not until tonight. In his first four starts of the season, Correia combined for a 2.42 ERA in 22.1 innings, going six innings in his first three starts. Tonight wasn’t as good, allowing five runs on nine hits in seven innings, with two homers.
You don’t want to pull a guy after just one bad start, but in Correia’s case, how long do you give him? He doesn’t have a long term future with the Pirates. He’s a free agent after the season. He wouldn’t have much trade value, as he’s a fourth or fifth starter at best, and likely seen as a sixth starter/bullpen option for most teams. So there’s no long term benefit to starting him, and there’s no trade value to kill.
At the beginning of the year, I thought the Pirates had pretty good depth out of Indianapolis, with Brad Lincoln, Rudy Owens, and Jeff Locke all looking good in Spring Training. But you don’t want to call on those guys out of camp, especially not Owens and Locke, who could have benefitted from some time in Triple-A to show their stuff was legit.
Lincoln is already up in the majors. He made two starts in Indianapolis, with a 2.25 ERA in 12 innings, along with a 9:0 K/BB ratio. So far in the majors he has a 0.87 ERA in 10.1 innings, along with a 11:5 K/BB ratio. His pitches have looked sharp, and he’s been working more in the mid-90s.
I talked about Owens two days ago. In five starts this year he has a 2.12 ERA in 34 innings, with a 6.9 K/9 and a 0.5 BB/9 ratio. He looks more like the pitcher we saw in 2009 and 2010, and less like the 2011 version. Jeff Locke is also having a good year, with a 2.89 ERA in 28 innings, along with a 7.4 K/9 and a 2.2 BB/9 ratio.
The Pirates have three young starters who look ready for the majors. Brad Lincoln will have five years of control remaining after this season. Rudy Owens doesn’t have any service time, and the season is to the point where the Pirates will have him under control for six years beyond the 2012 season. Jeff Locke needs to be down for five more days before the Pirates get an extra year of control, retaining his rights through the 2018 season.
Meanwhile, Correia is only under control through the 2012 season. So how short is the leash? At what point do the Pirates turn to one of the guys who could be here for the long haul if they put up strong major league numbers? The Pirates should take the first excuse available to swap out a guy who has no future with the team, and replace him with one of the three guys who do have a future. I don’t think you can do that after one start, but if Correia follows this up with another bad start, I think you have to consider making the call.
Links and Notes
**The Pirates lost to the Reds 6-1. Game story here.
**Prospect Watch: Jameson Taillon goes six innings again, and Willy Garcia homers for the third time in four games.
**Last night I talked about how Justin Wilson’s control holds him back. Tonight he struggled with 95 pitches through four innings, with five runs on six hits. Wilson walked three and struck out three.
**A live report of Jameson Taillon’s start, by Terry Mathews.
**Kevin Creagh takes a look at the viability of an International Draft.
**Baseball America had Alen Hanson on their latest hot sheet. Plus, comments on Jameson Taillon and Gerrit Cole.