Through the first few months of the season, the Pittsburgh Pirates were contending because of their pitching. The offense was horrible the first two months of the year, but the pitching kept the team close to contending. The offense went to one of the best in the league over the next two months, which combined with the pitching propelled the Pirates to one of the best records in the league.
Lately the pitching has started to struggle. Between the rotation and the bullpen, the Pirates aren’t seeing what they saw from their staff in the first few months of the year. Bullpen guys like Tony Watson and Juan Cruz have struggled lately. Outside of A.J. Burnett, no one in the rotation has been consistently reliable. James McDonald looks like he needs some time off, Wandy Rodriguez has been struggling since before the trade that brought him to the Pirates, and Kevin Correia probably isn’t the best option to go with as a sixth starter. Erik Bedard and Jeff Karstens have been good in the second half, with a few rough starts.
The Pirates might need a starter, and could need some bullpen help from Triple-A. They’ve got Jeff Locke as a starting option already in the majors. They’ll be able to expand the roster in September. But we’re getting to the point of the year where guys who are struggling need a short leash. The Pirates are in a tight race, with not a lot of games remaining, which gives them less flexibility to stick with a struggling reliever or a starter who doesn’t have his stuff. If they wanted to make some immediate changes, here are three guys in Triple-A who are major league ready, and who could step up to the majors right now, before the September callups come around.
Justin Wilson - With Tony Watson struggling, Justin Wilson could become an option as a left-handed reliever. Wilson is best long term as a starter, but in relief he’s got the stuff to be a late inning option. So far this year he has a 3.88 ERA in 125.1 innings, with a 126:64 K/BB ratio.
Bryan Morris - He’s got the upside to be a closer in the majors, and he should be in the majors by now. He’ll definitely be up in September. So far this season, Morris has a 2.67 ERA in 70.2 innings, with a 66:16 K/BB ratio. He could be a replacement for Juan Cruz if the Pirates can’t wait until September.
Chris Leroux - He joins Wilson and Jeff Locke as starting options. All three could be better options than Kevin Correia. Leroux was great in relief last year, and has been just as good in the rotation this year for Indianapolis. He has a 1.93 ERA in 46.2 innings in Triple-A as a starter and reliever.
Links and Notes
**The Pirates lost to the Dodgers 5-4.
**Pirates Notebook: Karstens Tinkering with Curve; McDonald Gets Bumped in Rotation.
**Prospect Watch: Von Rosenberg Has Another Bad Start.