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After Quick Turnaround, Justin Bruihl Looking for Stability With Pirates

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Justin Bruihl, Pittsburgh Pirates

PITTSBURGH —  Within a few hours after opting out of his deal with the Cincinnati Reds, Justin Bruihl already had an offer in hand from the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Bruihl had spent the 2024 season with the Reds’ Triple-A affiliate before deciding to seek a new opportunity. It didn’t take long for him to find one.

The Pirates signed Bruihl to a major-league deal on Thursday prior to their series finale against the Los Angeles Dodgers. He was granted his release by the Reds on Monday, three days prior to putting pen to paper in Pittsburgh. 

“I think that night, maybe the next morning, the Pirates had an offer in so it was pretty fast,” Bruihl said while in front of his locker at PNC Park. 

Bruihl had signed with Cincinnati as a minor-league free agent and pitched well with Louisville, the Reds’ top minor-league affiliate. 

Through 19 appearances on the season, he went 4-0 with a healthy 2.31 ERA and struck out 24 batters in 23.1 innings pitched.

Despite the strong performance, Bruihl realized his path to returning to the big leagues with the Reds was an unlikely one. Once Cincinnati optioned fellow left-hander Alex Young to Triple-A and didn’t call Bruihl’s number, he knew it was time.

“With the Reds there really just wasn’t any opportunity,” he explained. “They optioned one of their best lefties two or three days ago so I kinda saw that in the writing.”

Bruihl returns to the big leagues in Pittsburgh after spending parts of the last three seasons with the Dodgers and Colorado Rockies.

With the Dodgers, the soon-to-be 27-year-old pitched well. Across 65 appearances, the left-hander went 2-2 with a 3.65 ERA. Despite the solid showing, he was designated for assignment by the Dodgers last July. After spending a few days in DFA limbo, Bruihl was traded to the Rockies.

He made seven appearances with Colorado and never found his footing, allowing seven runs (six earned) in 3.2 innings pitched.

After searching for answers last season, Bruihl feels like he’s in a better spot.

“I was changing stuff every week just to see if something would click,” he explained. “This year, it’s kinda been the same for the most part all year. Might be a little different than last year but I’ve tried to keep it as similar as I could.”

The newest Pirate says his biggest strength is getting left-handed batters out and his career splits back that up. Bruihl has held lefties to a .190/.240/.240 slash but righties have hit .296/.391/.504 against him. 

The Pirates have had success with soft-tossing left-handers in recent years and Bruihl fits that criteria. If he can continue to suppress lefties and can be more effective against righties, maybe he’ll be able to carve out a regular role out of the bullpen.

That’s what he’s hoping to get out of his decision to join the Pirates.

“Just hopefully somewhere I can stick, some stability which would be nice,” he said. “I haven’t really had a lot of that the last few years but just trying to find some stability would be great.”

Bruihl made his team debut in Thursday’s loss to the Dodgers and retired both batters he faced in the eighth inning. He’s one of two left-handers currently in the Pirates’ bullpen alongside flamethrower Aroldis Chapman. 

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