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‘Big Bank’ Has Been Big Reason for Pirates’ Bullpen Turnaround



Dauri Moreta, Pittsburgh Pirates

PITTSBURGH — Entering the 2023 season, expectations for the Pittsburgh Pirates’ bullpen weren’t necessarily all too high.

Last year, the Pirates’ bullpen posted a 4.72 ERA which was second-worst in all of baseball. Only the Colorado Rockies (4.85) had a worse mark.

Outside of last year’s All-Star David Bednar, the bullpen to start this season was largely full of questions marks — either inexperienced or unproven arms.

To make matters worse, the lone veteran bullpen addition from the offseason, Jarlín García, began the year on the injured list and still has yet to pitch.

And yet, the Pirates’ bullpen currently ranks eighth in the entire league and second in the Senior Circuit in ERA with a mark of 3.63.

Several players have stepped up. Bednar has been lights out. Players like Colin Holderman, Yohan Ramirez and Jose Hernandez have all been extremely effective.

Perhaps among all others, Dauri Moreta’s success may be the biggest surprise, and the biggest boost to the pen.

The Pirates acquired Moreta from the Cincinnati Reds in the offseason for Kevin Newman.

At the time, the return of the then-26-year-old right-hander didn’t seem to be a major asset coming the Pirates’ way. In 39 appearances with the Reds from 2021-22, Moreta owned a 5.14 ERA.

Fast forward about six months, and the return of Moreta has been a key reason as to why the Pirates sit insecond place in the National League Central with a record of 29-27.

With the Pirates this year, Moreta is 2-1 with a sparkling 1.80 ERA and a save in his 23 appearances to begin the season.

As the season has gone on, manager Derek Shelton’s trust in Moreta has grown. The Pirates’ right-hander often finds himself entering a game with traffic on the bases — and he’s excelled in those situations. Of the 18 inherited runners he’s seen this season, only one has scored.

When I got a man at second or in scoring position (who isn’t) my runner, I try and use more effort, more than I can, to get people out. I know how other pitchers feel when they leave runners in position. That’s what I try and (so far) it’s happened.” Moreta said.

For the most part this season, Moreta has been a consistent and reliable arm to be called upon from the pen.

In the first part of the season, Moreta was able to post solid results, but he also had a hiccup in issuing free passes. Through his first 13.2 innings pitched this season, the righty walked 12 batters. In his last 11.2 innings? Only one walk.

That in itself has been a major reason as to why Moreta has been able to take a step even further this year.

I was working with my pitching coach in the bullpen and tried to work on my delivery. Try to (get batters) to put the ball in play and that’s what I’ve been doing,” he said. 

Moreta has always been a confident pitcher. His nickname is “Big Bank.” His entrance song is “Here Comes the Money” by Shane McMahon. He’s even flashed the occasional dollar sign as he’s walked off the mound from time to time.

His confidence has only grown since joining the Pirates.

It’s not only me, the team (gives) me the confidence. That makes me feel really good and makes me feel confident. So far it’s been good,” he said.

In a reliever group containing several impressive arms, Moreta’s emergence this season has been instrumental in the Pirates’ revamped bullpen and the team’s success at the one-third mark of the season.

Who knows? Maybe this Pirates’ team can go as far as the bullpen can take them. If that’s the case, they certainly can go pretty far with what Moreta and the others have shown this year.

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