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Perrotto: Examining Pirates’ Lefty Relief Options With Jarlin Garcia Injured (+)



Pittsburgh Pirates-Angel Perdomo

Spring training has been about good vibes and the promise of better days ahead for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

However, the feel-good spring in Bradenton, Fla., was interrupted Wednesday. Pirates director of sports medicine Todd Tomczyk said left-handed reliever Jarlin Garcia will be out multiple weeks because of left arm tightness.

Thus, Garcia will be on the injured list when the Pirates open the season on March 30 against the Reds in Cincinnati.

The signing of Garcia in the offseason was overshadowed by the Pirates adding higher-profile veterans. However, Garcia figured to be a key part of the bullpen after agreeing to a one-year, $2.5-million contract with a club option for 2024.

Garcia is just one of two lefty relievers on the 40-man roster with Jose Hernandez, a Rule 5 Draft pick from the Los Angeles Dodgers. While the Pirates are likely to keep Hernandez, the 25-year-old is unlikely to be used in high-leverage situations since he has yet to pitch above the Double-A level.

Thus, the door could open to one of four lefties in camp on a non-roster basis to make the club – Angel Perdomo, Caleb Smith, Daniel Zamora and Rob Zastryzny.

Perdomo is intriguing because he is the only player in camp who is taller than Oneil Cruz as he stands 6-foot-8 and weighs 265 pounds.

The 28-year-old’s major-league experience consists of 22 relief appearances with the Milwaukee Brewers from 2020-21. He compiled an 8.24 ERA and walked 23 batters in 19.2 innings, though he did have 33 strikeouts.

Perdomo spent all last season in Triple-A, splitting time between the Brewers and Tampa Bay Rays organizations. He had a sparkling 1.85 ERA in 26 games with 56 strikeouts and 18 walks in 34 innings.

Smith, 31, has spent all or parts of six seasons in the major leagues, making 64 starts and 83 relief appearances. He became a full-time reliever last year with the Arizona Diamondbacks and had a 4.11 ERA before sustaining a partial tear of an elbow ligament.

Smith eschewed surgery, opting for rest and rehabilitation. He says his elbow feels fine this spring.

Zamora was the Pirates’ 40th-round draft pick in 2015 then traded three years later to the New York Mets for reliever Josh Smoker. Zamora has pitched in 37 big-league games and compiled a 4.50 ERA over parts of three seasons with the Mets and Seattle Mariners.

The 29-year-old had a 3.86 ERA in 51 games last season at Triple-A for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Zastryzny, 30, will play for Canada in the WBC, though the Pirates say being away from camp will not affect his chances of making the team.

Last season, Zastryzny had cameos with the Mets and Los Angeles Angels, his first time in the major leagues since pitching for the Chicago Cubs from 2016-18. He has a 4.66 ERA in 24 career games.

In 34 games at Triple-A in 2022, Zastryzny notched a 3.42 ERA.

Of the four lefties, Zastryzny has arguably been the best statistically so far with a 0.00 ERA – though he has given up two unearned runs – and five strikeouts in 4.1 innings.

The role of lefty relievers has diminished somewhat since Major League Baseball instituted the three-batter minimum rule in 2020. Yet it is hard to imagine the Pirates going into the season without at least one left-hander with major-league experience in their bullpen.

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