Connect with us


Perrotto: Pirates’ Biggest Strength Becomes a Big Question



David Bednar, Pittsburgh Pirates

Terry Francona had a line he used continually during a managing career that will likely earn him a spot in the Hall of Fame.

“When you think you have enough pitching, go get more,” he always said.

That saying certainly applies to the Pirates’ bullpen as Pittsburgh opens the season Thursday against the Marlins in Miami.

The bullpen was unequivocally the Pirates’ strength when spring training began in mid-February. However, with opening day just two days away, there are plenty of questions about the relief corps.

Closer David Bednar’s spring training was truncated because of right lat tightness. He did not make his Grapefruit League debut until last Thursday and pitched twice before the Pirates wrapped spring training on Monday.

The Pirates believe Bednar is completely recovered and say they are not unconcerned about Bednar’s lack of spring training innings. They need him to stay healthy after being selected to the last two All-Star Games and tying for the National League lead with 39 saves last season.

However, the Pirates do have a solid closer alternative if needed. Left-hander Aroldis Chapman, signed as a free agent in the offseason, has 321 career saves.

Chapman is one of the few Pirates relievers who made it through spring training unscathed.

Dauri Moreta tore an elbow ligament, underwent Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery, and will miss the season.

Joining Moreta on the injured list are right-handers Colin Holderman and Carmen Mlodzinski. Both pitchers were expected to join Chapman and lefty Ryan Borucki as the Pirates’ primary set-up man.

Holderman was felled by a virus so severe that it caused him to be hospitalized. Holderman lost 15 pounds and made what turned out to be his last game appearance of the spring on March 12.

Though recovered from his illness, Holderman will begin the season on a rehab assignment at Triple-A Indianapolis while building up arm strength.

Mlodzinski has forearm inflammation and has not pitched since March 13. However, his IL stint could be short as he is already throwing again. He’ll almost certainly need a few outings with Indianapolis before being able to join the Pirates, though.

Borucki is the only other set-up man who got through spring training without being injured. He becomes even more important to the bullpen and the Pirates will need Borucki to pitch as well as last season when he had a 2.45 ERA in 38 games after being signed as a minor-league free agent.

The rest of the season-opening bullpen is an interesting cast.

Left-hander Josh Fleming and right-handers Roansy Contreras and Luis Ortiz did not win either of the two spots open in the starting rotation. They’ll need to make a quick transition to relieving.

Ryan and Stratton are short on major-league experience, but both are studies in perseverance.

Ryan was Cleveland’s 30th-round draft pick in 2016 from the University of North Carolina and finally reached the major leagues last season when he pitched one inning for the Seattle Mariners.

The Pirates chose Stratton in the 16th round of the 2017 draft from Walters State Community College in Tennessee. He contemplated retiring last season before being called up by the Pirates last September.

Yet even though Stratton had a 2.25 ERA in eight games, the Pirates dropped him from the 40-man roster.

There is likely no one who thought at the start of spring training that Ryan and Stratton would both be on the opening-day roster. Yet here they are.

Again, when you think you have enough pitching, go get more. That has never rung truer in the case of the Pirates’ bullpen.

Subscribe Today!

Subscribe today!

PBN in your Inbox

Enter your email address to get all of our posts sent directly to your inbox.

Copyright © 2024 National Hockey Now. All rights reserved. In no way endorsed by the Pittsburgh Pirates or Major League Baseball.

Gambling problem? Call 1-800-GAMBLER (PA/IL) or 1-800-9-WITH-IT (IN only) or 1-800-BETS-OFF (IA only) or 1-800-522-4700 (CO Only) or TN REDLINE: 800-889-9789.