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Perrotto: Looking at Pirates’ Options to Replace Marco Gonzales



Quinn Priester, Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pittsburgh Pirates have an unexpected hole in their starting rotation, and it will be interesting to see how they fill it.

Left-hander Marco Gonzales is on the injured list. After limiting the Philadelphia Phillies to two runs in six innings on Saturday, Gonzales came down with a case of forearm inflammation.

It was a case of bad timing for the Pirates and Gonzales.

The Pirates have gotten good work from the 32-year-old. While he has no decisions in three starts, his ERA is 2.65. He has reestablished himself as a viable major-league starter after being limited to 10 starts last season with the Seattle Mariners because of forearm surgery.

So, Gonzales’ loss is significant. However, the schedule gives the Pirates time to consider options for replacing Gonzales.

Because of off days, the Pirates won’t need a fifth starter again until next Wednesday when they host the Milwaukee Brewers at PNC Park. The Pirates could go some different ways in determining who makes that start.

They could fill Gonzales’ spot internally. Left-hander Josh Fleming and right-handers Roansy Contreras and Luis Ortiz are now working in relief, but all competed for rotation jobs in spring training. All three should still be able to pitch three or four innings if necessary.

The Pirates also have two options at Triple-A Indianapolis — right-hander Quinn Priester and left-hander Eric Lauer. Priester would be the easiest fit as he is already on the 40-man roster while Lauer is not after signing a minor-league contract last month.

Priester has been the second-best starter at Indy after Paul Skenes. The 23-year-old Priester is 1-1 with a 3.95 ERA in three starts and has 20 strikeouts in 13.2 innings.

Still technically a rookie, Priester had a rocky first partial season in the major leagues last year. He had a 3-3 record and a 7.74 ERA in 10 games (eight starts). Priester also allowed at least four runs in eight of his 10 appearances.

However, Priester is young, and the Pirates still have high hopes.

Lauer has gone 1-0 with a 2.61 ERA in three games (one start) while pitching 10 innings. The 28-year-old has made 112 starts in the major leagues over six seasons.

Lauer was a combined 18-12 with a 3.47 ERA during the 2021 and 2022 seasons for the Milwaukee Brewers in 53 games (49 starts). However, his record was 4-6 with a 6.56 ERA last year in 10 games (nine starts) during an injury-marred season and the Brewers opted not to tender him a contract.

Pirates pitching coach Oscar Marin’s record is spotty during his five-year tenure. However, he has been able to help veteran lefties, including Jose Quintana and Tyler Anderson, turn their career around. Perhaps Marin could work the same type of magic again with Lauer.

Skenes is the pitcher most deserving of a promotion.  The first overall pick in last year’s amateur draft has pitched 9.1 scoreless innings in three starts while striking out 19 and walking two.

However, general manager Ben Cherington said on his weekly radio Sunday show on the Pirates radio network that Skenes will not be considered for a promotion.

“We don’t want to go from zero to 100 right away,” Cherington said. “We want to take it a step at a time.”

That’s too bad. The fans are clamoring for Skenes to be promoted and he seemingly has nothing left to prove in the minor leagues.

So, for now, Priester, Lauer or one of the relievers will have to do while the rest of the world – or at least me – wait for Skenes’ major-league debut.

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