Pittsburgh Pirates Roundtable 5/6/2008

Here is the second question in this week’s roundtable. Keep in mind that many of these responses were submitted several days ago, before Sean Burnett was recalled from Indy. The roundtable will return with fresh content next Monday. Again, please add your two cents in the comments section below.
The Pirates’ starting rotation easily has the highest ERA in Major League Baseball. Matt Morris was just released, with Phil Dumatrait taking his place. Do you anticipate any other changes to the rotation in the near future?
Brian McElhinny from Raise the Jolly Roger!

Morris’ release gets rid of one glaring hole in the rotation (I think Dumatrait is better than people think) but there are still two major problems. Tom Gorzelanny has got to be a concern, as he piles up walks and loses velocity. Be it an injury or a mechanics change, his outlook is bleak at the moment. The other problem is Duke, who had a promising start but is beginning to decline yet again. I’d give him another couple of starts to judge for sure, but he is certainly not a great option as a #3 man in the rotation. That said, I donít see any rotation changes, barring Gorzelanny’s possible injury. That’s simply because we have nobody else (and don’t even try to sell me on John Van Benschoten).
Mike from Hyzdu Headquarters
The starting rotation will most likely stay the same for the most part, except for the Dumatrait/Morris spot. The reason being is that we have no one in the organization to put in there. In the minors you have Van Benschoten, Bullington, Taubenheim, Barthmaier, and Herrera. Out of all of them one I am most comfortable with is Van Benschoten, but even that is somewhat tenuous. Barring a trade nothing is really going to change. I expect to see that last spot in the rotation, become a revolving door so that Huntington can get a look at these pitchers and see what he has. Most likely it might be the last shot for guys like Van Benschoten and Bullington for a spot in the rotation or even a shot with the Pirates. I don’t even want to imagine what may happen if someone got hurt.
Jesse from Raise the Jolly Roger!
I don’t really think there will be any changes in the immediate future unless there is a big trade which is unlikley. The only change I see is Van Benschoten taking Dumatrait’s spot once he does well in the ‘pen for a while.
Steeltown Mike from Steeltown Sports
Ian Snell, while he hasn’t been as nasty this season, has been fairly efficient; downright good if you throw out the one big inning he seems to surrender per game. Zach Duke has improved significantly now that he’s back under the tutelage of Jeff Andrews. Paul Maholm may be the Bucs’ best SP right now, though he also can give up a big inning. That leaves the ticking time bomb that is Tom Gorzelanny. Former manager Jim Tracy, I think, tried to sabotage him, knowing he was going to be out of a job at season’s end, and let him throw 100+ pitches in most of his last handful of starts. He had to leave the Mets game with “back stiffness”. We all know that when a pitcher gets sore, that usually means DL time…usually the 60-day. If that happens, that very well might be the chance that Sean Burnett has been waiting for, even though the Pirates were trying to convert him into a reliever. Regardless, I’d rather see Burnett back starting than to bring up Bryan Bullington, or promote John Van Benschoten.
Again, back to the actual question: I anticipate that Gorzo will go down with injury and JVB will replace him in the rotation, making room for Burnett to finally get back to the major league level as the long reliever. As for Dumatrait, I don’t know how many times he’ll pitch more than five innings…even if he limits the damage. When I’ve watched him, he seems to be a plate nibbler, like Mike Williams tried to do when he was the closer. Efficiency (or lack thereof) has been the bugaboo of the Pirates starting staff for many a year.
Andy Smith from Bugs and Cranks
Sadly, I’m not sure there are a lot of other changes the Pirates could make. It’s conceivable that John Van Benschoten or Bryan Bullington could be given a shot to fill Morris’s vacated spot. However, neither has shown enough in extended major league time to indicate they’ll be anything close to an upgrade. Other than that, the number of major league ready pitching prospects are pretty thin. Daniel Moskos and Brad Lincoln aren’t ready, and it’s probably better to give former top picks Van Benschoten and Bullington a shot over an equally questionable veteran journeyman. The situation with the rotation this year is probably the greatest indictment of the Dave Littlefield seven year reign. Littlefield always set to build his roster through talent and depth in the rotation, and this year it’s a struggle to find five capable major league starters.
Dave from Bucs Trade Winds
The 5th spot in the rotation will be a round robin all season until someone sticks. JVB will get the next shot at the spot. It is too bad Burnett (1-1, 3 Saves, 1.04 ERA, .98 WHIP) was moved to the pen, he has pitched well early on for Indy. After JVB, not one inspiring arm is on the horizon in Indy. Hill, Herrera and Hankins have pitched well in Altoona, we may see one of them jump over Indy to get the next shot at the 5 spot.
I wonder how much making up would have to occur to get Jaret Wright to sign back with the Pirates?
Beyond the starters, I can easily see Meek being returned to Tampa to open a spot for another arm to compete for the 5 spot. Meeks control has been far worse than had been advertised. Dumatrait will end up back in the long relief/cleanup role. Consider Dumatrait this era’s Vogelsong.
matskralc from Marooned on Federal Street
Dumatrait is no more than answer than JVB or Bullington or Burnett are. Heíll get a month or two, post Chacon-like numbers, and get shuffled back to the bullpen in favor of one of the other three.
That said, the Piratesí #5 starter ought to be the least of our concerns, since we donít even have a reliable #3. Snell and Maholm we can rely. Gorzo has injury issues and we all fear whether or not he can fully recover from them. If he does not, Jim Tracy may want to leave the country. Dukeís 2005 is a distant memory, and pretty clearly a fluke. He hasnít learned to miss bats by now, and heís not going to pick it up tomorrow, either.
Outside of Snell/Maholm, the rotation will likely be a carousel featuring the disabled list and the Indianapolis Indians. Nothing we havenít seen before.
Adam Wagner from Be Like Tike
There will not be any more changes to the rotation at least until some trades are made for no other reason than what change would the team make? Seriously, they have their four best starting pitchers (Snell, Gorzelanny, Maholm and Duke) in the rotation already and just stuck Dumatrait, the sixth starter and someone who has done nothing but embarrass himself as a starter, in the rotation. For now, John Russell and Neal Huntington are just going to have to suck it up and deal with it, though, since there are really no better options in the minor league and no veteran free agents who are going to somehow turn around this team’s rotation.
Cory Humes from Seamless Baseball
Nothing will happen to the rotation in the short term that could be classified as anything more than deck-chair shuffling. Snell, Gorzelanny and Maholm are pieces of a legitimate future; Zach Duke has shown signs that he could return to a usable form; but the No. 5 candidates may be no better than Morris. Dumatrait, John Van Benschoten and Bryan Bullington are long shots to be steady starters, and Brad Lincoln and Daniel Moskos are years away from the majors. There’s no near-ready pitching talent in the farm.
For that reason, the next change to the rotation may come from trading Bay and/or Nady this summer. Adding a Triple-A bat and arm in a deal for Bay (similar to the way he was acquired along with Oliver Perez for Brian Giles) would go a long way toward restocking the organization. Someone like Cleveland’s Adam Miller or San Diego’s Will Inman could serve as a strong right-handed presence on the Pirates’ staff.
Matt Bandi from Pittsburgh Lumber Co.
The Piratesí rotation is a mess, but unfortunately, there is very little that can be done to fix it. Dumatrait will be a slight upgrade over Morris. Snell, Maholm and Duke have been inconsistent. Gorzelanny will likely battle injuries and poor performance all season. And there are very few other options available. Van Benschoten and Bullington have no future with the team, and will do no better than anyone currently in the rotation has done. There may be some changes in the rotation (like Gorzelanny to the DL), but the Pirates will essentially be replacing broken parts with other broken parts. Regrettably, the starting pitching may actually get worse before it gets better.

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One Response to “Pittsburgh Pirates Roundtable 5/6/2008”

  1. Zman of VA Says:

    I just watched this young pitcher named Davis pitch for Indianapolis in Norfolk on Sunday. He threw 90+ and went into the 7th with a one hitter. Is this guy chopped liver or are people going to start asking about him? At any rate he may be worth watching. He’s a tall thin guy and looks to have a lot of upside.


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