Tuesday, September 3, 2013
Who pitches for Pirates in playoffs?
By AJ Mass
The Pittsburgh Pirates passed yet another test over the Labor Day weekend, taking two of three games in their showdown with the St. Louis Cardinals. They will meet again next weekend in St. Louis, and we're going to learn a lot in terms of whether or not one of these two sides will start to put some distance between themselves and the rest of the National League Central.
There's plenty of baseball ahead and still no guarantee of a playoff spot for the Pirates, but if they do make the playoffs, there's still a huge question as to what their starting rotation will look like. Certainly A.J. Burnett and Francisco Liriano would be included, but after that, there are some question marks to be found:
- Jeff Locke: Although he is not expected to miss a turn in the rotation, one has to be concerned about the fact that he was optioned to Double-A Altoona last week in order to get some mental rest. Given his second-half stats (a 6.18 ERA and a .340 BAA), if this "break" doesn't do the trick, it will be hard to trust him with the season on the line.
- Gerrit Cole: While the team is not going to apply the "Strasburg Rules" to their young pitcher, the Pirates have already been easing off the gas with Cole. He made only five starts in August, going more than a week between outings on two occasions. The Pirates have allowed him to top 100 pitches just once in 14 starts. Odds are good he ends up serving as an "as-needed" arm in the bullpen.
- Charlie Morton: It's hard to believe that the Pirates might end up relying on a pitcher who went 14-28 for them from 2010-2012, but Morton has been solid in 2013. He is 4-1 with a 2.47 ERA since Aug. 1, and overall he has posted a career-high 2.7 K/BB rate this season. If the Pirates end up needing to win a wild-card game to advance, you may well see Morton in Game 1 of the NLDS.
- Wandy Rodriguez: On the disabled list since June 6, Rodriguez has finally started throwing again, though he admitted over the weekend he is still in pain, making a return unlikely. Rodriguez still hopes to return, though, possibly as a reliever.