The Pittsburgh Pirates are in their worst stretch of the season, going only 8-10 throughout their past 18 games.
As I wrote yesterday, the problem during this stretch is with the pitching staff and not the offense. Winning only 8-of-18 games is nothing to panic about and the Pirates ARE still in the middle of a playoff race in the middle of August.
The Bucs can easily get hot again, but to do so, the pitching staff must perform better. For them to do that, changes need to be made. Pirates’ manager Clint Hurdle has suggested that changes will be made to the starting rotation when the Pirates return home from their upcoming road trip.
For the Bucs to maximize success, some changes need to be made.
If I were Hurdle, I would consider making drastic changes. First, we go back to a five-man rotation that looks like this:
SP: A.J. Burnett: Get Burnett the ball as much as possible the rest of the season.
SP: Wandy Rodriguez: Wandy hasn’t got off to a great start in a Pirates uniform, but I would rather give the ball to a veteran with his pedigree than any other current options.
SP: James McDonald: J-Mac has been bad in the second half, but he’s more talented and has more upside than anyone else currently in it. A trip to the pen won’t help McDonald. They have to stick with him and hope he figures it out.
SP: Erik Bedard: He’s been up and down, but still has a 3.70 ERA after the All-Star break and I like having the veteran arm with swing and miss stuff.
SP: Jeff Locke: Locke has been sharp in his two relief appearances and he gives the Bucs a better chance to win than Jeff Karstens or Kevin Correia right now.
In addition, the bullpen would now look like this:
Chris Leroux: Needs to be brought up and can fill the long role, but also would be the guy I would put in the rotation should J-Mac continue to falter.
Karstens: I hate him right now as a starter but he’s a veteran that has shown he can pitch in multiple roles.
Chris Resop: He’s had a solid year and has proven to be a dependable option for Hurdle.
Tony Watson: Hurdle’s only southpaw out of the pen. He obviously must stay.
Jared Hughes: Bring him back up when he is eligible, as the rookie has had a nice campaign.
Jason Grilli: Grilli has been great in the eighth inning.
Joel Hanrahan: The Hammer has been as good as it gets this season at closing out games.
That means Correia, Juan Cruz and Chad Qualls would all be DFA’d, which is no big deal, as neither of the three are signed past this season.
Changes do need to be made for the rest of the season. I doubt the Pirates go with the drastic changes I am suggesting, but I am sure we will see a little bit different look to the rotation when the Bucs come back home to face the Brewers the last week of August.
The only question is will the changes be enough?