August 29, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates relief pitcher Jason Grilli (39) pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals during the eighth inning at PNC Park. The Pittsburgh Pirates won 5-0. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh Pirates Bullpen one of few early bright spots

There haven’t been many positives that have come out of the Pittsburgh Pirates 1-5 start to the 2013 season.

One of those positives have been the performance of the starting rotation, who if it weren’t for an absolutely putrid start to the season by the Pirates offense, have pitched well enough to probably get off to a 5-1 start instead of a 1-5 beginning.

April 3, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates relief pitcher Tony Watson (44) pitches against the Chicago Cubs during the seventh inning at PNC Park. The Pittsburgh Pirates won 3-0. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

However it’s not just the starters who have been performing above expectations early on, but the guys in the bullpen have been very good as well.

After six games, it’s almost laughable to focus on statistics, good or bad, but those numbers can show positive and negative trends even early on.

Through six games, the Pirates bullpen has logged 15.1 innings while allowing only nine hits and four earned runs. The relievers have also combined to strike out 13 batters in that span while walking only five.

Keep in mind that the only chinks in the armor so far have been a two-run homer that Jared Hughes surrendered to the Chicago Cubs’  Nate Schierholtz on Thursday, and a laughable 1.1 innings by Chris Leroux on Sunday in which he allowed two runs on two hits while walking two.

The rest of the bullpen- Justin Wilson, Tony Watson, Mark Melancon, Jeanmar Gomez and Jason Grilli- has looked very sharp during the early going.

Take out Leroux’s performance against the Dodgers and the numbers look even better.

Even with it, the Bucs bullpen ranks fifth in baseball with a 2.35 ERA, but even more impressive have been the .167 batting average against and .091 WHIP for the guys in the pen.

Granted it is a small sample size, but its one encouraging sign on a team where it is hard to find positives right now.

On paper, the Pirates bullpen didn’t appear as strong as it was a season ago, but for all of his other short comings, Pirates’ general manager Neal Huntington has always been able to assemble a quality bullpen.

Hopefully he has done so once again.

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Tags: Chris Leroux Jared Hughes Pittsburgh Pirates

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