An interesting aspect of MLB’s one-game wild-card playoff system is that the instant elimination game is considered a separate “series” for roster construction purposes.
With only one contest to worry about, teams can load their bench with position players or additional bullpen arms since rostering a full rotation of starting pitchers isn’t necessary.
The Pittsburgh Pirates have made their calculations in advance of Tuesday night’s showdown with the Cincinnati Reds, and the resulting 25-man roster looks a little different from one you might see for a typical regular season game:
— Pittsburgh Pirates (@Pirates) October 1, 2013
If you can’t see the above picture, there’s only one spot of intrigue when it comes to the available pitchers: rookie righty Gerrit Cole will be ready in the bullpen if he’s needed. Although Cole has never made a major league relief appearance, one imagines his power stuff will play well in a short burst.
Tonight’s starter Francisco Liriano will be backed up by Cole, Jason Grilli, Vin Mazzaro, Justin Wilson, Tony Watson, Mark Melancon, Bryan Morris and Jeanmar Gomez. Three catchers will be dressed for the evening’s festivities, featuring starter Russell Martin, veteran John Buck and first-year Pirate Tony Sanchez.
In the infield, the starting quartet of Pedro Alvarez (third base), Clint Barmes (shortstop), Neil Walker (second) and Justin Morneau (first) will be joined by Garrett Jones, Josh Harrison, Gaby Sanchez and Jordy Mercer. First-string outfielders Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte and Marlon Byrd have Jose Tabata and Travis Snider for company.
Andrew Lambo and Felix Pie are notable exclusions from the roster, although it’s not surprising they were left off. Also, there was some speculation that starting pitchers Charlie Morton and/or A.J. Burnett would be available tonight, but Pirates’ manager Clint Hurdle will have a mostly traditional bullpen setup at his disposal.
First pitch is set for 8:07 p.m. at PNC Park, with the winner moving on to face the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Division Series. Tonight’s game will be televised on TBS; find the radio broadcast at 93-7 The Fan locally and ESPN Radio across the nation.