Sep 17, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Jeff Locke (49) delivers a pitch against the San Diego Padres during the first inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh Pirates: Without A.J. Burnett, Bucs Still Have Plenty Of Pitching Options

Earlier in the week I looked at the fact that the Pittsburgh Pirates needed to stop allowing free agent starting pitcher A.J. Burnett to string them along regarding his plans on whether to pitch or not during the 2014 season.

One day later, club president Frank Coonelly told ESPN.com that the team has “turned the page’’ on the idea of Burnett returning to team this season.

Sep 8, 2013; St. Louis, MO, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates relief pitcher Stolmy Pimentel (38) prepares to pitch in the fourth inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Kane-USA TODAY Sports

While the door is still open for Burnett to return, as the decision is up to him, the Pirates do have other options to turn to as pitching depth has become a strength of this organization.

Of course they won’t be turning to an arm the caliber of Burnett, but having other options is a good thing.

The projected Pirates’ starting rotation for the 2014 season is pretty much set in stone with Francisco Liriano, Gerrit Cole, Charlie Morton, Wandy Rodriguez and Edinson Volquez.

But what if Rodriguez isn’t healthy and what if Volquez gets lit up in spring training? Where do the Bucs turn then?

Jameson Taillon and Tyler Glasnow are the top two pitchers in the organization, but neither will be rushed, which is the smart move.  Here’s a look at the other option the Pirates will have in spring training.

Jeff Locke

The southpaw had a tremendous first half of the 2013 season that resulted in him earning his first All-Star selection. He fell off the table in a big way in the second half of the season but his final numbers weren’t terrible, finishing with a 10-7 record and 3.52 ERA.

Spring training will be important for Locke as he has to show that he can get back to being the pitcher we saw in the first half of the season. If Pirates’ pitching coach Ray Searage can tinker with Locke a little bit and help him cut down on the walks, the 26-year-old still is a viable option. Don’t give up on Locke just yet.

Jeanmar Gomez

While Gomez is very valuable in a long relief role, he showed last season that he could be counted on to be an effective starter as well. Gomez finished the 2013 season with a 3-0 mark and a 3.35 ERA, making eight starts along the way.

A lot of the problem with starting Gomez last season was the fact that he wasn’t stretched out enough to give the Bucs more than four innings. Manager Clint Hurdle may want to make sure that Gomez gets ready in the spring in case he is needed right off the bat.

Brandon Cumpton

Cumpton isn’t one of the Bucs’ top prospects, but he showed last year why the Pirates’ pitching depth is so outstanding. He also showed he has the ability to get big league hitters out.

The 24-year-old made five starts last season and went 2-1 with a 2.05 ERA and a very good 1.01 WHIP in over 30 innings pitched. Cumpton is a long shot to make the team but is a guy who Hurdle should feel comfortable giving the ball to in a pinch.

Stolmy Pimentel

Pimentel was a big part of the Joel Hanrahan trade a season ago and has a chance to be a big part of the Pirates future. He got a brief look last season and posted a 1.93 ERA and struck out nine, walking only two, in 9.1 innings pitched at the big league level.

He put together a decent minor-league season last year, making stops at both Double-A and Triple-A and projects to be a future starter for the Pirates. The only question to ask: is that future now?

Andy Oliver

The left-hander Oliver struggled with the Detroit Tigers through two MLB stints and wasn’t great for the Pirates at Triple-A last season, posting a 4.05 ERA and walking 112 batters in 124.1 innings pitched. But while he isn’t a great option, Oliver is a guy who has MLB experience and could be used in a pinch.

Kyle McPherson

At this time last year, McPherson was pitching for a spot on the Pirates’ Opening Day roster. Since then McPherson was injured again, designated for assignment in the offseason and is now entering spring training as a non-roster invitee.

His elbow injury clearly remains enough of a concern, but if he can get back to his 2012 form, the right-hander could be an option later in the season.


Tags: A.J. Burnett Jeanmar Gomez Jeff Locke Pittsburgh Pirates Stolmy Pimentel

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