I tend not to pay much attention to spring training numbers, but it is hard not to look at the Pittsburgh Pirates pitching staff and not like the way they are throwing the ball so far in Grapefruit League action.
One of those arms that has been performing quite well is young right hander Stolmy Pimentel, who the Bucs must create a spot for on the Opening Day roster.
Pimentel, acquired from the Boston Red Sox prior to last season in the Joel Hanrahan trade, has been lights out so far this spring although the sample size has been small. He also looked very sharp last September in his call-up, posting a 1.93 ERA in five outings for the Pirates. Pimentel’s power arm struck out nine batters in 9.1 innings last season without allowing a home run.
The bottom line is that Pimentel looks like he can be a big part of the Pirates future.
However, that future has to be now.
That’s because Pimentel is out of options and either must make the Opening Day roster or the Pirates risk another team claiming him, which is a 100 percent certainty to happen.
When you look at the Pirates’ starting rotation for the 2014 season, there isn’t a spot for the young and talented Pimentel. One could make the case that Pimentel should get a look in the rotation over Edinson Volquez, who has allowed three earned runs in three innings of work, while walking three batters in that span. But a $5 million commitment to Volquez in the offseason suggests that his spot in the rotation is all but secure.
That leaves a spot for Pimentel in the bullpen, right?
The Pirates seven top relievers last season were Jason Grilli, Mark Melancon, Justin Wilson, Tony Watson, Jeanmar Gomez, Vin Mazzaro, and Bryan Morris. That was their bullpen in the postseason and all seven guys return for 2014.
So where does that leave Pimentel?
I have a hard time thinking that the Pirates want to lose the hard-throwing Pimentel, so the likely scenario is that you could see a trade among the current bullpen core to clear a spot with the most likely candidates being Mazzaro or Morris.
Keeping Pimentel in the bullpen also gives the Bucs options should they need another starter, similar to what we saw from Gomez last season.
Another option is the Pirates could end up flipping Pimentel in a deal to get a first baseman, but at the end of the day I don’t envision them wanting to part with the young right-hander.
All have a spot on the team secured except Pimentel and Oliver right now and with the bullpen logjam, I have a hard time seeing Oliver being in the mix.
That shouldn’t be the case for Pimentel. The Pirates must do what it takes to make sure he is a part of not only their long-term future, but their immediate future as well.