Though the Pittsburgh Pirates pitching staff – notably the bullpen – is likely the strength of the team, it may not last. The starters have faced a number of injuries, and it has forced the bullpen into a number of long outings. After Wandy Rodriguez only got one out and Jeanmar Gomez pitched just one inning in the past week, the bullpen has been taxed. Former top prospect Bryan Morris and veteran Vin Mazzaro have given the Pirates good innings in long relief.
However, the number of innings that the bullpen guys are pitching is unsustainable. Though Clint Hurdle is not pitching Mark Melancon or Jason Grilli an entirely obscene amount, almost every other reliever is on pace to pitch a career-high number of innings. There exists the potential for any of these relievers to lose effectiveness, struggle with injury, or need to change roles. For instance, if Rodriguez goes on the disabled list, he would be the fifth starter on the DL. If 40-man roster restrictions limited the Pirates’ replacement options, they could opt to put Morris into the rotation.
The reality is, no matter how the Pirates get through the next few weeks, they will need reinforcements for the bullpen. Though early in June few teams are truly sellers, there will be a number of bullpen arms available. Examining the most obvious sellers, the Houston Astros, San Diego Padres and Miami Marlins all have intriguing bullpen arms available.
Wesley Wright, Luke Gregerson and Mike Dunn would all be intriguing options in a number of different roles. Justin Wilson has been the effective seventh-inning man for the Pirates this season. Though his strikeout rate and ERA are representative of true success, it is highly uncertain how he will fare in the second half of the season. The Pirates may not add any bullpen arms in the coming month, but they should be on alert that this bullpen success is likely unsustainable.
Gabe Isaacson is a writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter: @gabeisaacson.