Brandon Cumpton sat on the bench by himself in the bottom half of the first inning, probably wondering how he just struck out the very first three big league hitters he ever faced in his MLB debut for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Not far removed from pitching in Double-A Altoona, the 24-year-old rookie right-hander from that little-known hotbed for college baseball, the Georgia Institute of Technology, got a surprise spot-start for the recently-injured A.J. Burnett against the Los Angeles Dodgers and did not waste the opportunity to make a good first impression.
Cumpton could become a pleasant surprise this summer, as recent injuries have begun to nick up the Pirates’ starting pitchers, as James McDonald, Jeanmar Gomez, Wandy Rodriguez and now Burnett have all missed time.
While none of them appear to be too serious, the regular rhythm of the pitching rotation is definitely being upset and there is now talk of trading for another front-line established starter, in particular, Bud Norris of the Houston Astros. Cumpton could make that discussion irrelevant should the Pirates decide to give him another look or two. Why risk a trade if you have the a capable starter ready to step up?
Cumpton joins no less than 186 other major league baseball players that have attended the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, including the likes of Nomar Garciaparra and Mark Teixeira. And while Burnett doesn’t have to worry about becoming a latter-day version of Wally Pip, the Pirates have to be happy with what they saw.
Adding one more for good measure, Cumpton struck out the first four batters of his big league career and went on to toss five solid innings before faltering in the sixth and giving up the final two runs of the three he would allow.
Despite rallying to tie the game in the ninth on a solo blast by Travis Snider, the Pirates would eventually lose this one in 11 innings at the hands of a Jose Uribe‘s RBI single and a pinch-hit RBI double by Nick Punto. Leaving 13 runners on base and going just 1-13 with runners in scoring position, the Bucs couldn’t expect to win this one. It was an uphill battle all game though for the home team, and the Pirates just couldn’t climb it.
Pirates rookie pitcher Gerrit Cole is set to start the rubber match of the three-game series as the team hopes to finish their current homestand with a record of 4-2. Zach Grienke will take the mound for the Dodgers in the Sunday afternoon contest.