Jeff Locke will likely start the season at AAA Indianapolis, and he shouldn’t be all too happy about that considering his abuse of opposing lineups during the 2013 season. Locke finished the season with a record of 10-7 and a 3.52 ERA. He ate a bunch of innings for the Pittsburgh Pirates and earned a nod to the 2013 All-Star Game. Additionally, Locke put up Cy Young Award winning numbers in the first half of the season, featuring an 8-2 record and a 2.15 ERA. He was arguably the Pirates’ best pitcher over the same period.
So, why does Locke get a free trip to beautiful Indiana? Well, for starters, his downfall was the second half of the season where he essentially lost his mind, posting a 2-5 record and a 6.12 ERA in 12 starts. That’s not very impressive, and it wasn’t too long ago that these numbers were the norm for Pirates pitchers. The primary reasons he won’t be in Pittsburgh in March are Wandy Rodriguez and Edinson Volquez, specifically. Rodriguez is coming off of forearm tendonitis that drastically shortened his 2013 season, and Volquez was recently acquired to essentially hedge against the possibility of an A.J. Burnett retirement or departure. Both of these guys — along with Francisco Liriano, Gerrit Cole and Charlie Morton — will likely comprise the starting rotation to begin the 2014 season. This leaves Locke being the odd man out (Locke-d out, if you will?).
It won’t last for long. Locke will probably have time for a couple cups of coffee before he’s back with the big club. Rodriguez is a legitimate injury concern — which could possibly end his career — as is Charlie Morton, who underwent Tommy John Surgery during the 2012 season. Volquez is a bit of an unproven and mediocre veteran, posting a career record of 53-52 and a 4.75 ERA.
Based upon the 2013 season, Locke would be an improvement over Volquez and would add another left-handed pitcher to the rotation; for the Wandy Rodriguez of old, Locke would be a solid substitute.
Vinny Gala is a Pittsburgh Pirates writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @VinnyGala.