Reports have surfaced that Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Jeff Locke will be scratched from his scheduled start against the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday, March 5 due to “tightness” somewhere on his right side. Locke had been figured into the equation to compete against newly acquired Edinson Volquez for the fifth spot in the rotation and was off to a solid start this spring, appearing in one game where he threw two shut-out innings, striking out one and surrendering a single hit.
The lone appearance this season came on Feb. 27, so it is difficult to say when this supposed “injury” occurred. The Pirates, of course, will be conservative in releasing information to the media concerning Locke’s condition until it’s known. Pirates fans need to remain hopeful that this injury is not related to the back injury that Locke sustained last summer while lifting weights, where many would argue that his above-average season started to go downhill.
The Pirates need to hope that the injury to Locke is not major, causing him to miss a substantial amount of the Spring Training session. Volquez isn’t a lock for the fifth spot in the rotation, especially considering his performance this spring to date. Additionally, looking at Volquez’ career stats, he’s a pretty awful performer dollar for dollar compared to other pitchers, with a 4.75 career ERA and a 5.71 ERA last season. The Bucs will also lose the benefit of having a second lefty as part of the starting rotation, with Francisco Liriano becoming the lone remaining lefty.
There are a few other options that the Pirates must now more seriously consider. Stolmy Pimentel and Casey Sadler are also candidates to compete for the fifth spot in the rotation, as both have put forth strong Spring Training performances so far. If you have to give the nod to either Pimentel or Sadler, based upon comparative performances alone, Pimentel probably gets the fifth spot because of his Major League experience, as Sadler could use some time at AAA Indianapolis to marinate a bit.
Now, the Pirates need to hope that Wandy Rodriguez can remain healthy, or they will effectively see one of the stronger rotations in the division greatly reduce in demonstrated performance.