Oh boy, the Pittsburgh Pirates are starting their second-half collapse a little bit early in 2014. In fact, the collapse is starting before the regular season even starts! That’s right, folks, after starting Spring Training with a 7-2 record, the Pirates have dropped three straight games, two on Sunday and one on Monday against the Baltimore Orioles.
I’m only kidding, of course. These games don’t matter. All the Pirates want to see is their players getting ready for Opening Day. There have been a few positives so far through the first two weeks of exhibition games. The biggest reason for optimism for Pirates fans has been the performance of the pitching staff — specifically the bullpen.
Everyone knows the Pirates have stellar arms like Mark Melancon, Jason Grilli, Justin Wilson and Tony Watson, but other players have stepped up and performed well so far. Depth options like Daniel Schlereth and Adam Wilk have performed admirably in their few innings in relief, as have Zack Thornton and Jeanmar Gomez.
Obviously, the Pirates will only carry seven relievers into the regular season, but they will almost certainly need more than the original seven arms to get through the entire season. Injuries happen, especially to pitchers. Pitching is a violent action. In 2013, the Pirates were forced to look deep into their farm system, using 12 starting pitchers during the regular season.
Wilk and Schlereth have been especially impressive, combining for 10 scoreless innings with just six hits allowed. The fact that both are lefties should be noted as well. No team has enough left-handed pitching out of the bullpen, but the Pirates might be in the best position as far as bullpen depth goes.
If everything goes the Pirates’ way in 2014, they won’t need to dig into their farm system to use the likes of Schlereth, Wilk and Thornton, but that’s unlikely. In a perfect world, the Pirates will be able to use their organizational bullpen depth as trade bait at the trade deadline, but for now, it’s nice to see the team has plenty of good, if not great options.