Will The Pirates Real 5th Starter Please Stand Up?


February 28, 2013; Bradenton, FL, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher

Jonathan Sanchez

(36) throws a pitch in the third inning against the Boston Red Sox at McKechnie Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Pirates have a mess on their hands in the back of the rotation right now. Despite the pile of arms that came into camp, nobody has set themselves apart from the rest of the crowd yet, in both the fifth starter race, and the race for the last few bullpen spots. There’s a lot of depth, but also a lot of mediocre to bad pitching that’s been going on lately. I’m not really sure what we’re supposed to be looking for or expecting now, it’s just so insane the way things have been with the back end of the rotation.

September 25, 2011; Pittsburgh,PA, USA: Pittsburgh Pirates relief pitcher

Chris Leroux

(63) throws a pitch against the Cincinnati Reds during the sixth inning at PNC Park. The Reds won 5-4. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USPRESSWIRE

The good news right now is that Jonathan Sanchez has locked down a roster spot with his pitching over the last few games. Surprisingly, he suddenly seemed to figure out how to throw strikes. Beyond that, who is there?

Kyle McPherson looked good for a while, but he’s been awful of late. Francisco Liriano? Still recovering from the most odd/hilarious injury that I’ve ever heard of. Jeanmar Gomez has been okay at best, and we’ve only seen a tiny sample size of what he can do right now.

Jeff Locke has a solid stat line so far through this spring, posting an ERA of 3.38, 1.406 WHIP, and 5.1 K/9, which isn’t bad, especially looking for a fifth starter. That said, when he’s faced some more competition against other teams regular players, he’s been less than stellar, which presents concerns.

Chris Leroux? Well, he looked good in the WBC, but he just about ruined his shot by giving up eight runs to the Orioles while only getting one out. Whoops.

Jeff Karstens just won’t go away, but with his current shoulder troubles, things don’t look good for him. It’s like the 5th starter candidates are playing a demented game of hot potato with the job and their careers.

February 17, 2013; Bradenton, FL, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Jeff Karstens (27) poses for photo day at Pirate City. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Obviously, Gerrit Cole can fill a spot for the Pirates once June or July rolls around, but until then, the Pirates have to find a guy to plug holes in the rotation. Looking at the last few games of Spring Training, there’s no clear picture as to who’s going to take the spot.  It really is odd, to see basically nobody rise to the occasion, but we can’t fix that by complaining about it. If only the Pirates had more money, this could be fixed by signing Kyle Lohse, but alas and alack, they have no such money.

Mar 6, 2013; Fort Myers, FL, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates relief pitcher Jeff Locke (right) talks with catcher

Michael McKenry

(left) during spring training game against the Boston Red Sox at JetBlue Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

This could be a bit of a bumpy spot for the Pirates, and several guys will probably get shots at the spot, even once the season starts, depending on how consistent the rest of the front end of the rotation is as well. If the Pirates get this sorted out, they’re still in a place to be a very competitive team, but if not, this could be another long season. Let’s just hope this Gordian knot that is the back end of the rotation gets fixed quickly,  because we’ve got real ballgames to play soon, in eight days the greatest holiday of the year comes around, and it’s going to be awesome.