Pirates Trade Eric O’Flaherty To The Braves, How It Affects The Bullpen
According to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports the Pirates have traded left handed reliever Eric O’Flaherty to the Atlanta Braves. The return for O’Flaherty was just cash consideration.
I had expected O’Flaherty to make the Pirate bullpen as their second left handed pitcher, obviously that will not be the case now. I would expect either Kyle Lobstein or Cory Luebke to be the second left handed pitcher in the bullpen now.
Luebke has an opt out clause in his contract that he can choose soon, so this probably paves the way for him to make the bullpen. Luebke’s results have not been good this spring, but his stuff has been phenomenal. Luebke’s fastball has averaged 94mph, while his slider has had good bite and has been sitting in the high 80s.
I am very intrigued by the idea of Cory Luebke being in the Pirate bullpen. Luebke was a successful pitcher with the San Diego Padres before injuries began to derail his career in 2012. In 188 1/3 career innings pitched Luebke has a 3.25 ERA, 3.05 FIP, a 3.21 xFIP, 2.77 BB/9, and 9.32 K/9. All of Luebke’s career numbers have come in both a starting role and a relief role with the Padres.
As I said above, Luebke’s velocity has been up this spring. Pitchers always see an uptick in velocity when pitching out of the bullpen due to the ability to not have to save stuff for later in the game. Luebke’s power fastball and sharp slider should be tough for any left handed hitter to handle, and the National League Central is loaded with left handed hitters.
Kyle Lobstein is also an intriguing bullpen option due to the spring he has had. In 11 innings pitched this spring Lobstein has allowed just 2 runs while striking out 8 batters and posting a WHIP of 0.91. Lobstein has struggled throughout his Major League career, but the Pirates made some tweaks to his delivery this spring and it appears to be working.
Furthermore, Lobstein’s career struggles have come as a starting pitcher and not a reliever. Lobstein has also been getting stretched out this spring, pitching multiple innings in all of his outings except for one of them. This could also work into Lobstein’s favor as it will give the Pirates a pitcher out of the bullpen capable of going multiple innings if need be, which is something that Clint Hurdle loves.
Lobstein has options and can be sent to the Minor Leagues which could come into play here. However, if Jared Hughes starts the year on the disabled list I’d expect both Luebke and Lobstein to make the team out of camp. If Hughes does not start the year on this disabled list, I expect Luebke to be the one to make the team.
Left handed power arms like Cory Luebke are not easy to come by, and he and Tony Watson will give the Pirates one of the best left handed power arm combinations in the Majors. If Luebke is healthy, he should make an already strong Pirate bullpen even better.