Today, Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle announced right-handed pitcher Juan Nicasio will be starting game three of the season against Mike Leake and the St. Louis Cardinals. Ryan Vogelsong will be the long starter out of the bullpen. This spring, Nicasio has dazzled with his 0.00 ERA and 24 strikeouts in his 15 innings of work in Grapefruit League action. Meanwhile Ryan Vogelsong had a 6.08 ERA and 4 strikeouts in 13.1 innings. According to Matt Gatjka from DK Pittsburgh Sports, General Manager Neal Huntington said Vogelsong was originally signed to be in the rotation, but Juan’s spring performance unseated him.
Nicasio has struggled in his time as a starter, as opponents have hit .282/.344/.469 and he has a 5.12 ERA in his 70 career starts. But he has been rather effective in his 77 innings as a reliever, as he has a 3.74 ERA and opponents are slashing .252/.338/.386 and he really found a niche in the Dodgers pen last year. But he will get his opportunity to prove himself in the rotation and to see if he is pitching coach Ray Searage’s next miracle project. Here’s more on Nicasio as a starter.
Ryan Vogelsong will be delegated to the Pirates bullpen where he will serve as the long relief man. In his career, Vogelsong has a 4.80 ERA and opponents slash .271/.357/.403 compared to his 4.38 ERA and opponent slash of .262/.333/.420 as a starter. Being the primary long man, Vogelsong will be the candidate to pitch extra innings when distance is needed or in blow outs when the starter is knocked out early and the rest of the bullpen could use a breather.
With Nicasio in the rotation, that opens up a spot to who will be the primary seventh inning reliever. After last years trade deadline, that role went to right hander Joakim Soria, who posted a 2.03 ERA in his 26.2 innings as a member of the Pirates bullpen. After the Pirates signed Nicasio this offseason, the belief among many fans, I included, was that Nicasio would slide into the seventh innings role and setting up Tony Watson and Mark Melancon to shorten games. With him being added to the starting rotation, that role could look to go to right-handed reliever Neftali Feliz. In Grapefruit League play, Feliz has posted a 2.35 ERA and a 0.913 WHIP in 7.2 innings. The former All-Star closer, still has an electric arm, even after Tommy John and other injuries. Last season Feliz pitched in 48 games, splitting time with the Texas Rangers and Detroit Tigers, and had a 6.38 ERA, but his 4.05 FIP shows he should improve.
Bur for now, Nicasio to the rotation is now official, which is rather good news for many Pirates fans.
*Numbers from baseball-reference.com