The Pittsburgh Pirates have announced their starting rotation for the post All-Star break series against the Washington Nationals.
The Pittsburgh Pirates rotation will feature left handed starter Francisco Liriano on Friday, a returning Gerrit Cole on Saturday, and rookie pitcher Chad Kuhl on Sunday. An interesting note is that the Pirates are not activating rookie Jameson Taillon from the disabled list, something he is eligible. The Pirates could be giving Kuhl another start and therefore allowing Taillon to buy some more time off, and to save him for innings in September, and hopefully October.
After the Indianapolis Indians announced their starters for their upcoming four game set against the Louisville Bats, there was hope that Tyler Glasnow was going to be in the Pirates rotation. With the Pirates having off days coming on July 18, July 25, July 26, and August 1, the Pirates don’t really need a fifth starter until August 6 against the Cincinnati Reds. The Pirates could leave Glasnow down in Indianapolis until then, going with Liriano, Cole, Kuhl, and Jeff Locke, Jon Niese, or Taillon until that point.
However, with that point made, Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune notes, “The Pirates are trying to move Niese and/or Locke to open spot in their rotation.” Trading one, or even both, allows Glasnow to slide into the rotation and start against the Milwaukee Brewers. Whichever of the two they decide not to, or are not able to, trade will likely either slide to the bullpen, or the Pirates could use a modified six man rotation like they implemented last season.
Francisco Liriano has a career 3.70 ERA against the Washington Nationals in four starts, and at Nationals Park, Liriano has posted a 3.38 ERA in two starts. Liriano’s 5.16 ERA is his worst since the 5.34 ERA he posted in 2012, the year prior to joining the Pirates. His 5.6 walks/nine and 13.5 percent walk rate are both career worsts. In his last five starts. Liriano has a 5.76 ERA, and he has issued 17 walks to only striking out 20.
Gerrit Cole is making his return from the disabled list. In his two rehab outings, Cole went eight innings, allowing four hits, walking none, striking out 12, and posting a 0.00 ERA. On the 2016 season Cole has a 2.77 ERA in 12 starts, and over his last five starts Cole has posted a 2.33 ERA, and that is with a very high .355 BAbip. Against the Washington Nationals, Cole has three starts and has posted a 1.74 ERA while averaging 6.8 innings per start.
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Rookie right hander Chad Kuhl will be making his fourth career start. After a respectable debut against Clayton Kershaw, he followed that up with a six inning and two run performance against the Oakland Athletics. In his final start before the break against the Chicago Cubs, Kuhl only went 2.1 innings, allowing four runs on seven hits, walking one, and the only strikeout being the first batter of the game. The one concern going forward is Kuhl’s groundout to air out ratio. In Triple A this season, Kuhl had a 1.50 groundout/airout, but so far in the Majors the ratio has just been 0.63. He has not been getting the groundouts he needs to succeed.
With the Pirates rotation for the series against the Nationals being set, and the Pirates trying to move Jon Niese and/or Jeff Locke, this weekend is a very intriguing one to watch for. No Jameson Taillon or Tyler Glasnow in the rotation for now, but that can change come Tuesday, if the Pirates can make a move or two.
*Numbers from baseball-reference