Pittsburgh Pirates: Steven Brault’s Second Audition

Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports /

Analysis: The Pittsburgh Pirates currently have a battle going on for their fifth rotation spot.  Steven Brault is one of the three main pitchers competing for the spot.

Steven Brault heads to the mound for his second start of the 2017 Spring Training schedule.  The Pittsburgh Pirates are likely to give Brault as many starts as necessary to gauge if he should be their fifth starter to open the 2017 season.  Brault, who is currently the only left-handed option, is competing against other pitchers Tyler Glasnow and Drew Hutchison.  Based on all three first performances of the Spring, Glasnow is probably in the lead for the fifth spot.

With that being said, Brault pitched pretty well in his first start this Spring.  Brault opened the Pittsburgh Pirates Grape Fruit League schedule last Saturday against the Baltimore Orioles. In that game, the Pittsburgh Pirates lefty threw one efficient inning.  He did not allow a base runner, and he struck out Craig Gentry on a 94 mile per hour fastball. Although it was only one inning, it still was good for Brault to start off his Spring on the right foot.

Second Spring Start

Today, Brault will make his second start of the Spring against the Detroit Tigers.  In the game Brault will be opposed by Detroit ace Justin Verlander.  Brault will likely try to get through two innings today, opposed to only one inning in his previous start.  One key issue Brault had in the 2016 season was being able to stay consistent from inning to inning.  The more innings, or pitches, he threw the less efficient he became.

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Improvements from 2016 to 2017

Brault will have to show the Pittsburgh Pirates coaching staff that he can stay consistent against big league hitters after he sits for a half inning.  This is something he struggled to do in his seven big league starts in 2016.  In those seven starts, Brault only averaged 4.5 innings pitched.  Anytime a back-end of the rotation arm starts, the team needs the pitcher to get through at least five innings. Anything less could have a drastic impact on the team’s bullpen for the games over the next day or two.

Part of Brault’s issue was that the did not attack the strike zone. This is something the Pittsburgh Pirates coaching staff wants their starters to do.  The Bucs want their pitchers to induce contact to gain quick and efficient outs.  Furthermore, Brault seemed to not trust his stuff as he pitched deeper in the games.  Because of the lack of trust in his pitches, he started to nibble, causing him to end up in deep counts, and see his pitch count rise quickly.

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Final Thoughts

It is very early in Spring Training.  For players like Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte, and David Freese it does not matter much how they produce this Spring.  However, for pitcher Steven Brault, every start matters.  Also, every time he goes out to the bump, he needs to show his ability to command his pitches as he builds up his pitch count. If he does this, he will show an improvement on last year.  Also by doing so, he could prove to the coaching staff that he is prepared for a rotation spot.  So as Brault takes the mound for the second time this Spring, look for him to keep an efficient pitch count in his second inning of work.