The Pittsburgh Pirates have not yet announced who their fifth starting pitcher will be, but the next two days could go a long way toward helping the Pirate brass make their decision.
As has been discussed many times on this site the biggest battle in Spring Training for the Pittsburgh Pirates this year is the battle for the fifth starter’s spot. Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon, Ivan Nova, and Chad Kuhl will be in the Pirate rotation to start the season. However, the fifth stater’s spot remains up in the air.
At the beginning of Spring Training, the Pittsburgh Pirates said this battle was between four pitchers. The four pitchers they mentioned were Drew Hutchison, Steven Brault, Trevor Williams, and Tyler Glasnow. But truth be told Trevor Williams never had a shot to make the starting rotation.
This meant this battle would be a three-man race between Hutchison, Brault, and Glasnow. When the spring began, Drew Hutchison had a leg up on the competition and was the favorite to win the job. In fact, it was probably his job to lose.
Through his first three outings of the spring, Drew Hutchison did nothing to lose the job. In nine innings pitched he allowed two runs on a pair of solo home runs, six hits, three walks, and nine strikeouts. This included Hutchison posting a strong ground ball rate and having good control of his pitches.
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Additionally, no one had really done anything to take the job away from Hutchison. Steven Brault has struggled with control throughout Grapefruit League play. And, minus his first appearance, to say Tyler Glasnow was struggling this spring would be putting it lightly.
However, in the past week, all of this has started to change. Drew Hutchison’s last start came this past Friday and things did not god well. Hutchison struggled with command throughout his outing, he could not go the four innings the Pirates had hoped, and he got crushed.
In 3 1/3 innings pitched Hutchison allowed six runs on seven hits, a home run, he walked two batters, and he struck out just four. This outing from Hutchison started to crack open the door on the fifth stater’s spot. Then on Saturday afternoon, Tyler Glasow pushed the door open a bit further.
Make no mistake about it, the Pittsburgh Pirates would love for Tyler Glasnow to take the fifth stater’s job and run with it. Glasnow has by far the highest ceiling of anyone in contention for the job. To be honest, there are few pitchers in baseball with a higher ceiling than Glasnow.
However, Tyler Glasnow needs to show the ability to consistently throw quality strikes in order to have a chance of winning the job. In his last start, he did just that. This past Saturday Glasnow held the Phillies to one run on four hits, two walks, and five strikeouts in four innings pitched.
Glasnow allowed just one hard-hit ball all day, and it resulted in a single up the middle. The run he allowed was a weakly hit bloop double that was misplayed by the Pirate defense. Most importantly, he threw quality strikes all day long.
He threw a first pitch strike to 13 of the 18 batters he faced. Glasnow also did a great job of throwing quality strikes both when ahead and behind in the count. In the past, he had a bad habit of throwing very hittable pitches when he needed a strike. He also would do this at times when ahead in the count.
Tyler Glasnow’s strong start last Saturday combined with Drew Hutchison’s struggles the day before opened the door for Glasnow to be the fifth starting pitcher to start the season. Now the question becomes will he take advantage of this opportunity?
Hopefully that answer will be yes. If the Pittsburgh Pirates can get the Tyler Glasnow they have been waiting on in recent years, or a pitcher anywhere close to that, the entire outlook on the season changes. That can be the difference between being a fringe Wild Card team, and firmly being in the mix to return to the postseason.
Drew Hutchison will start for the Pirates against the Boston Red Sox this afternoon. Tomorrow, Tyler Glasnow will take the ball against the Tampa Bay Rays. This makes the next two days very important in the race for the Pirates’ fifth rotation spot.
The results the next two days are not as important as how each pitcher throws the ball. If Tyler Glasnow can consistently throw quality strikes for a second consecutive start, then he will take another step toward winning the final rotation spot. If he pitches the way he did in his previous three outings before this past Saturday, then what he and Hutchison do in their final spring starts next week might be a moot point.
If Tyler Glasnow repeats the success of his most recent start in his next two then there might be nothing Drew Hutchison can do. Because if that happens the Pirates may believe that Tyler Glasnow can throw quality strikes with enough consistency to be in the Major Leagues. And the second the Pirate brass has that belief, Tyler Glasnow will be in the Major League starting rotation.