3 Takeaways From Pittsburgh Pirates First Home Series Of 2019
The bullpen, and its management, needs to be better
Entering the 2019 season the bullpen was expected to be a strength for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Felipe Vazquez, Keone Kela, Kyle Crick, and Richard Rodriguez were all coming off great, borderline dominant seasons and were expected to shut things down this season. So far, that has not been the case.
After blowing game one in Cincinnati, Rodriguez was tagged for three runs, two of them earned, without retiring a batter on Monday. After cleaning up Rodriguez’s mess on Monday, Kela allowed a game-tying home run to Harrison Bader in the 8th inning on Wednesday night.
While Vazquez allowed a the Cardinals to tie the game in the 9th inning on Monday, it was an unearned run and it’s tough to blame him. Crick has retired all six batters he’s faced. So, these two have been fine.
As for the other four pitchers in the bullpen – Francisco Liriano, Nick Burdi, Nick Kingham, and Steven Brault – other than Burdi it can be argued none of the four belong on a MLB roster. Brault will be optioned to Triple-A today for Jordan Lyles, so he will soon be out of the bullpen.
Burdi has the best stuff of the group, but he is a rookie and will take his lumps as rookies will do. Kingham is not very good, but few long relievers are. Liriano is a lefty specialist at this point, but Clint Hurdle has looked to use him as more. Which segways us into out next point…
Hurdle needs to be better with his bullpen management. In no world should Vazquez have not pitched on Wednesday. Yet, he did not.
He also waited to long to go to Vazquez on Monday. Remember, closer is not a position and you should use your best reliever in the game’s highest leverage situation, that does not always mean saving them for the 9th inning. On Monday, that came when the Pirates had a 4-2 lead but the Cardinals had the bases loaded with no one out in the top of the 7th inning.
Leaving Burdi in the game to face Tyler O’Neill on Wednesday night was also a mistake. Again, this should have been Vazquez.
Moving forward, the Pirate bullpen needs to be better. And fans should expect it to be. Ultimately, there is too much talent there for it to not perform better. However, part of that is Hurdle managing the bullpen better, and that has never been a strength of his.