Young guns stepping up in the bullpen
The Pittsburgh Pirates appeared primed to have one of the best bullpens in the National League this season. So far, Felipe Vazquez and Kyle Crick have done what was expected of them. Francisco Liriano has, surprisingly, been dominant. This is where the good from the bullpen ends.
After having a great rookie season in 2018, Richard Rodriguez pitched so poorly he was optioned to Triple-A on Friday. After a slow start to the season, Keone Kela had gotten back on track with six consecutive scoreless outings before landing on the IL earlier this month. Rookie Nick Burdi was emerging as a high leverage option before hitting the IL with a nerve issue.
Chris Stratton, Clay Holmes, Dovydas Neverauskas, Michael Feliz, Nick Kingham, and Steven Brault have all pitched out of the bullpen this season as well, and all have struggled. However, a pair of rookies may prove to be the patches that the leaky dam that can be the Pirate bullpen needs.
In the first game of the road trip Montana DuRapau made his MLB debut. He pitched in 6 2/3 innings across five games on the trip, including serving as the opener in Saturday night’s victory, and he has allowed just six base runners while striking out nine. DuRapau has also flashed a filthy slider, and looks very capable of pitching in high leverage situations.
On Saturday, righty Geoff Hartlieb was promoted from Triple-A Indianapolis in a move that should have happened a few weeks ago. After pitching a 1-2-3 9th inning on Saturday, Hartlieb was thrown into the fire by manager Clint Hurdle on Sunday. Hartlieb took over with one out in the 7th inning and the Pirates leading 5-4. He proceeded to get the final two outs of the inning, helping the Pirates earn a series victory.
During Spring Training Hurdle raved about Hartlieb’s ability to stay calm on the mound when things got hairy, and it is clear that the Pirate manager already has some trust in Hartlieb. Moving forward, it would be great to see him become the Pirates ‘fire man’ out of the bullpen. He and DuRapau both should be pitching in high leverage situations unless they give Hurdle a reason not to be.