Pitchers and catchers reporting to Bradenton for the start of Spring Training is less than a month away. Although the start of the season is closing in, the Pittsburgh Pirates still have holes on their roster. One of these holes is left-handed relief pitching.
Looking at the 40-man roster, off-season waiver claim Sam Howard and the much maligned Steven Brault are available to be members of the team’s Opening Day bullpen. However, neither, and for good reason, inspire much hope in Pirate fans.
Howard has logged 23 MLB innings with the Colorado Rockies the past two seasons. The 26-year-old lefty owns a 5.87 ERA and a 6.16 FIP in these 23 innings of work. As for Brault, he has pitched in a total of 89 games the past four seasons with the Pirates. Brault has struggled as both a starer and a reliever, owning a 4.88 ERA, 4.80 FIP and a 11.3% walk rate in 273 career innings.
So, again, it can be seen why neither Pirate fans, nor, more importantly, the team would have much faith in either of these pitchers.
With the start of Spring Training quickly approaching there are still left-handed relief options available on the free agent market that could help the Pirates. One of these options if former San Diego Padre Robbie Erlin.
Erlin, like Brault, has worked as both a starter and reliever in his career. Due to Tommy John Surgery, Erlin missed most of the 2016 season and all of 2017. Since returning in 2018, he has worked primarily as a reliever.
As a reliever, Erlin has logged 114.1 innings in his career. He’s posted a 3.86 ERA, 3.33 FIP, 3.9% walk rate, 21.1% strikeout rate, and has allowed 0.94 HR/9 in his career as a relief pitcher. His 37.5% hard contact allowed rate as a reliever is below league average.
Erlin’s overall numbers in his career are not great. As a reliever, however, he has pitched well. Due to this, the Pirates should target him in free agency and look to bring him in as a left-handed reliever in their bullpen for 2020.