Pittsburgh Pirates: Fifth Starter Job is Derek Holland’s to Take

(Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) /

The Pittsburgh Pirates need to get some help from their starting rotation this year.  It is becoming more clear who could be the team’s fifth starter.

Entering Spring Training, the Pittsburgh Pirates most likely had a good idea of what their rotation would look like to start the season.  It didn’t look all that impressive on paper, but the team also did not really do much in the offseason to bolster the rotation.  It seemed pretty clear that they would likely head into 2020 with a very similar rotation to the one the team had at the end of last season. The rotation projected to be Joe Musgrove, Chris Archer, Trevor Williams, Mitch Keller, and Steven Brault.

More often than not, Spring Training can change a team’s plan in a hurry.  All it takes is for one pitcher or hitter to come into camp and have something just not feeling right, a little soreness or tightness in the wrong spots.  This was the case for the Pittsburgh Pirates and left-handed pitcher Steven Brault.

Brault started 19 games for the Pittsburgh Pirates last year and had a bit of an up and down season.  However, in some of his starts, he was able to do enough to continue to stick around in the rotation.  It seemed logical that Brault would be the easy pitcher to put into the fifth spot, especially being he was in that spot in 2019.

Instead, Brault will be sidelined until the start of the regular season, at the least.  It was announced that he was shut down to rest his throwing shoulder; he was feeling some discomfort and the team did not want to try to have him go any further without resting it first.  With him not throwing for at least the next three weeks, the Pittsburgh Pirates are going to have to find someone else in spring to be ready to take the fifth spot in the rotation.

The obvious choice based on spring results is left-hander Derek Holland.  Holland signed a one year deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates this offseason.  The former longtime Texas Ranger and more recent Chicago Cubs pitcher has been used as both a starter and a reliever over the last few years.

Holland is coming off a tough year which he spent between the San Francisco Giants and the Chicago Cubs.  He made eight starts along with 43 appearances out of the bullpen and he actually struck out 82 batters in his 84.1 innings of work, showing that he still has the ability to generate plenty of swings and misses.  Holland definitely will know how to handle transitioning from a potential bullpen role to a starting role as he did last year.

Holland has had a solid spring, making two starts already.  He has thrown a total of 4.1 innings and has allowed two runs on five hits.  The best thing Holland has done is continue to show he can strike hitters out, striking out seven while only walking one.

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Obviously this is a pretty small sample size of work from just Spring Training, but the fact that Derek Shelton has given him two starts suggests he views him as a candidate to be in the starting rotation.  On top of that, Brault’s injury has opened up an opportunity for another pitcher to step up.  With him pitching relatively well this spring, along with being a veteran, Holland will likely be the fifth starter entering the regular season.