Pittsburgh Pirates: Bullpen Flashes Potential on Opening Day

Apr 1, 2021; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates relief pitcher Richard Rodriguez (48) delivers against the Chicago Cubs in the ninth inning at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 1, 2021; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates relief pitcher Richard Rodriguez (48) delivers against the Chicago Cubs in the ninth inning at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports /
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In their 5-3 Opening Day victory over the Chicago Cubs the bullpen of the Pittsburgh Pirates flashed their potential

The 2021 season will likely be a long one for the Pittsburgh Pirates. While the team is better than they were last season when they finished with the worst record in Major League Baseball, odds are, the Pirates will once again finish among the worst records in MLB.

While the Pirate roster has plenty of holes and question marks entering the season, one area that could be a strength for the Pirates this season is the bullpen. In Thursday afternoon’s 5-3 season opening win over the Cubs the bullpen flashed this potential.

There is strong argument to be made that the bullpen was the driving force in the Opening Day victory for the Pittsburgh Pirates. After starting pitcher Chad Kuhl lasted just 3 innings, the bullpen allowed just 1 run in 6 innings of work. In these 6 innings Pirate relievers faced 20 batters, just two over the minimum, striking out 11 of the 20 Cub batters they faced.

Duane Underwood Jr. and Sam Howard both pitched 1-2-3 innings while striking out all three batters they faced. Clay Holmes and David Bednar each pitched a 1-2-3 inning as well, combining for three strikeouts in the process.

For Bednar, his 2021 debut had to be extra gratifying. Not only did he pitch a 1-2-3 inning while recording a pair of strikeouts in his debut with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Bednar is a Pittsburgh area native. Hailing from Mars, PA, Bednar could not have asked for a better Pirate debut.

Righties Chris Stratton and Richard Rodriguez, the two veteran presences in the Pirate bullpen, were summoned to get the final six outs of the game. While the two veterans allowed the two lone base runners and the lone run the Pirate bullpen allowed in the game, they successfully got the final six outs of the game. This included Rodriguez striking out a pair as he picked up the save.

The Pirate bullpen have multiple electric arms in their bullpen. This goes without including Kyle Crick who will start the season on the paternity list. During Grapefruit League play Crick’s fastball velocity still was not as a high as it was in 2018 and 2019, but his slider looked as wicked as ever. So in the next few days, the Pittsburgh Pirates will be adding another quality arm to their bullpen when Crick returns.

The two relievers the Pittsburgh Pirates did not use on Thursday – righties Michael Feliz and Luis Oviedo – bring great potential as well. Feliz has always had the stuff to be a quality MLB reliever but has yet to find consistency with his control and limiting home runs and Oviedo was a top 10 prospect in the Indian farm system before the Pirates traded for him during the Rule 5 Draft.

While the Pirates could look to trade Stratton and/or Rodriguez this summer the team also have quality arms behind them in the farm system. Top relief prospects Nick Mears and Blake Weiman are on the doorstep of the Major League level. Yerry De Los Santos is another reliever prospect to watch this season.

Next. Chad Kuhl's Path to Success. dark

The bullpen has the potential to be sneaky good and a strength for the Pittsburgh Pirates this season. Thursday afternoon the bullpen flashed this potential in the team’s Opening Day victory. Look for the bullpen to continue to be a strength for the Pirates this season.