Sunday afternoon manager Derek Shelton named JT Brubaker as the Opening Day starting pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates
Late last week Derek Shelton said that the Pittsburgh Pirates would not announce an Opening Day starting pitcher. Due to this media members and fans alike thought they would just have to wait until Shelton released his lineup card Thursday afternoon.
Sunday afternoon Shelton changed course. The third-year manager announced that when the Pittsburgh Pirates battle the St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday afternoon they will send right-handed pitcher JT Brubaker to the mound.
Brubaker, the former Pirate Minor League Pitcher of the Year, will now be making his first ever Opening Day start. It will come at Busch Stadium, the same place he made his MLB debut in July 2020.
This move did come as a bit of surprise. Prior to Saturday afternoon’s start against the Red Sox each of Brubaker’s appearance in Grapefruit League play were as a reliever. This left some question to if Brubaker would start the season in the team’s starting rotation or bullpen.
Last season Brubaker set a new career high in starts (24) and innings pitched (124.1). He posted a 5.36 ERA, 5.16 FIP, 7.1% walk rate, 24.0% strikeout rate, and he allowed home runs at a 2.03 HR/9 rate. The home run ball was his biggest issue.
In his MLB career Brubaker has pitched 171.2 innings in 35 appearances, 33 of which have been starts. He owns a 5.24 ERA, 4.86 FIP, 7.4% walk rate and a 23.8% strikeout rate. With Brubaker now locked into the rotation, along with José Quintana and Mitch Keller, it leaves two open rotation spots. Odds are Zach Thompson will get one of these spots, leaving Bryse Wilson, Wil Crowe and Dillon Peters in competition for the final rotation spot.
Brubaker will be the 7th different Opening Day starter for the Pittsburgh Pirates in as many seasons. Last season the honor went to Chad Kuhl, in 2020 it was Joe Musgrove, Jameson Taillon got the ball in 2019, Ivan Nova in 2018, Gerrit Cole in 2017, and Francisco Liriano, the last Pirate to start consecutive Opening Days, got the ball in 2016.