Carmen Mlodzinski is establishing himself back into the Pirates bullpen

Pittsburgh Pirates v Cincinnati Reds
Pittsburgh Pirates v Cincinnati Reds / Dylan Buell/GettyImages

Carmen Mlodzinski has had a roller coaster of a season so far, which is finally paying off for both himself and the Pirates. After having a great rookie campaign, Mlodzinski came into spring training as one of the projected high-leverage relievers in the team's highly ranked bullpen. During the spring, he suffered an injury, which delayed his start to the season and ultimately pushed him out of the MLB bullpen.

In April, Mlodzinski had a rehab assignment in Indianapolis, but was optioned there after the assignment was over. He stayed there until the middle of May when the Pirates needed a new arm in the bullpen. In 12 appearances with Indianapolis, Mlodzinski posted a 6.43 earned run average in 14 innings pitched and struck out 13 batters. Opponents had a batting average of .316 against him and he had a WHIP of 1.79. He certainly didn't earn a call-up through recent performance, but the Pirates were willing to give him a chance in the major league bullpen.

In his first few outings with the Pirates, Mlodzinski did not perform well. During May, he posted a 9.39 earned run average in 9.2 innings pitched and struck out eight batters. Opponents had a .333 batting average against him and his WHIP was high, raising alarms at 2.09. This was not good, but he turned things around in the month of June.

Pirates' Carmen Mlodzinski has climbed back to 2023 heights in June

In June, Mlodzinski emerged as one of the better relievers in an injured and depleted bullpen. The team lost All-Star closer David Bednar, as well as stalwart Hunter Stratton recently. In his dominant month, Mlodzinski has posted a 1.23 earned run average in 14.2 innings pitched and has struck out 11 batters. Opponents are batting just .192 against him and his WHIP is at 0.89. This was a quick turnaround to his extremely poor start.

Part of his success this season has come from increased usage of his slider. He has split the usage between his sweeper and slider, which has ultimately generated more swings and misses from each. Last season, Mlodzinski did not even use a slider, and now it is one of his best pitches. Both of them have whiff percentages around 35%. Upping the usage of his cutter has also benefitted him, as the pitch has generated an expected batting average of .245 and an expected slugging percentage of .399, varying his offering in the process.

Although there was uncertainty regarding Mlodzinski being effective in the major leagues after his bleak start in Triple-A this season, he has proven that he can be an important piece to the Pirates' bullpen down the stretch. As the Pirates wait for Bednar, Stratton, and Ryan Borucki to return from injuries, they are happily able to count on Mlodzinski to pitch in big situations.