Diary of a long-suffering Pirates Fan: If you cannot believe in your team during Spring, when can you?

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PART TWO:  Pirates starting pitching will be impoved...maybe

The 2023 Pirates were 19-9 last April and in first place.  The Pirates team E.R.A. was sixth in the MLB in April.   In reviewing what went right in April, one only needs to look at the starting pitching.  The starting rotation was Keller, Hill, Oviedo, Velasquez, and Contreras. Contreras won three games in April and looked as if he might emerge as an ace.  Velasquez was equally impressive in April.  Of course, Keller and Oviedo were also strong in April and continued that throughout the season.  But what went right in April is also what went wrong.  The starting pitching fell apart.

Velasquez got hurt.  Contreras and Ortiz lost their effectiveness with both pitchers afflicted with a loss of velocity syndrome.  Unfortunately, there was no help in AAA that could save the day.  Help was called up.  Bido, Priester, Wolf, and Falter all took turns in the rotation with less than stellar results.  But the promise of that April start for the Pirates quickly descended into losing with regularity and another losing season resulted. And most of those losses were due to poor starting pitching.

The loss of Oviedo from the starting rotation due to off season surgery is a major blow to the 2024 edition of the Pirates.  The off-season acquisitions of Marco Gonzalez and Martin Perez have the feel of being a band-aid.  Once again the fortunes of the Pirates seem to be riding on Priester, Ortiz, and/or Contreras recapturing what had made them seem to be top prospects.  Those prospects are what has the national media claiming the Pirates will once again finish in last.  No starting pitching.

And yet the early spring training games are encouraging.  Priester, Ortiz, and even Contreras are showing signs of progress.  If they prove to be the pitchers that the Pirates envisioned them to be in the minors, then the Pirates season will be special.  Did I just use the word “if?”  Let me correct that.  Contreras, Ortiz, and Priester are all going to have great seasons.  It will be night and day from last year.  Velocity will be re-found.  And the baseball world will wonder, “Where did this come from?”

But whether they succeed or not; it doesn’t even matter.  Because, unlike last year, there is a plethora of pitching in the minors waiting to be called up.  There is so much pitching that, come next year, the Pirates may not know what to do with it all.  I would argue that the collection of pitchers stashed in AA and AAA may be the greatest collection of pitchers in Pirates’s history:  Skenes, Chandler, Jones, Solometo, Harrington, Meuth, Ashcraft, Barco, and Burrows.  These are just some of the arms that will deliver victories to the major league clubs in years to come.  And the first of those arms will likely arrive in 2024.