Luis Ortiz' recent start left the Pirates with a big question for the rotation

Luis Ortiz delivered a great outing in his first start of the season against the Reds. Moving forward, what could the Pirates do with Ortiz and the rest of the rotation?
Pittsburgh Pirates v Cincinnati Reds
Pittsburgh Pirates v Cincinnati Reds / Dylan Buell/GettyImages

The Pirates took a series win in Cincinnati after two solid starts from Mitch Keller and Luis Ortiz. The start from Ortiz marked his first of 2024, and it was excellent. To clinch a series victory, Ortiz threw six innings of one-run ball and allowed just four hits, striking out seven batters. This win improved his record to 4-2, which adds on to his solid season as a long reliever.

After dominating on the mound as a starter, the Pirates have a big decision with what the future holds for Ortiz. They have Martín Perez scheduled to pitch in Game 1 against the Braves, and Marco Gonzales is also going to be starting a rehab assignment soon. Getting those two starting pitchers back to the Pirates is big for the pitching depth, but Ortiz is making a significant push to be in the rotation full-time.

As a long reliever this season, Ortiz posted a 3-2 record with a 3.45 earned run average in 47 innings pitched, striking out 36 batters. Opponents had a batting average of .242 against him, and he had a WHIP of 1.29. Rather than focusing on strikeouts, he started to to go for more of a pitch-to-contact approach, which has limited his walks and has helped him be more productive.

Another reason for his sucess is the additon of the cutter. This season, Ortiz added the cutter to his pitching arsenal, and it has been a good fifth pitch for him. As he continues his development of his changeup, adding the cutter has benefited his game a ton. His cutter has an expected batting average of .239 and an expected slugging percentage of .328 against it. His slider has also been his go-to pitch for outs, as it has an expected batting average of .203 and an expected slugging percentage of .364 against it. There aren't many relievers with five reliable pitches. Which begs the question...

What decision do the Pirates need to make with Luis Ortiz?

With his great start against the Reds, the Pirates now have to consider putting Ortiz in the starting rotation. Although he has had a great season so far out of the bullpen, his best outing came as the starter. Perez and Gonzales are both starters, and both are nearing returns from injury, but one of them could be pushed to the bullpen. At the moment, both also seem like potential candidates to be moved at the deadline, given the strength of the Pirates' rotation and lineup deficiencies.

Bailey Falter is another starter that could be bumped to the bullpen, as he has struggled in June. This month, Falter has an earned run average of 6.63 in 19 innings pitched and has struck out 16 batters. Opponents are batting .359 against him, and his FIP is at 4.47. This has resulted in multiple losses for the Pirates, so perhaps a few outings in the bullpen could benefit him. A few low-leverage outings could turn things around once again, as he had been having a great season entering June.

Adding Luis Ortiz to the rotation could be big for the Pirates. As the team decides how they are going to limit the innings for Jared Jones and Paul Skenes, having Ortiz eat some innings could benefit the team from overloading the two rookie sensations. After the team finishes a three-game series in Atlanta, we will see what the plan for Ortiz is with a big series against the Cardinals.