Pittsburgh Pirates: Robert Stephenson Appearing to Emerge as Bullpen Fireman
By Marty Leap
As roles grow and emerge in the Pittsburgh Pirates bullpen, it appears that Robert Stephenson will be tabbed as Derek Shelton's fireman
As the baseball season starts to get into full swing the Pittsburgh Pirates and the rest of baseball look to start to set their bullpen roles. While some roles in the Pirate bullpen are pretty clear cut, such as David Bednar as closer and Colin Holderman as the primary setup man, some roles are still being carved out.
A strong bullpen can go a long way toward a baseball team winning games. This was on display by the 2013-2015 Pittsburgh Pirates, and it has also been on display thus far in the 2023 season. The team's bullpen is a big reason why the Pirates are off to a strong start.
One key factor in having a strong bullpen can be having a good "fireman," or someone that a team's manager can go to when they need to end an inning or clean up a mess. Just look at how big of a role Jared Hughes played doing that for the 2013-2015 Pirates.
Since returning from the injured list it appears that righty Robert Stephenson is emerging as the fireman in the Pirate bullpen. In his first two appearances after coming off the IL Stephenson pitched 2/3 of an inning in each outing, with each outing coming with him inheriting runners on base and stranding them.
Thursday night against the Reds, Stephenson once again played fireman. Stephenson took over with two outs in the 7th inning, a runner on base, and the Pirates leading 4-1. He would proceed to record an inning ending strikeout, ending the Cincinnati threat.
Prior to Stephenson coming off the IL it appeared that Dauri Moreta was emerging as the team's fireman. However, Stephenson has taken those reigns in the last week which deepens the bullpen and can allow Moreta to continue to develop in some more lower-leverage roles.
It appears that Duane Underwood Jr. has emerged early on as the team's 7th inning guy ahead of Holderman and Bednar. But with Shelton going to Stephenson to clean up the 7th inning on Thursday night instead of Underwood Jr., it further appears that Stephenson will be the fireman while Underwood Jr. would get the ball to start the 7th inning clear.
Stephenson emerging as a quality fireman in the bullpen can go a long way for the team's bullpen. Having Stephenson be successful in that role could help create a strong Pirate bullpen if he can be paired with Moreta, Holderman, and Bednar.