Who should take over the 9th inning for now for the Pirates?

With David Bednar struggling, who should be the 9th inning arm for the Pirates until he gets it back on track?
Apr 6, 2024; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman (45)
Apr 6, 2024; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman (45) / David Dermer-USA TODAY Sports

While David Bednar was a two-time closer for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2022 and 2023, along with an astounding rookie season in 2021, the Renegade has stumbled out of the gates to open 2024. He had a lat strain during Spring Training, which caused him to miss most of the pre-season, and this might still be giving him some trouble. Bednar is not on the injured list at the time of writing this, but it wouldn't be a massive surprise to see him head to the IL, especially with Colin Holderman, Carmen Mlodzinski, and Ryan Borucki nearing returns.

But if the Pirates forgo Bednar in the 9th inning for the time being, who else could take over the closer role? Well, the Pirates have plenty of answers, one of which is veteran left-handed flamethrower, the Cuban Missile, Aroldis Chapman.

Chapman has been great to start the year. In 4.1 innings, he's allowed just a single base runner via free pass, has struck out eight, and allowed no hits. Chapman has still shown he can pump upper-90s heat with ease, as his sinker is still averaging out at 99 MPH in the young season. He has touched 100+ MPH a handful of times so far.

Of course, Chapman is no stranger to closing games out. Since making his debut in 2010, he has the third most saves at 322, behind only Craig Kimbrel and Kenley Jansen. They are also the only relievers with 300+ saves since the 2010s. Chapman has been used in very high-leverage situations for the Pirates this year, as all but two of his appearances have come in the eighth inning. The other two outings were in the 9th inning, and all his games played were close games.

Another option that I wouldn't be opposed to is Luis Ortiz. Ortiz has pitched 6.2 innings this year, only allowing two earned runs and striking out four. But his command has been a little spotty, as he's allowed three free passes (plus two intentional walks). Ortiz has been riding his new sinker to success. Although his velocity has stayed about the same from last year, his sinker now has about two additional inches of vertical break and an inch and a half of horizontal break. He is also throwing his slider with more horizontal break.

But Ortiz has shown that high leverage doesn't affect him. He has pitched the Pirates' highest leverage innings thus far in 2024, as 3.2 of his frames have been in extra innings, and leads all Pirates pitchers in win percentage added. He has struck out two and allowed no hits, with the only walks being intentional. For what it's worth, both intentional walks were in one game, the season opener against the Miami Marlins, and both were erased via GB-DPs.

But as of right now, I think the best answer is Chapman. The Southpaw is off to an even better start to the year than Ortiz, and he's a much more proven arm in pressure situations. That doesn't mean Ortiz can't or shouldn't see late innings in close games, but Chapman is the better choice. If Bednar lands on the injured list, the best course of action would be to activate Holderman, have him and Ortiz handle the 7th and 8th innings, and have Chapman come in for the 9th.