Pittsburgh Pirates: Should They Go to a 6-Man Rotation?

Tom AuSenior Analyst IIAugust 22, 2012

SAN DIEGO, CA - AUGUST 20: Kevin Correia #29 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches during the first inning of a baseball game against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park on August 20, 2012 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
Denis Poroy/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Pirates' Kevin Correia got his wish Sunday night: He was a starter against the San Diego Padres, his former team, as it were. Considering that he had pitched two innings the night before, he didn't do badly, giving up two earned runs in a 3-1 loss.

Correia had been demoted when the Pirates traded three prospects to the Houston Astros for Wandy Rodriguez, who became their fifth starter. That pushed Correia back into the No. 6 slot, which on most teams means a spot in the bullpen.

But the Pirates needed Rodriguez to win the epic 19-inning marathon against the St. Louis Cardinals (in which Correia also pitched two scoreless innings). That created an opener spot for Correia, who volunteered for and got it.

On the other hand, if Pittsburgh went to a six-man rotation, that could allow Correia to start every sixth day.

There are two reasons why such a plan might work out. The first is that Pittsburgh has an unusually large number of pitchers. With the trade of utility infielder Casey McGhee for reliever Chad Qualls (to replace the traded Brad Lincoln), the Pirates aren't shorthanded in the bullpen.

The second reason is that with the notable exception of AJ Burnett, the Pirates' starters mostly lack durability. That's another way of saying that they would probably benefit from an extra day of rest.

Correia is not alone in this respect. Rodriguez has proven less durable than anticipated during his short tenure with the Bucs, Jeff Karstens has been generally good but can't be pushed beyond a certain point, Erik Bedard seems to teeter on the border between being healthy and not and even James McDonald showed signs of midsummer "wear and tear" recently. 

The late-season callups have already begun with pitchers Kyle McPherson and Justin Wilson (Juan Cruz was designated for assignment, and Jordy Mercer was placed on paternity leave). In a few days, the September callups will be made. There will be a new crop of pitchers called up from the minors: Jeff Locke, for instance, and possibly even Gerrit Cole.

Creating opportunities for the rookies might push Correia back to the bullpen. He has shown the way to a six-man rotation, but it's not clear that he will be the beneficiary.