The Pittsburgh Pirates went into the season with a starting rotation of A.J. Burnett, Wandy Rodriguez, James McDonald, Jeff Locke and Jonathan Sanchez. In addition to those five, starters Charlie Morton, Francisco Liriano and Jeff Karstens all started the year on the disabled list.
Since then, guys have been flying in and out of the rotation for a myriad of reasons.
First, Jonathan Sanchez was released after posting an 11.85 ERA in four starts and one relief appearance. Then McDonald, who Clint Hurdle was losing patience with, went on the disabled list after making six April starts and posting a 5.76 ERA.
By mid-May, Liriano had returned from his injury and was joined by Burnett, Rodriguez, Locke and former long-man Jeanmar Gomez. The five saw a considerable amount of success, as they teamed up with the Shark Tank to serve as the backbone of the Pirates’ very successful May.
With the latest injuries to Burnett and Rodriguez landing them on the disabled list alongside starters McDonald and Gomez, the Pirates' depth at starting pitcher is being tested.
Luckily for the squad (and its fans), they can confidently tread forward in what has been a surprisingly successful season. The team would be hard-pressed to deal with losing Rodriguez and Burnett for the entire season, but they have enough depth at starter to keep their heads above water.
On Friday night, Locke will be starting in place of the injured Burnett. Locke was scheduled to start on Saturday on five days rest, but was pushed into Burnett’s spot in Hurdle’s rotation. Monday’s off-day has given the Bucs the luxury of starting Locke on (the typical) four days rest.
After Burnett went down, there was speculation over who would make Friday’s start, but with the announcement that Locke will start Friday, the same speculation shifts to Saturday.
With Burnett on the disabled list, it’s unlikely that the team will elect to give one of their bullpen guys a spot start.
Both righty McDonald and lefty Andy Oliver have a chance of making Saturday’s start and filling into the open rotation spot left by Burnett.
Further assumptions as to who will start are pointless at this juncture, but it seems extremely likely that if the Bucs go to Oliver and he has success, he won’t lose his spot to the polarizing McDonald who is currently rehabbing in Indy.
The Pirates traded catcher Ramon Cabrera to the Detroit Tigers this winter for Oliver. The 25-year-old lefty made a total of seven starts for the Tigers in 2010 and 2011.