If you had Jeff Locke as the only member of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Opening Day rotation remaining in his current role on June 19, pat yourself on the back. Injuries have reshaped the starting staff as pitchers have gone on the disabled list and come off of it to take vacant spots.
A.J. Burnett, who started on Opening Day, was placed on the 15-day disabled list June 13, retroactive to June 9 with a Grade 1 calf tear. According to the team’s website, he was in a walking boot as recently as June 17.
Wandy Rodriguez, who was the team’s No. 2 starter, was placed on the 15-day disabled list June 11, retroactive to June 6 with left forearm tightness. The team’s website cites that he threw off of a mound June 17.
James McDonald, who struggled with inconsistencies early in the year, was placed on the 15-day disabled list May 7, retroactive to May 1 with discomfort in his right shoulder. McDonald was sent on a rehab assignment May 27 to the Altoona Curve, and on June 6, he was sent to the Indianapolis Indians to continue.
Manager Clint Hurdle said on June 12 that McDonald’s return was not imminent, via MLB.com’s Tom Singer and Steven Petrella.
Jeanmar Gomez, who started the year in the bullpen, was placed on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to June 3 with right forearm inflammation. Gomez was inserted into the starting rotation after McDonald went down with his injury. On June 13, Gomez was sent on a rehab assignment with the Indianapolis Indians.
These injuries—while significant—do not include the list of players that haven’t made an impact on the team’s performance this year. That list includes Phil Irwin, who was placed on the 60-day disabled list June 3 with right elbow tendinitis, and Jeff Karstens, who underwent surgery on the labrum and the rotator cuff in his right shoulder June 7. Karstens is also on the 60-day DL but is not expected to pitch this year, according to Singer.
In the wake of these injuries, Locke (6-1, 2.19), Francisco Liriano (5-3, 2.44) and former first-round pick Gerrit Cole (2-0, 3.75) have pitched well.
Cole became the first pitcher to defeat former Cy Young award winners in each of his first two starts, via ESPN’s John Buccigross.
Charlie Morton returned from Tommy John surgery June 13 and went five innings, allowing four runs (two earned) on seven hits while striking out five in a 10-0 loss to the San Francisco Giants. Morton continued to improve by posting 5.1 innings of shutout ball Tuesday night against the Cincinnati Reds.
Brandon Cumpton struck out the first four batters he faced in his major league debut Saturday, taking the no-decision while allowing three runs on seven hits in five innings.
Solid starting pitching will be key during the current nine-game road trip. With the average age of the current rotation at roughly 26 years old, how the staff holds up over the next several weeks will be integral to the team’s success. Bridging the gap until the veteran presence is back to full health will be yet another test to see what this team is truly capable of.