The Pittsburgh Pirates have plenty of options for late-inning relief roles after signing Daniel Hudson to a two-year deal. Here are a few scenarios.
With the addition of Daniel Hudson, the Pittsburgh Pirates bullpen got a little deeper for 2017. However, along with the addition, more questions were raised for how the back end of the bullpen will be handled this upcoming season.
Here’s what we know. At this time, Hudson will be joining a bullpen featuring incumbent closer Tony Watson and presumed set-up man Felipe Rivero. Juan Nicasio, Antonio Bastardo, Jared Hughes, Wade LeBlanc and possibly A.J. Schugel are all in the mix.
It must be noted that recent off-season chatter has the Pirates shopping Tony Watson as a trade chip. Should be switch clubs, it would cause a ripple effect that could lead to an entirely new bullpen structure.
Today, however, we are going to project the late-inning duties among the Pirates’ bullpen as presently constructed.
With Watson as Closer
Should the Pirates stay with what they have, it is very likely Watson will retain the closer role he inherited last season following the trade of Mark Melancon to the Washington Nationals. Watson had previously been the set-up man for Melancon until the trade, a role he was superb in.
Rivero would slip into the set-up role much like the role he fulfilled after joining the Pirates following the Melancon trade. In his short time with Pittsburgh, Rivero demonstrated closer-like capabilities with an electric fastball and excellent off-speed pitches.
Hudson would enter the seventh inning role in this scenario, although with the lefty-heavy back-end it’s not unheard of to think he could split Rivero and Watson and throw in the eighth inning. Hudson boasts a heavy-fastball and quality sinker which bodes well for potential success with the Pirates.
The key for the back-end of the bullpen and the Pittsburgh Pirates to have success this season is to keep the trio fresh and healthy. Watson has been seemingly overworked the previous three years appearing in 78, 77, and 70 games respectively. Hudson has seemingly put his injury woes behind him, and Rivero had his first significant workload last year. The team will have be ensure that Rivero does not fall prey to the overuse that has now become Watson’s calling card.
Without Watson as Closer
Should the Pittsburgh Pirates move Watson via trade, their bullpen would still be in great shape.
Nicasio, who has the stuff to pitch anywhere from long relief to the late-innings, would likely bump into the set-up role vacated by Rivero as the young lefty becomes the de facto closer.
Hudson – who has a strong sinker and heavy fastball – will be the guy to induce ground balls and blow it past weaker hitters. This complements Nicasio, who with a simplified approach consisting of a fastball/slider combination can give a different look. They would then serve as a nice table-setter for Rivero’s stuff.
The addition of Hudson adds depth for the bullpen and provides a quality right-handed pitched they desperately needed to have. He can close – in fact his contract has incentives based on number of games finished – but his talent and stuff gives the Pittsburgh Pirates a myriad of options.
It will be curious to see if Clint Hurdle starts the year as he did in 2016. In the season’s early goings, he mixed and matched Watson and Neftali Feliz situationall. The addition of Hudson may point him towards that path once again.
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