Pittsburgh Pirates bullpen starts to take shape with latest round of cuts

The Pittsburgh Pirates’ 2018 bullpen picture got a little clearer today with the announcement of the club’s latest round of spring cuts.

The Pittsburgh Pirates announced their latest round of Spring Training cuts/reassignments/options today. While most were expected, one of the reassignments shows us that the team’s bullpen is starting to stack up.

The options to Indy of Clay Holmes and Austin Meadows are not surprising.

Both were heavy longshots to survive past the first month of camp. Holmes was a bit touched up in a one-inning outing on March 7th – allowing three earned runs in one frame. He had clean appearances in two of his four spring outings, and leaves Bradenton with a 4.91 ERA across 7.1 innings of work. While his numbers were obviously not worthy of lingering around in Major League camp, Holmes might have shown just enough to give the club confidence that he can serve as a go-to depth option at Indianapolis.

Meadows had a fantastic spring, going 7-for-19 with a home run and just two strikeouts. It was a positive step for the team’s top position player prospect, who will take any drab of positivity that comes his way after a couple of injury-riddled developmental years. While such a quality is hard to quantify, it can only set Meadows’ season off on the right foot.

The team’s slate of reassigned players to minor league camp offer little surprises.

A big bullpen clue?

The Pittsburgh Pirates made it a point to load up on bullpen arms with strikeout ability over the offseason. Jack Leathersich‘s inclusion in this round of reassignments tells us that the dominoes are beginning to fall as the relief unit starts to round into shape.

Leathersich did himself no favors this spring, getting tagged for four runs in an ugly appearance on March 2nd. Over his two-thirds of an inning on that day, Leathersich walked three batters across just 15 pitches. He failed to rebound, allowing two walks in his next outing on March 8th, though he did rack up two strikeouts in what amounted to a clean inning. This comes on the back of a six-appearance “audition” of sorts when the left-hander joined the Pittsburgh Pirates late last season. He struck out six and walked two across those 4.1 innings, so perhaps a bit of control issues were to be expected. For his career, Leathersich has a 7.0 BB/9 rate over a scant 16.2 major league innings.

Though he was not involved in a direct competition with fellow southpaw strikeout artist Josh Smoker, it was Smoker that has shown better this spring. Across four innings, Smoker has yet to walk a batter and has allowed a lone hit against five strikeouts. Smoker also has the track record advantage over Leathersich, with 71.2 big league innings to his name. Across those innings, Smoker strikes out 11.7 per nine while walking 4.5.

It would certainly appear as if Smoker has an inside track to a big-league bullpen Opening Day spot, though recent lefty addition Kevin Siegrist will continue to push for a spot as well.

Jason Rollison

Jason Rollison has been analyzing baseball and the Pirates in one way or another for 4+ years. Jason's previous stops include rumbunter.com, Pittsburgh Sporting News, Call To The Pen and several print publications. He also covers the State College Spikes for the Centre County Gazette (State College, PA) When it comes to analyzing baseball, he likes to take a middle-of-the-road approach, with one foot on the analytics side of the fence and the other on the old-school side. Having said that, he is a sucker for pitchf/x. Jason has appeared as a phone-in and in-studio guests in numerous outlets, including Trib Live Radio and 93.7 The Fan (CBS Sports Radio)