How long will the Pirates continue to carry eight relievers?

It’s been a good start to the season for the Pittsburgh Pirates, unless you’re a relief pitcher that is.

Wednesday night was another awful day for the Bucs pen as they gave up nine runs in three innings of work.

Tyler Glasnow allowed four earned runs in two-thirds of an inning. Josh Smoker followed with four earned in 1.1 innings and Dovydas Neverauskas allowed an earned run in his only inning of work.

It’s only been 11 games so you can’t overreact too much, but a couple of these guys just aren’t MLB-caliber pitchers.

Coming out of spring training, Neal Huntington and Clint Hurdle decided to carry eight relievers and a four-man bench. Given the way the season has gone so far it was probably the right move.

Many thought the Bucs would have sent a reliever down and called up another bat by now, but given the state of this bullpen right now that really hasn’t been possible.

How long will the Bucs stick to just a four-man bench though?

Current Bullpen

Right now, the Pirates have the worst bullpen ERA in all of baseball at 7.51. They’ve allowed a whopping 32 earned runs in 38.1 innings of work and the opposition is hitting .282 off them.

Blame the weather, blame what you want, but the reality is that the bullpen just is not getting batters out in the early going.

Collectively, Pirates relievers have made 37 appearances so far.  They’ve given up at least one earned run in 19 of those. That’s more than 50 percent of the time.

It’s a small sample size, but right now every other Pirates relief appearance has resulted in at least one run given up.

And all of the runs they’ve allowed so far doesn’t include the inherited runners they’ve allowed to score.

So far they’ve allowed eight inherited runners to score in 11 games.

Four of those belong to Edgar Santana, two to Smoker and one each to Neverauskas and Felipe Vasquez.

The bullpen ERA’s are ugly. Glasnow has the best one at 6.75 (I’m not including Clay Holmes) and Neverauskas has the worst at 11.57. Everyone else is either at 7.20 or 9.00.

It’s early so a couple week stretch of good pitching will bring those numbers down, but to do so they have to start getting guys out.

The Offense

With the way the offense is hitting the ball, there’s no real need for a fifth bench guy at the moment.

Guys aren’t in need of being pinch hit for and everyone is healthy.

That could change instantly though.

If the Bucs get them into some close late game situations, it may be nice to have the extra bat off the bench, but right now it isn’t necessary.

Elias Diaz gets some starts when Francisco Cervelli needs a day off and with the way everyone else is swinging the bats, it’s been hard to get AB’s for Sean Rodriguez, David Freese and Adam Frazier, unless a southpaw is on the hill.

Clay Holmes

The Pirates have an eight-man bullpen.

Or do they?

I have no idea why Holmes is on the active roster right now. Hurdle isn’t going to use him very much, if at all. Therefore he’s just a body taking up a roster spot.

It’s hard to imagine Holmes being used in any meaningful situation and even with the Bucs down 12-5 Wednesday night, Holmes didn’t get a look.

It’s truly pointless that he’s up and taking up a roster spot that could go to another arm or bat.

Eight is fine, but a different eight?

So Holmes shouldn’t be up and truth be told neither should Smoker or Neverauskas.

Smoker shouldn’t be in the big leagues and until Neverauskas can develop a strike out pitch he probably shouldn’t be either.

So an eight-man bullpen is fine, but just not these eight guys.

The problem is who do you replace the three guys with?

Kevin Siegrist is on the suspended list right now so he’s likely not an option, but his dip in velocity was concerning anyway.

Otherwise no one in spring training really did anything to separate themselves from anyone else.

Kyle Crick is the likely option and has struck out five in four innings at Triple-A Indianapolis so far without issuing a walk

Nick Kingham isn’t going to be promoted to pitch out of the pen and neither is any of the other Indianapolis starters. Maybe a guy like Casey Sadler gets pulled from the Triple-A rotation, but otherwise there aren’t many viable relief options that could be promoted.

I didn’t have much of a problem of not spending money in free agency except in the bullpen. There were countless relievers available and the Pirates are paying the price for not bringing one or two in.

For now the bullpen will likely carry eight relievers for the next couple weeks.

It just isn’t going to be the eight right guys to make this a good bullpen.

Matt Shetler

Matt is a life long Pirates fan with both a newspaper and radio background. Before coming to Pirates Breakdown he was most recently the co-owner and lead columnist for Pittsburgh Sporting News. He has been a credentialed writer for all four major sports and also has written for plenty of other sports and fantasy sports websites.