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Inbox: Would Glasnow thrive out of bullpen?

Beat reporter Adam Berry answers fans' questions
MLB.com @adamdberry

Could the Pirates turn Gerrit Cole or Tyler Glasnow into a dominant relief pitcher if they had to? Pittsburgh has a lot of pitching depth and Cole and Glasnow throw hard and have a solid breaking pitch.
-- Tom B., Latrobe, Pa.

I don't understand the desire to put Cole in the bullpen when he's proven to be a good starter, at worst, and a great one at his 2015 best. Theoretically, he would be a dominant reliever for all the same reasons he's such an effective starter.

Could the Pirates turn Gerrit Cole or Tyler Glasnow into a dominant relief pitcher if they had to? Pittsburgh has a lot of pitching depth and Cole and Glasnow throw hard and have a solid breaking pitch.
-- Tom B., Latrobe, Pa.

I don't understand the desire to put Cole in the bullpen when he's proven to be a good starter, at worst, and a great one at his 2015 best. Theoretically, he would be a dominant reliever for all the same reasons he's such an effective starter.

I'm not sure the bullpen is the answer to the Glasnow question, though, because we've seen him struggle with his command as a reliever in brief big league stints. And if his command improves, he'll be a good Major League starter -- no need to bury him in the bullpen.

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If Glasnow's stuff is right and he's throwing enough strikes, you'd rather get 170-200 innings out of him as a starter than 50-70 innings as a reliever.

At the Winter Meetings, it sounded like the Pirates were planning to put Cole, Jameson Taillon, Ivan Nova, Chad Kuhl and Trevor Williams in their Opening Day rotation, assuming Cole isn't traded. That would mean Glasnow and Steven Brault are bound for either the bullpen or Triple-A, and it's hard to see what else they have to prove in Indianapolis.

That's not to say Glasnow is becoming a reliever permanently, just that he could spend time in the bullpen (while still serving as rotation depth) next season. That change of scenery could be a way to "rearrange the furniture" of Glasnow's mindset, as manager Clint Hurdle put it, and potentially unlock his potential as a starter.

Video: Pirates willing to listen on offers for Cole

"He's still going to go out with the mindset of pitching and getting outs and throwing his pitches, however, it's different," Hurdle said. "There's not [the] every-fifth-day starting mentality. You're going out, you need to prepare, you need to be ready. A phone call, you're up; 10 minutes later, you're in the game, vs. the four days of preparation. Could that help him? It very well could. We'll see."

What happened to the talk about Neil Walker coming back? And you mentioned [Ke'Bryan] Hayes [as a high-level third-base prospect in the last Inbox], but what about Will Craig?
-- Tom H., Pittsburgh

My colleague Jon Paul Morosi reported last month that the Pirates have at least "some interest" in bringing back Walker. But they hadn't reached out to his representatives at that point, so it wasn't as if anything was imminent -- just something they thought about as they were doing their early offseason planning.

Walker is still a free agent and, according to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman, looking for a four-year contract.

As for Craig, the Pirates' first-round Draft pick in 2016, he didn't play an inning at third base last season for Class A Advanced Bradenton. Hayes held down the position while Craig played first. Two years into his professional career, the 23-year-old Craig has gotten on base (.386 OBP) but hasn't hit for the kind of power (eight total home runs, .368 slugging percentage) you'd expect out of a first-round first baseman.

One third-base prospect I failed to mention, however, is 19-year-old Oneil Cruz, half of the Pirates' return from the Dodgers in the Tony Watson trade. Cruz, who finished last season with Class A West Virginia, is Pittsburgh's No. 15 prospect, according to MLBPipeline.com.

Has there been any word on Nova's knee and finger or Gregory Polanco's hamstring? What about Francisco Cervelli's hamate bone, concussion issues and quad? How is Taillon's recovery and strength?
-- @OffseasonBliste via Twitter

When we asked general manager Neal Huntington at the Winter Meetings, he said everyone was in good health and having a normal "baseball offseason." That includes Cervelli and Josh Harrison, who ended the season on the disabled list, and Polanco, who was often injured.

Video: Hurdle hopes team can stay healthy in 2018

We caught up with Taillon at PiratesFest, and he said he's doing well. We also spoke to Sean Rodriguez, who's going through a normal offseason training routine this year after sustaining serious injuries in a car accident last winter.

The only injury of note at this point is the cut on Starling Marte's left hand that prematurely ended his winter ball season in the Dominican Republic, at the Pirates' request. That shouldn't be a long-term issue, however.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.

 

Pittsburgh Pirates, Gerrit Cole, Tyler Glasnow