Shelton sleepless after sticking with Vieaux

July 2nd, 2022

PITTSBURGH -- Derek Shelton didn’t get much sleep.

Shelton spoke to the media on Saturday afternoon and discussed his decision to leave Cam Vieaux in for the entirety of the eighth inning of Friday’s 19-2 loss, a decision that resulted in the rookie left-hander throwing 56 pitches as he allowed eight runs (seven earned). It was the most pitches that any Pirates pitcher has thrown in an inning since 1988, when those stats started being recorded.

“Sleeping on it -- well , I didn’t sleep very much because of it,” Shelton said. “I did think about it a lot. I talked to Cam last night. I talked to him again this morning. Hopefully, I’ll never be put in that situation again, because it’s probably been one of the most challenging situations.”

The Pirates were down by 8 runs as they entered the eighth inning of Friday’s blowout loss. Vieaux would be Pittsburgh’s last true pitcher to take the mound before handing the ball to a position player. This inning was his, and his alone. Even as the inning spiraled.

The Brewers, even with the game already in hand, were locked in. Double. Walk. Single. Walk. Single. Grand slam. Error. Single. Double. Walk. Vieaux didn’t record an out until his 48th pitch of the inning. Generally speaking, when a pitcher gets to the 40-pitch mark in an inning, they’re pulled for safety reasons.

“I looked up a couple times and was like, ‘Woah, that’s quite a bit,’” Vieaux said.

Shelton didn’t have many viable options. He had already used Austin Brice and Aaron Fletcher. Several relievers were unavailable. With the score well out of hand, he didn’t want to use another pitcher and further tax the bullpen.

The other option that Shelton wanted to avoid was bringing in a position player in the middle of the inning. Vieaux would tell Shelton after the outing that he didn’t want to be replaced by a position player either. So, Vieaux kept firing until he recorded the third out.

As labor-intensive as that inning ended up being, Vieaux appreciated that Shelton let him finish the frame, noting that he would’ve been more unhappy if he had thrown all those pitches only to not record a single out.

“I wanted to see what I was made of and what I could do to get out of it,” Vieaux said. “I’m proud of myself for figuring out a way to get through it and get out of it. Now, I probably will never go through a situation like that again on the baseball field. So, I’ve got that one out of the way.”

Vieaux received words of encouragement following the outing, though they erred on the side of the obvious.

“A lot of guys said it can’t get any worse than that,” Vieaux said, which got a chuckle out of a nearby Tyler Beede. “That’s basically how I’ve been kind of approaching this whole thing.”

In addition to having multiple conversations with Vieaux, Shelton has since talked with the entire bullpen staff as well. Shelton provided his perspective. The relievers provided theirs.

“It’s just more having a conversation and explaining a situation that hopefully never happens to us again,” Shelton said.

General manager Ben Cherington, who also spoke to the media on Saturday afternoon, took some responsibility for Vieaux’s long outing as well.

“My mind would go to, ‘Well, ultimately, I’m accountable because it’s a big differential game,’” Cherington said. “We’re down by a lot of runs. That’s why we’re in that situation in the first place. If it’s a closer game, then we’re not in that situation. The game is being managed differently. Ultimately that’s my responsibility.”

Prior to the game, the Pirates optioned Fletcher, not Vieaux, in order to get Saturday's starter, Bryse Wilson, on the roster. When Cherington was asked if he owed it to Vieaux to keep him on the roster after Friday's outing, the general manager responded that the decision, "wasn't specific to that."

"It probably made sense after last night's game for [the player being optioned] to be someone who pitched last night, and they weren't going to be available today or probably the next couple days anyway," Cherington said. "So, it ended up being Fletcher."

Shelton has expressed on many occasions that his team’s young players will have their share of learning moments. On Friday, Shelton had one of his own.

“I try to learn from all situations,” Shelton said. “This is another one that I will learn through."