With two injuries, how do Bucs address the bullpen?

March 23rd, 2023

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The injury bug dealt a second blow to the Pirates’ bullpen as right-hander Robert Stephenson will likely begin the season on the injured list, per manager Derek Shelton.

“We’re running out of time just because of the fact that he’s touched the mound one time,” Shelton said.

Stephenson made his Spring Training debut Tuesday, allowing one run on two hits and two walks in one inning, after spending most of March recovering from discomfort in his right elbow. But with only a handful of games remaining, the right-hander likely won’t have enough time to properly build up.

This news comes on the heels of Jarlín García sustaining an injury to nerves in the “mid-humerus/biceps region,” an injury that leaves García in a “no-throw status” for the foreseeable future, per director of sports medicine Todd Tomczyk. With García and Stephenson dealing with their respective ailments, the Pirates will have to fill not one, but two bullpen spots.

The Pirates’ bullpen features right-handers David Bednar, Colin Holderman, Duane Underwood Jr., Chase De Jong and Wil Crowe, as well as left-hander Jose Hernandez. The only relievers remaining in Major League camp on the 40-man roster are righties Dauri Moreta and Yerry De Los Santos, both of whom are coming off their rookie seasons.

Moreta, whom the Pirates acquired from the Reds in exchange for infielder Kevin Newman, is enjoying a stellar spring with his new club, allowing one run in 7 2/3 innings (1.17 ERA) with 10 strikeouts to one walk. De Los Santos has struggled in camp (6.00 ERA) but performed well for the Pirates prior to sustaining a season-ending right shoulder injury, finishing with a 4.01 FIP in 25 2/3 innings.

The Pirates could realistically round out their bullpen with De Los Santos and Moreta. Doing so, however, would leave the Pirates with Hernandez, who has never pitched above Double-A, as their only left-handed pitcher.

Pittsburgh doesn't have any other lefties on their 40-man roster, but the team does have two left-handers remaining in Major League camp: Angel Perdomo and Rob Zastryzny. (Caleb Smith and Daniel Zamora were non-roster invitees as well but were optioned to Minor League camp.)

Perdomo and Zastryzny have a bit of Major League experience on their resumés, but the latter has had more success. In 38 2/3 career Major League innings, Zastryzny has a 4.66 ERA and a 3.61 FIP. In 2022, he posed a 3.42 ERA in 55 1/3 innings with 68 strikeouts for Triple-A's Syracuse Mets and Salt Lake Bees.

If García’s injury warrants a trip to the 60-day injured list, the Pirates could add either Perdomo or Zastryzny to the 40-man roster without having to clear a roster spot.