In my season preview one of my predictions was that the Pirates rotation would be better by the end of the season than the beginning.
This is why.
I didn’t understand the signing of Trevor Cahill and while I was shouted down pretty quickly with cries that the Pirates needed to eat innings, I never believed that to be something Cahill was capable of providing. Innings hasn’t been his MO and I didn’t expect him at his age to learn a new trick.
That said, if they wanted to use him in the bullpen and spot start should an emergency take place, ok. Using him as a starter is going to go just like it has so far in 2021. One bad, followed by one good and back to bad. Some form of that is going to play out as long as the Pirates want to continue using him like this.
The Pirates have options, Wil Crowe could come up with no changes to the 40-man aside from who would potentially be removed, presumably Cahill himself. Miguel Yajure I could understand wanting to get him some time in AAA and the delay to the start of the AAA season pushes back that timeline. Yajure isn’t a prospect that should be treated cavalierly.
Chase De Jong or even Sean Poppen who just got the call up to replace the injured Michael Feliz are options. De Jong was really good this Spring, Poppen was little more than ok, but it’s hard to see either being worse or at least less consistent than Cahill. Cody Ponce started the season on the IL but here’s a guy who looked good starting last season in limited action, wouldn’t you rather see him?
Point is, they have options and further, without the Brault injury none of this is even happening.
If the idea is to hold out for Brault, we could easily be into July, and that’s if everything goes great in his rehab. C’mon, we’re Pirates fans, everything going great doesn’t happen much.
So what do they do? I mean we have talked all off season and into this early season saying the record doesn’t matter to the overall process, but if you want to learn and grow along the way, being completely swept out of games by the second inning with a guy who absolutely has nothing to do with the future seems at least a little wasteful.
See the Pirates have stated repeatedly that they’ll need all the arms they’ve brought in, and maybe they’re right, maybe we’ll look back on all the starts given to Trevor Cahill come June or July and this will all make sense. Right now though, you have a young team for the most part exceeding expectation in which three out of every five starts leaves you shaking your head.
Chad Kuhl, and Mitch Keller haven’t been much better than Cahill so why ride him right? Well Mitch is someone who the team at least expects to be part of this team moving forward. Chad Kuhl to a degree is as well, if only one more season. Cahill is nothing more than a guy, so if they’re wrong, you’d like to see them pick up and move on.
Now, three starts from a guy who never finished stretching out in the Spring as we sit here on April 18th is probably not enough to really pull the plug, but man I hate to think this just goes on indefinitely.
The funny thing is, the Pirates themselves are the reason many of us don’t want to just watch the inevitable. They brought in better options, younger options, options who have a chance to play a role on this club beyond the deadline this year.
In other words, they shouldn’t be shocked people want to see some of those better options, you know, pitch for the team.
Nobody I know is fooling themselves that the Pirates early season effort and record means the team should compete for the division or anything like that, but it does make it difficult to evaluate everything else on the club while this goes on.
For instance, last night when the game was well out of hand by the second inning, the bats went silent, and the bullpen tossed zeroes. Were the Brewers just happy with their significant lead and looking to get the game over with? Were the Pirates hitters forgoing their patient approach trying to bash the club back into this one?
When your starter gives up a touchdown in the first couple innings, it changes the complexion of the entire game, and while they’re professionals, we can’t pretend it doesn’t change the way things play out. I’ve seen a bunch of 7-1 losses that felt close until a breakthrough happened late in the game, those feel different, and evaluating what has happened feels more genuine.
Think about Brubaker’s start on Friday. All those big pressure situations he fought through wouldn’t have really been pressure packed if he had been given 7 runs in the 2nd inning. Instead he was protecting a slim lead. It showed us something about Brubaker, it also showed us something about the bullpen, even the hitters who kept sticking by the plan. none of that happens if the game is broken out early. He simply has a good start and we leave it there.
Again, the record isn’t important, I really do get it, but I’d like to not assume a blowout loss once every five days, and I’m not someone who is supposed to strap on the cleats and go out there promising the effort and heart that has led to a scrappy offense and bulldog bullpen.
Sometimes the message of keeping a player like Cahill speaks louder than the stated intent of getting better.
It’s one player, it’s not the end of the world, and if I’m being honest it’s probably a bit early to be this irritated with it, but an environment of meritocracy will crumble like a sandcastle at high tide if it only applies to 24 or 25 men.
If I’m the Pirates, I play this out through April, and at the very least put him in the pen if they can’t bear to move on from him.