Pirates Notebook: How Many Starts Does Trevor Williams Have Remaining?

PITTSBURGH — Trevor Williams will start for the Pirates on Monday against the Arizona Diamondbacks. How many starts he has left might be in question.

Williams, a starter throughout his career, was moved into a long relief role after losing the competition for the fifth starter job in Spring Training. Then, when Jameson Taillon was diagnosed with cancer in early May, Williams was jolted right back to the rotation.

I wrote about how bouncing back and forth has affected the start to Williams season two weeks ago. Now, there may be another bump looming. Jameson Taillon made his first rehab start on Sunday and will make at least one more before rejoining the rotation, but it seems that Taillon’s return to the Pirates’ starting five will come sooner rather than later.

That leaves these final starts as something of an audition for Williams. It’s not inconceivable that he could leapfrog Tyler Glasnow or Chad Kuhl and remain in the rotation for an extended stay.

“As we get closer to that, we’ll begin to have those formal discussions,” general manager Neil Huntington said Sunday. “Obviously, we’re thinking about it in the background and we’re thinking about it internally, but not ready to being to talk about that publicly at this point.”

It would have been easy to say, “No, we decided on Glasnow and Kuhl coming out of the spring and we’re sticking with them.” The fact that Huntington wouldn’t commit to that says there’s at least a chance of Williams sticking. If he does, it won’t be because he’s been graded on a curve because of the nature of his season.

“He started his whole career before he got (to Pittsburgh), so it’s not like he’s doing something different,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “The challenges are overall execution, being able to command secondary pitches in hitter’s counts. I’ve seen development. He’s gone out there in games without one of the pitches and found ways to compete. He’s been strong through five. The opportunities have been a couple times to pitch through the sixth. That hasn’t happened yet. The pitch count has been bumped up gradually so they’re still there. I think the development is in place.”

The interesting part of a decision between Glasnow, Kuhl and Williams is that the pitchers seem so similar on the surface. All are between 23 and 25 years old. All are right-handed. All throw their fastballs in the low-to-mid 90s. But there are big differences in approach, and that’s where Williams has had some of his success.

“He has a very, very solid and effective two-seam fastball,” Hurdle said. “The delivery is repeatable. I think it looks easy. It’s effortless power out of his arm. There’s a spin pitch that has played better at some times than others. Sometimes, he’s hung it, but when the slider is working it’s been a swing-and-miss pitch for him. The changeup can play to both (handed) hitters when he throws it. He can still elevate a fastball when he wants. The controlling the running game part of it is intact and in place. It’s a little different skill set. I think there’s a pitching awareness that’s a little more mature than his years. So in his case, I think that’s a strength.”

Taillon said on Sunday that he’s making at least one more rehab start, which would put his earliest possible return at June 7. But Hurdle emphasized caution in projecting for the future.

“We don’t have a timetable and we’re not going to have a timetable,” he said.
Either way, it seems likely that at some point in the month of June, one of the current five will be leaving the rotation, and what happens between now and then may have an outsized affect on who it is.

STARTING LINEUP

NOTES

Adam Frazier will get the day off after going 0 for 4 Sunday and 3 for his last 18. Hurdle citing possible fatigue as a reason for his recent slip. … With Frazier on the bench, Josh Harrison will hit leadoff. He’s riding a 10-game hitting streak. … Williams pitched collegiately at Arizona State, which is just about 10 miles from the Diamondbacks’ home at Chase Field in Phoenix.

  • any game that Jaso is hitting 5th, you are quite likely to lose

    • It’s time to give up on the Jaso jokes, they’re so April.
      Jaso owns a slash line of:
      – .267/.343/.467 in May
      – .342/.432/.579 over the past 20 days

      • Nope- not likely. Jaso sucks. Even players that suck have good months, would you like me to give you some slash lines of has beens and never-will-be’s that managed to put together a solid month or two….. I can Yank out some Chris Shelton stats if you like for example. The point of my post wasn’t so much to say that Jaso is terrible, it’s a statement to the shape of the overall team if you have a player of Jaso’s overall caliber hitting 5TH in your lineup. No contending team would have a part time platoon player that’s never hit more than 10 homers in a season in his PRIME, hitting 5TH well past it. If you want to argue with that, go ahead.

        • Jaso is being put into a situation that is not what was expected of him and doing an decent job. He is a bench player.

          • Exactly. He isn’t a hitter that should be hitting 5th in the lineup. You just made my point for me.

  • Is his control of the running game due to his time with the Marlins? Our guys don’t work on it until later in minor league career.

  • I think it has to be Kuhl down and Taillon up. Williams looked good again today.

    • I agree.

    • Darkstone42
      May 30, 2017 3:09 am

      Not even just for performance reasons, I agree with this. Kuhl has a lot of talent, but there’s something wrong. Let him suss out his mechanics in AAA, and not in our rotation. With Cutch heating up, and knowing we’re getting Taillon back soon, this team isn’t out of it yet. They can’t afford to fix Kuhl’s mechanics in the big leagues.

      Glasnow, on the other hand, just has so much upside it’s worth leaving him up to work on things in the bigs. Because once it clicks (if it clicks), he’ll dominate. Kuhl doesn’t have that upside. It’s not worth it to let him figure it out in the Majors.

      • Kuhl being able to reach back for upper 90’s is impressive, but he Williams, and Glasnow all need the seasoning that only comes at this level. Do we expect Kuhl’s extremely high BABIP of .352 will continue? Last year it was .304. Is it bad luck or bad command? I’ll let the other Hilltopper make that call.

  • Flip Rivero for Watson! Hurdle you are a Mook!

    • Don’t put Rivero, who’s been one of the best relievers in baseball, in for save situations only. I’d rather see a closer by committee and let Rivero throw more important innings.

      • Those days are over due to contracts and negotiations. It could only work if everyone was under team control in their first 3 yrs…I agree with you, but I’ve heard it discussed before on MLB radio and they really nailed it with those points. Yes, there’s the whole “Do it because we pay you to” but they’d never have total buy in when everyone else is getting paid in yrs 4-6 (even more if a Super 2) and they have 16 saves and that’s what the arbitration board looks at.

        Like I said, I don’t disagree with your assessment,but you have to have complete buy in from everyone, Watson included, and I don’t see that in the real world when you start messing with their future paydays.

        • No coincidence Watson was only player to do arb hearing…hope boras can work magic. Betances and new York have battled over this issue multiple years. The pirates are just biding their time with Watson.

        • Great perspective. Well I’d say then with Rivero looking like he’ll be super 2 eligible next year, maybe we don’t want him racking up to many saves yet.

          • It’s unfortunate that teams are playing Russian roulette with closers due to the pay scale

      • Next year they should consider stretching Rivero out as a starter given his mix of pitches and move one of the young guns with two good pitches and a weak third to the bullpen.

    • I do like the idea of moving Rivero to close and putting Watson back in his comfort spot of 8th inning.

      • I think the issue is. The pirates would like to flip Watson at the trade deadline. Keeping him as closer would get you the most provided he can right the ship by then.

  • Darkstone42
    May 29, 2017 7:08 pm

    Stewart came through big today with that triple. Shame he pulled his hammy. He’s just getting old.

    Polanco had been hitting well, too, and then he gets hurt again. He just can’t stay on the field.

    • Bill Harvey
      May 29, 2017 7:17 pm

      Luckily Hurdle pulled Bell from the game before he could injure himself today. I hope he keeps doing that in the future. Most injuries seem to occur while the game is being played, so if you get him out of the lineup sooner, you reduce the risk associated with the opportunity. Brilliant.

    • Dumb move, gutsy but not too smart baseball play. Never make the first or third out at third so no need to take third with two outs.

      • Unless of course you make it and are safe…

      • Without that pulled hammy even Stewart would have beaten the throw by a mile

      • Darkstone42
        May 30, 2017 3:06 am

        To echo the other two comments, Stewart had three easily. He got the injury halfway between second and third and still beat the throw. When he made the decision, healthy, he was going to get there without a throw. You always, irrespective of number of outs, take a base you know you can have. Stewart knew, rounding second, he had third easily. You don’t anticipate pulling your hammy, because why would you?

  • piraterican21
    May 29, 2017 6:06 pm

    The thing to like about Williams is that he throws strikes and gets ground balls. Like many of our young pitchers he doesn’t have an out pitch. Things been equal, I will keep him over Kuhl, Kuhl velocity might be better suited to the pen, but my believe is that he should remain a starter in Indy rather than go to the Pirates pen.

  • Not sure on the right answer but I’d like to see more of the Williams experiment peeling away the LA spot start the numbers are decent and he looks the most under control. As cringworthy as glasnow has been his sample needs more as well. Kuhl is odd out as he’s had the most opportunity to get on track playing out of the pen isn’t easy but I’d like to see him work on settling down in leverage situations at Indy but assume he’d be starting there.

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