INDIANAPOLIS — Six players from Triple-A Indianapolis are expected to be promoted to the Pittsburgh Pirates now that their minor league season has finished.
Durham’s comeback win in Game 4 of the Governor’s Cup Semifinals matchup with Indianapolis ended that series and the seasons for many potential Pirates call-ups.
Pirates Prospects has learned from multiple sources there will be six players promoted: starting pitcher Tyler Glasnow, catcher Jacob Stallings, relief pitchers Johnny Barbato, Jack Leathersich, Dan Runzler and Edgar Santana.
Nick Kingham and Clay Holmes are notable exclusions from that list.
Some of those names are no-brainer selections, such as Glasnow, Santana and Stallings – based on performance and already being on the 40-man roster.
One move makes sense: the organization needs to get a good look at recently acquired Leathersich.
On paper, promoting Barbato is a move that should be too surprising. Barbato is on the 40-man roster, has pitched with the Pirates already and can throw 95 MPH. You can’t teach the latter.
The surprise promotion is Runzler but you won’t find anyone inside the Indianapolis clubhouse that disagrees with the move in this situation. He’s a leader in the clubhouse and has previous major league experience as a member of the San Francisco Giants’ 2010 World Series championship team.
But Runzler is 32 years old and has spent the past five seasons in Triple-A, including with a new organization in each of the last four seasons.
Now, he’s back in the major leagues after posting a 3.05 ERA in 40 appearances with Indianapolis this season. But his career path isn’t that unique, even if not the most desired. He made 89 relief appearances with the San Francisco Giants from 2009-12, posting a 3.03 ERA in 41 appearances during their 2010 World Series championship season.
“It’s my own. It’s not more unique than anyone,” Runzler said earlier in the season prior to being promoted. “I think I’ve had a lot of things go for or against me, but at the same time it’s not better or worse than anybody. It’s just mine. I’d be lying if I’d say this is where I thought I would be eight years ago today. But I’ve enjoyed it and have learned to embrace it and understand my journey is different than anyone else, and at the same time it has helped me grow as a man and as a ballplayer.”
Spending five consecutive seasons at the Triple-A level could allow doubt creep into some players’ minds on their chances of once again reaching the major leagues. Runzler is no exception, but he never lost faith in his abilities for a long stretch.
“I think everyone does at some point,” Runzer said. “I don’t think it creeps in too much. I kind of know how I’m pitching and I know my stuff. If I felt like I had to change the way I threw because my stuff wasn’t there – but I know my stuff is there it’s just been a consistency issue for lack of a better term.”
Runzler has a 1.57 WHIP, with only Antonio Bastardo, Cody Dickson and Casey Sadler posting a higher WHIP with the Indians this season, outside of position players who made a spot appearance on the mound. But Runzler’s WHIP dropped to 1.11 during 11 appearances in August and he had a 1.00 ERA during that month.
“He has weapons and he knows how to use them,” Indianapolis manager Andy Barkett previously said. “He’s pitched in high-leverage situations as a young man. He has some dirt in his cleats, he’s been doing this for a while. He has weapons. Intelligence is a weapon. Arm strength is a weapon. Confidence and conviction in both make a difference.
“I don’t think he’s had that until this year. He had some injuries, trying to come back from some injuries last year and find his delivery. I think he’s found a spot where he can be comfortable and be who he was both on and off the field. The guy has legitimate major league weapons that are getting attention.”
Runzler has been on the organization’s radar for most of the season. In an interview several weeks ago, Barkett said “That’s not the first time I’ve heard (Runzler’s) name today. I think he’s getting attention to potentially make a name for himself in our big league bullpen.”
Add in his leadership in the clubhouse throughout the season and Runzler’s promotion can be based on performance and reward. Steven Brault previously credited his success in a start to Runzler, for giving the advice of not being afraid to change game plans in the middle of a game if one pitch is working better than others.
“He’s been tremendous and he’s been a leader since Day 1,” Barkett said, noting Josh Lindblom also filled that role before departing overseas. “It’s hard to have that voice when you’re not doing your job, but to his credit he’s done his job. He’s earned his right in the clubhouse not just as a human being in the clubhouse, but with the way he’s pitched, too. Guys look to him and we look to him for leadership and on and off the field.”
The surprise, in a bad way for many, will be the organization not promoting Nick Kingham. They still could at some point over the next few weeks, but that is probably unlikely.
Kingham couldn’t have done too much more to make his case over the last few months of the Triple-A season. He pitched seven shutout innings in a must-win elimination playoff game on Friday. Plus, he’s out of options which will require the Pirates to start Kingham in the major leagues next season if they want to keep him around.
He did have two shaky outings to finish the regular season, but had pitched at least seven innings in five of his previous six starts. He threw an 85-pitch 9-inning complete game and came within one out of throwing another one.
UPDATE 12:15 PM: The moves have been made official. Josh Harrison has been transferred to the 60-day DL to open up a 40-man roster spot for Runzler. Harrison wasn’t going to be back this season, so that was the obvious move to create the opening. The other five players were already on the 40-man roster.