Before the season started, the Pittsburgh Pirates had a tough task mapping out how they wanted to handle the Altoona Curve’s pitching staff — one that was set to contain some of the top prospects in the system. No one could have predicted it would have gone the way it has.
Injuries happen, it’s part of the game, but Altoona has been hit especially hard. They’ve been without Quinn Priester all season. Carmen Mlodzinski has also missed time, and Kyle Nicolas is currently on the injured list.
As the injuries have mounted, Altoona has had to get creative with how they filled the innings, also taking an opportunity to try out some new things.
We saw the Pirates try an opener this season at the major league level, something that Altoona had deployed as well. They’ve also been forced into several bullpen games the past few weeks to try and finish out a series.
In total, seven relievers (six on the active roster) have made a single start for the Curve this season. You can see how recent this has been coming up, with six of the seven instances have taken place since May 27.
|Zach Matson||May 13||2||1||0||1||1|
|Austin Roberts||May 27||2||2||1||1||1|
|Will Kobos||June 2||1 2/3||5||2||1||3|
|Tahnaj Thomas||June 5||2||2||0||0||1|
|Noe Toribio||June 9||2||0||0||2||1|
|JC Flowers||June 12||2||1||0||1||2|
|Enmanuel Mejia||June 15||2||1||0||0||0|
The pitching staff has come through, despite the situation. In those seven games they had to start, they have allowed just three earned runs across 13 2/3 innings (1.97 ERA).
When it comes to the bullpen as a whole, they have the second best ERA in the Eastern League, and have 288 strikeouts in 247 1/3 innings. Despite the injuries, the pitching staff has the most strikeouts in the league during the month of June.
There’s been a lot to deal with in Altoona this season, but the pitching staff has answered the call to do what was necessary to make things work.
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Anthony began writing over 10 years ago, starting a personal blog to cover the 2011 MLB draft, where the Pirates selected first overall. After bouncing around many websites covering hockey, he refocused his attention to baseball, his first love when it comes to sports. He eventually found himself here at Pirates Prospects in late 2021, where he covers the team’s four full season minor league affiliates.
How did Clay Holmes turn into one of the best closers in baseball with the Yankees when he was not trusted to pitch in high leveraged situations when on the Pirates? would the Pirates accept Hoy Park and Castillo for what he has now become and why does this happen so often? Pitchers leave the Pirates and become much more than what they were. Great for Holmes but this disgusts me for the Pirates.
It’s somewhat encouraging that Altoona has had success with their relievers, but I’m pretty skeptical that these same pitchers could see that translate to the major league level. Stuff plays up in the pen, but it’s a big jump for stuff that plays up enough to get AA hitters out, to carry over to MLB hitters.
Some of these relievers are highly thought of by outside observers (Flowers and Thomas). Others are seen as flawed, but with potential carrying tools (essentially everyone but Mason).
BTW, starting relievers is a development strategy. They get innings and a chance to work on whatever. No one who’s not from Altoona cares about the outcome, but getting a couple of good relievers would be huge.
Whatever they’ve done to Tahnaj, he isn’t the same pitcher he was under Huntington.
Please excuse my misspelling of Matson’s name.
Matson is seeing that problem just in Indy. ERA of 9 in 8 IP with 6 BB’s and 5 K’s.
But that’s probably why he was the one who got promoted. Players with potential need a stable environment to work on their issues.