The Pittsburgh Pirates were dealt another blow on Friday when starting pitcher Jameson Taillon was put on the DL with groin discomfort.
The Pittsburgh Pirates‘ starting rotation is off to a solid start to the season. As a group, they are fifth in the National League in ERA and third in FIP. The bulk of the good work has been accomplished by three guys—Ivan Nova, Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon. Unfortunately, Taillon was placed on the 10-day DL with groin discomfort on Friday, so the team is down a key asset. The move was made retroactive to Thursday, but is still likely to keep him out more than the 10-day minimum.
Trevor Williams will take Taillon’s place in the rotation and will make his first start on Monday against the Dodgers. Williams has appeared in six games in relief so far this year and has a 5.40 ERA and 5.35 FIP. He has one career start under his belt. That one came last September against the Cincinnati Reds, when he lasted four innings and allowed three runs and seven base runners. It’s a downgrade from Taillon to Williams, so the Pirates are hoping the injury won’t keep Taillon out for long.
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Taking Taillon’s place on the roster is journeyman reliever Josh Lindblom, who last pitched in the major leagues for the Oakland Athletics in 2014. Lindblom has started six of his 110 career games and has a 3.82 ERA and 4.44 FIP. He’s pitched for the Dodgers, Phillies, Rangers and A’s. He’ll slip into a long reliever role on the Pirates squad. Basically, he’ll be the guy called in to pitch when the game is out of hand and the team needs someone to eat up some innings.
Losing Taillon is another tough blow the Pirates have had to endure this season. On the injury front, they lost David Freese, Adam Frazier and Antonio Bastardo to the DL in late April. They’ve also dealt with a couple of self-inflicted blows courtesy of Jung Ho Kang and Starling Marte.
Kang is currently on the restricted list after being convicted for his third DUI in South Korea since 2009. He received an eight-month jail sentence in March, which was suspended for two years. He’s appealing and his hearing is set for May 25. In the meantime, he has been denied a visa to travel to the U.S., so he hasn’t played for the Pirates at all this year. The team sent him a pitching machine to work out with because he hasn’t faced live pitching since last October.
Starling Marte was projected to be the team’s second-best position player in the preseason by the FanGraphs Depth Charts. He got off to a slow start, hitting .241/.288/.370 in his first 13 games. Then came the big blow to the Bucs. Marte was suspended for 80 games for PED use. He’ll be eligible to return in mid-July. Hopefully, the team will still be in contention at that time. If they fall too far out, they could trade Andrew McCutchen and begin regrouping for next year.
Despite it all, the Pirates are just two games out of first in the NL Central and two-and-a-half games out of the second Wild Card. This has been a crazy year. The World Series-winning Chicago Cubs won 103 games last year but are just 16-14 at the moment. They’re tied with the Cincinnati Reds. The New York Mets were projected to contend for the NL East title and are 14-15. The San Francisco Giants looked likely to get one of the Wild Card spots but have the worst record in the NL at 11-20, and the worst run differential in baseball.
After Sunday’s game at home against the Brewers, the Pirates go on the road for seven games to face the Dodgers and Diamondbacks, then come home to play the Nationals. All three teams have winning records, so this will be an important early-season stretch. Hopefully, Trevor Williams can step up and be an adequate replacement for Taillion and the team can stay close in the NL Central.