Tonight, Jeff Locke takes the mound for the first time against the Florida Marlins. He was the third Atlanta Brave acquired in trade for Nate McLouth over two years ago. As inconsistent as he as been, Charlie Morton, the original centerpiece of the trade, has been worth no less than McLouth, meaning that if Locke (and/or Gorkys Hernandez) amounts to anything, the Pirates would have gotten the better of the deal.

Most of the Pirates’ most critical September call-ups are pitchers. Pitching is what has gotten the team as far as it did, a Central Division contender, as late as late July. Its collapse in August accounted for the Buc’s swoon last month.

This is particularly true because two of the Pirates’ earlier mainstays, Kevin Correia and Paul Maholm have been shut down for the month. Two more, Jeff Karstens and Charlie Morton, are question marks for the rest of the month.

But September is the month when teams get to expand their rosters by 15 players. This helps contenders get ready for the postseason. If it had happened a month earlier, when the Bucs were a real postseason threat, it might possible have saved their season, if not for the playoffs, for .500 ball. It’s now too late to talk about THIS season but not too early to start thinking about the NEXT one.

Earlier, this month, we got to see what Brian Burres can do. Burres was in and lost a neck-and-neck race to Jeff Karstens for “fifth” starter. Karstens turned out to be much better than a fifth starter, meaning that if Burres is only “slightly” worse than Karstens, that would be very good indeed.


Burres was impressive in a 5.1 inning, one-run start against the Chicago Cubs. He did less well in 3.2 innings against the Houston Astros (a no-decision that the Pirates won). Basically, he can pitch well for “short” innings but seldom more than six. That’s acceptable, given the Pirates’ bullpen heavy staff. Alternatively, Burres can work out of the bullpen as a “long” reliever.

On the other hand, Ross Ohlendorf appears not to have recovered from his injuries. He was acquired along with Karstens (plus Jose Tabata and Dan McCutchen) in a trade of Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte to the New York Yankees in 2008. He hasn’t been doing well since a rough 2010 spring training.

The other replacement pitcher of note is Brad Lincoln, although he worked as a reliever early in August, before starting in games in August and September. He’s had four consecutive quality starts, which represents an improvement from 2010.

The Pirates have a number of competent, but “short-innings” pitchers. As such, they need to pay more attention than most teams to their replacements. In 2011, it seems like the “replacement” process started too late to prevent the team from going back to their losing ways.



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