Pirates to pay for giving up on Gorzy

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Seven pitchers have started games for the Pirates this season, with ERAs ranging from 3.45 to 6.09.  Tomorrow, that number will expand to eight, with the newly acquired Kevin Hart making his debut for the Diamondbacks.  Going the other way in that trade with the Cubs was Tom Gorzelanny, who, quite bizarrely, wasn’t included in the group of starters.

 

Despite some lingering questions about the health of his arm, Gorzelanny was considered one of the Pirates’ building blocks two years ago, when he went 14-10 with a 3.88 ERA as a 24-year-old.  A complete and total collapse followed in 2008, as he finished 6-9 with a 6.66 ERA.  He allowed more walks (70) and homers (20) in 105 1/3 innings than he did in 201 2/3 innings the year before.  He didn’t miss time due to injury until mid-September, when he injured a finger ligament.  He did complain of shoulder tightness in April, but he pitched through it.

 

When spring 2009 arrived, the assumption was that Gorzelanny would have every opportunity to win back his rotation spot.  However, after some early struggles, he was sent down with still more than two weeks to go.  When he was recalled in mid-May, it was to pitch out of the pen, a role he had never filled as a pro.  The Pirates didn’t even give him a couple of appearances in Triple-A for him to get used to it.  He spent three weeks on the roster, giving up five runs in 8 2/3 innings, and then returned to starting in Triple-A.  From that point on, he went on an incredible roll, posting a 1.17 ERA in eight starts for Indianapolis.  Still, the Pirates opted to trade him without ever taking another look at him.  It wasn’t a money issue, as he’s making barely more than the minimum.  He’s not going to be eligible for free agency until after 2013.

 

The Cubs wasted no time in putting Gorzelanny into the rotation after acquiring him, and he allowed one run and three hits over 7 1/3 innings in his debut Tuesday.  He struck out six and walked just one.  The now 27-year-old lefty looked nothing like the pitcher he did last year.  He was throwing 89-92 mph consistently and showing an improved slider.  As should have been obvious to anyone, he still has the stuff to win in the big leagues.

 

Of course, there’s no guarantee it will last.  Gorzelanny has had elbow issues in the past, and we know from last year that he can lose his command and become completely useless in the blink of an eye.  He’s also not exactly a slave to conditioning.  But the Pirates treated him as little more than a throw-in in a deal that brought them two expendable pitchers from the Cubs.  This wasn’t Ian Snell, who failed in back-to-back years and no longer wanted to pitch for Pirates.  This was a guy who had one bad year.  It’s mindblowing that the Pirates never gave him a second chance.  If Tuesday’s performance was any indication, they’ll be regretting it soon enough.

A.J. Hinch: “We’ll use every pitcher in Game 7 if we have to”

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It’s not entirely clear why the Astros threw Ken Giles into the ninth inning of Game 6 of the ALCS. With a six-run advantage and the bottom half of the Yankees’ lineup due up, pushing the series to its seven-game capacity looked like a sure bet. Giles may be one of Houston’s better bullpen arms, but he’s not their only option, and it would have made more sense to keep him fresh for a do-or-die Game 7 on Saturday night.

Of course, there’s no such thing as a sure bet when it comes to postseason baseball. That’s more or less what Astros’ manager A.J. Hinch had to say after the game, telling reporters that he had envisioned a quick three outs from his closer as they tried to pull back from the brink of elimination. “We didn’t have the luxury of limping into that inning,” Hinch said. “We’ve seen how these guys can explode in these innings.”

It’s not difficult to recall the Yankees’ explosive drive in the eighth inning of Game 4, when they exploited the holes in Houston’s ‘pen and evened the series with Gary Sanchez‘s go-ahead double off of Giles. Back home in Minute Maid Park, however, there was a slightly different feel to the eighth and ninth innings of Game 6. Jose Altuve led off the eighth with a solo home run, followed by Alex Bregman‘s two-run double and Evan Gattis‘ sac fly. In the ninth, Giles labored through a 23-pitch outing to lock down the win, handing out a base hit and a seven-pitch walk before eventually whiffing Chase Headley on three straight pitches for the last out.

So, while Hinch’s decision to lean on Giles in Game 6 may have felt wasteful, his concerns were not entirely unfounded. He’s prepared to roll with the same strategy during Saturday’s series finale, too, leaving nothing on the table as the Astros battle for their first World Series showdown since 2005. According to Dallas Keuchel, that means all hands on deck — except for Justin Verlander, whose four wins, 24 strikeouts and 1.46 postseason ERA have gotten the Astros as far as he could possibly be expected to take them. “No pitcher is going to be in the dugout,” said Keuchel. “They’re all going to be in the bullpen, myself included. Any way we can help out, we’re trying to get to the World Series, the same way the Yankees are, and that’s a nice feeling to have.”

Does that mean Giles will be available for a Game 7 appearance? Stranger things have happened. Joe Sheehan notes that the right-hander has pitched in back-to-back days 13 times this year, though he’s never thrown as many as 23 pitches on Day 1. Granted, he likely doesn’t have enough left in the tank for another 20+ pitch run on Saturday, but with the World Series on the line, any help he can offer will be invaluable.