By John Perrotto
When the dust had settled following the seven trades the Pirates made from June 3-July 30 that completely reshaped the roster, manager John Russell thought he was sure of one thing.
“What I really like about these trades it that we have a very solid rotation now,” Russell said. “We’re strong from 1-5.”
It turns out Russell was only three-fifths right in his assessment.
Barring an unforeseen major off-season acquisition, only three rotation spots will be set when spring training begins in February. And those spots will belong to pitchers who have been in the rotation all season _ left-handers Zach Duke and Paul Maholm and right-hander Ross Ohlendorf.
The two starters acquired in trades, right-handers Charlie Morton and Kevin Hart, have been major disappointments. Morton, picked up from Atlanta in the Nate McLouth trade, is 3-8 with a 5.35 ERA in 15 starts. Hart, acquired from the Chicago Cubs in a deal for John Grabow and Tom Gorzelanny, is 1-5 with a 6.46 ERA in seven starts.
Thus, Morton and Hart will be part of what figures to be a large spring competition for two openings.
Rookie right-hander Daniel McCutchen will certainly be part of that completion as he is getting a chance to prove himself during the final weeks of this season. He will make his third career start Monday night against the Dodgers at Los Angeles after going 0-1 with a 4.91 ERA. He was 13-6 with a 3.47 ERA in 24 starts with Class AAA Indianapolis.
Other internal candidates could include rookie left-hander Donnie Veal and right-handers Jose Ascanio,
Eric Hacker, Jeff Karstens and Virgil Vasquez. Veal will get a chance to make an impression for 2010 when he starts in the Arizona Fall League at the end of the season. The Pirates had planned to give Ascanio, also acquired in the trade with the Cubs, some starts this month until he was sidelined by shoulder tendinitis.
Another possibility is right-hander Brad Linclon, the Pirates’ first-round draft pick in 2006, who was a combined 7-7 with a 3.37 ERA in 25 starts between Class AA Altoona and Indianapolis.
“There should be some good competition next spring, which is what you want to see,” Russell said. “I’m looking forward to it.”