By Jason Shetler
When the Pirates signed Juan Nicasio this past offseason, the original plan was to use him in the bullpen as a long reliever. That plan changed however when Ryan Vogelsong faltered in Spring Training, and Nicasio dominated, which resulted in Nicasio being named the fifth starter in the rotation. This season will mark the call ups of top pitching prospects Tyler Glasnow and Jameson Taillon. With the potential of those arms coming to Pittsburgh later on this year, should the Pirates go with a six-man rotation? – Here’s why I think they should at least consider that option.
The three mainstays in the rotation will be Gerrit Cole, Francisco Liriano and Jon Niese. Nicasio could also stay there, unless he doesn’t perform well, or the Pirates acquire another starter at the trade deadline, if they’re still in the thick of the pennant race. Between the two rookies, Glasnow is most likely to be called up first since Taillon has missed two full seasons because of injury, and would need a little more time in the minors before he’s ultimately ready. In all likelihood, Jeff Locke will probably be the odd man out once Glasnow arrives, assuming Locke can pitch half decent until at least June.
Like pretty much with all clubs in baseball nowadays, Glasnow and Taillon are expected to have their innings limited down the stretch, so a six-man rotation would make sense, in regards to not just limiting the innings, but to be used out of the bullpen, if another starter doesn’t pitch deep. Right before the season began, Francisco Liriano said his goal for 2016 is to pitch at least 200 innings for the first time in his career. While that would be a nice accomplishment, Liriano does have an injury history, which is why having six pitchers in the rotation can allow him to receive an extra day of rest, or even a skipped start. The Pirates have a couple off days in August, so they could always reshuffle the rotation to give themselves the best pitching matchups for a crucial series. Given those reasons, I personally think a six-man rotation would be a very good idea.