Now that MLB has decided to play a 60-game season with regional head-to-head, the Pittsburgh Pirates’ new manager Derek Shelton is shifting his strategy from a marathon to a sprint and preparing for the rule changes.
Shelton believes that benefits him, given that the Pirates will play opponents of the National League Central and the National League Central, where he spent the past two seasons as a bench coach for the Minnesota Twins. He compared a season of more than two months to a playoff period, with which he has some familiarity after a 101-win season with the Twins.
“Some guys who have been on the playoff hunt might have a better idea because it’s a sprint now,” Shelton said Wednesday in a Zoom call with reporters. “Managers who managed in playoff situations probably have a little more advantage over how to use their bullpens and the like. But I think it’s an unknown for all of us because there will be changes to the rules along with that. ”
Pitchers not only have to contend with a minimum of three hitters but, in an attempt to speed up extra inning games, a runner will start at second base. On the other hand, Shelton doesn’t have to worry about adapting to National League strategy, like dealing with the double trade.
What the Pirates have to beat is a team of pitchers who will be missing starting pitchers in Jameson Taillon (Tommy John) and Chris Archer (thoracic outlet syndrome), who are out while recovering from surgery. Shelton said he has a “good idea” for four headlines: Right-handers Joe Musgrove, Trevor Williams and Mitch Keller and left-hander Derek Holland look like locks, who are ready to throw four or five innings, but are open to using different options for Him. last place in the rotation.
“We could be aggressive with that fifth place,” Shelton said. “We could be traditional with that fifth place. We could have an opener. We could do piggyback (starters). I think that is something that we are still talking about in terms of how we will do it. The important thing, before talking about who those people will be, is to take them to camp and make sure they are healthy. ”
The good news for the Pirates is that the interruption of spring training and downtime during the coronavirus pandemic allowed Steven Brault (shoulder) and Clay Holmes (foot) the opportunity to heal from injuries and gave Chad Kuhl, who missed last season with Tommy John surgery, more time to prepare for the season. Those three, along with reliever Chris Stratton, are candidates to serve as the fifth starter.
Shelton is hopeful that by using a designated hitter, he will protect his pitching team from potential injuries that could wipe them out for long periods of the shortened season.
“I think the most important thing in this is that it doesn’t put our pitchers in a position, coming back in a quick spring training situation where they have to worry about being multi-faceted,” Shelton said. “They can worry about doing what they get paid to do, and that’s the pitch,” and hopefully, by having this, we are eliminating the injuries of a pitcher who may be on the bases or something that happens on a swing, due to the fact that we’ve had a shortened spring training. ”
Where Shelton can get creative is with the designated hitter, though he’s repeatedly said that he doesn’t plan to use a player in that role. During a weekly appearance on The Cook and Joe Show on the Pirates 93.7 The Fan flagship, Shelton said DH candidates could range from All-Star first baseman Josh Bell, third baseman Colin Moran and right fielder Gregory Polanco. even utility players like Jose Osuna, JT Riddle and Philip Evans.
“Obviously, I’m much more familiar with games with the designated hitter than without him, just because I’ve spent all that time in the American League, and I think what it provides is having another bat in the lineup that we’ll rotate, Shelton said.” We will be able, instead of resting someone we were going to play in our regular lineup that day, they will have the ability to get four or five (at bat) – and I think that is extremely important to us.
“I think it is a really good point, that due to the fact that we are not going to have a person in it, we can do that fluid and we can decide on the confrontation that day of what we want to do and who we want to use.”
Kevin Gorman is a writer for the Tribune-Review. You can contact Kevin by email at [email protected] or by Twitter.
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