The Pittsburgh Pirates and host San Diego Padres have distinctly different pitching concerns heading into the rubber match of their three-game series on Sunday.
While the Pirates are trying to firm up a five-man rotation, the Padres are seeking ways to use seven effective starters.
“We’ll use a six-man rotation at times during this stretch,” San Diego manager Bob Melvin said Saturday, one day after his club began a run of 31 games in 31 days. “But we’re not using a seven-man rotation.”
The Padres won the series opener 4-3 Friday but lost 4-2 on Saturday.
On Sunday, the Pirates will take a second look at 22-year-old Roansy Contreras as their starter.
In a matchup of rookies, the right-handed Contreras (1-0, 2.13 ERA) will square off against Padres 23-year-old left-hander MacKenzie Gore (3-1, 2.06). Both Gore and Contreras became members of their respective rotations after being promoted from Triple-A, but their recent paths are different.
A native of the Dominican Republic, Contreras was in the Pirates’ bullpen to start the season. But after three appearances as a long reliever, he was sent to Triple-A Indianapolis to become a starter.
“We sent him down to stretch him out and get him in that starter’s routine,” Pirates general manager Ben Cherington said. “And he needed to be a little more efficient. He did everything we asked him to do at Triple-A. Earlier in the season, he did a good job in our bullpen.”
At Triple-A Indianapolis, Contreras recorded a 2.66 ERA in five starts — giving up seven runs (six earned) on 13 hits and 11 walks with 24 strikeouts in 20 1/3 innings.
He returned to the majors earlier this week and scattered three hits over five scoreless innings in a no-decision against the Colorado Rockies. He will face the Padres for the first time.
Gore, the Padres’ first-round pick in the 2017 draft, will face the Pirates for the first time.
In 35 innings since being promoted from Triple-A El Paso on April 15, Gore has given up eight runs on 29 hits and 11 walks, with 38 strikeouts.
Although starter Mike Clevinger is expected to return from the injured list soon, Melvin hasn’t announced his rotation beyond Monday, other than to say Nick Martinez will start that contest when the Padres open a seven-game trip with a game against the St. Louis Cardinals.
“The six-man rotation is built-in rest for the starting pitchers, and it allows me to pitch them deeper in games, too,” Melvin said. “This has been good for our guys, knowing you get five days off and sometimes six days off. But when you go out there, you have a chance to be out there for a while.”
Melvin said the rotation decisions will be made when Clevinger (inflamed triceps) comes off the injured list later this week.
“Maybe when Clev comes back, we identify someone who is pitching behind him (in a piggyback),” Melvin said.
“It’s a good problem to have, having all these starters who are all pitching well.”
–Field Level Media