On April 3, the Pirates rotation sported five healthy pitchers on the cusp of what was expected to be a fine season. After all, this was Pittsburgh, where pitchers came to revive their careers. Gerrit Cole was a solid anchor, but even the somewhat less intriguing likes of Francisco Liriano, Jeff Locke, Jon Niese, and Juan Nicasio would have a chance to break through. At the very least, they’d eat some innings.
Flash ahead to late August, and not a single one of those men still pitches from the Pirates’ starting rotation. Locke and Nicasio were relegated to relief duty, Niese wound up back on the Mets, Liriano was dealt to the Blue Jays, and now Cole, the ace, is headed for some time off to recover from elbow inflammation.
Always the optimist, Jon Morosi weighed in.
It was not great news for the Pirates, still desperate to swindle a playoff spot, but it isn’t as though Cole had been alleviating stress. In four of his five August starts, he failed to reach the sixth inning, logging a 6.08 ERA for the month and only 2.44 SO/BB. His last start against the Astros was no fun, as he lasted only 77 pitches and allowed 5 ER in 5 IP.
Into Cole’s place will step Steven Brault from Triple A Indianapolis, who has a 3.91 ERA through 71.1 IP this season. Brault has made three 2016 starts for the Pirates, lasting a total of 14 innings. It’s a rough spot to in which to land for a team that still has six games to play against the Cubs. The Pirates remain 1.5 GB the Cardinals for a wild-card spot.