How can a 7-2 win spell the end for a game’s starting pitcher? Well, if your name is Tony Armas Jr., you only pitch 3 innings (again) and the guy who relieves you pitches well above your stats, then demotion might just be in the works.
Ronny Paulino came through with 3 RBIs against the Marlins, and Shawn Chacon pitched 5 scoreless innings in relief of Armas to record the win. Armas allowed 2 earned runs on 3 hits and 2 walks in 3 innings. Jim Tracy, who has been dodging questions about Armas’ possible demotion, can elude the hounding no further. He’s come out and said that it isn’t good when you have to ask your starter for the ball in the 2nd or 3rd inning. Tracy had to do just that yesterday. Luckily, the move paid off, and Chacon pitched well enough to allow the Pirates’ offense to kick into gear.
Chacon only allowed 1 free pass, induced 6 groundouts, 6 flyouts and 3 strikeouts. Could Chacon take Armas’ place in the rotation? Very possible. Or, Bryan Bullington (6-1 2.40 ERA) or John Van Benschoten (3-3 2.47 ERA) could fill that spot. Even if one of those two who are currently in Triple-A Indianapolis don’t make the starting rotation, they could move to the bullpen, giving Chacon a chance to start again. I would be pleased with either decision. Chacon is clearly a better talent than Armas, and a demotion for Armas would mean that Bullington or Van Benschoten would be able to face some major league hitting in some capacity.
One reason for the past 14 losing seasons, is that the Buccos constantly stick with bad pitchers, mainly because there is no other option. Over the past 3-4 seasons, our current starters were all too young and inexperienced to be called up to the bigs. With a tiny payroll, Pittsburgh couldn’t afford to spend lavishly on free agents either. This year, the Pirates tried to get into a bidding war for former Buccos starter Jeff Suppan, but couldn’t match Milwaukee’s offer. Instead, Pittsburgh settled for Washington castoff Tony Armas Jr. This decision is obviously not working out. Luckily, the Pirates finally have some young pitching in the minors who are just waiting for their chance to start in a Pittsburgh uni. Bullington has been putting up some ridiculous numbers, and Van Benschoten, at the very least, is a better fit than Armas.
Chacon, Bullington or Van Benschoten? I’d be pleased with either as our 5th starter. I’d also like to see Maholm demoted, so maybe a couple of these guys are about to get their first chance of 2007.