Correia tabbed as Bucs' Opening-Day starter
SARASOTA, Fla. — Right-hander Kevin Correia, the newest member of the Pirates' starting rotation, will be on the mound a week from today when they open the season on the road against the Chicago Cubs.
Paul Maholm will follow Correia in the rotation, which means the left-hander will pitch the April 7 home opener against the Colorado Rockies at PNC Park.
Manager Clint Hurdle said it was a tough choice between Maholm, whose five-plus seasons make him the team's longest-tenured pitcher, and Correia, who signed a two-year, $8 million deal over the winter as a free agent.
"We had pretty much a split (vote) internally with the coaching staff," Hurdle said. "I talked to people, I looked up every stat you could pull up. One stat would make you think this, another would make you think that. At the end of the day, I wanted these two guys leading the pack."
Maholm started the season opener in 2009. Correia will become the team's fourth different Opening-Day starter in the past four years.
"It's my first one as a major league starter, so that's exciting," Correia, 30, said. "The first one's important, it's nice to kick off the season, but in our rotation, we need everyone to pitch like they're the best one on the staff."
The rest of the rotation lines up with righties Ross Ohlendorf, Charlie Morton and James McDonald.
The status of McDonald, who's hasn't pitched since March 11 due to an undisclosed side injury, is in limbo. McDonald will throw Saturday, either in a simulated game or a minor league game, and will remain in Bradenton after the team heads north to pitch again Thursday.
"First time through in the rotation (on April 5 against St. Louis), if J-Mac can go five innings or 80 pitches, we're willing to take our chances," Hurdle said.
The NL Central will be loaded with strong starting pitching. The Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals began the year with solid staffs, though each lost a key pitcher during spring training to injuries.
The Milwaukee Brewers added Shaun Marcum and former Kansas City ace Zack Greinke to a staff that includes Yovani Gallardo. The Chicago Cubs traded for Matt Garza to go with Carlos Zambrano and Ryan Dempster.
Correia was the only addition to what was the worst rotation in the majors last season. The Pirates failed to claim a 10-game winner for the second time in the past three years.
"It didn't get better last year, and it's not going to get better this year," ESPN analyst John Kruk said. "You can't win without pitching, and right now, they don't have pitching.
"Clint Hurdle can say, 'We have the ability to be a championship team' and try to convince the players of that. But it's a long season, and to me, they don't have enough to compete in that division whatsoever."
Hurdle is unfazed by comparisons to other clubs in the division.
"I haven't given any thought to where we stack up," Hurdle said. "Do we have the pedigrees other teams have• No. But I've learned all we have to do is be better than the other team that night. My push with these guys is, let's go find out how good we can be. We've turned the page on last year."Additional Information:
Kevin Correia's career stats at Wrigley Field:
1-2 record, 8.49 ERA, 6 games, 2 starts, 11.2 innings pitched, 17 hits, 11 runs, 11 earned runs, 7 walks, 9 strikeouts
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