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As starting pitcher injuries mount, are Pirates considering ‘openers’ for 1-2 innings? | TribLIVE.com
Pirates/MLB

As starting pitcher injuries mount, are Pirates considering ‘openers’ for 1-2 innings?

Chris Adamski
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Jerry DiPaola | Tribune-Review
From left, Neal Huntington, Clint Hurdle and Frank Coonelly talk to the crowd Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019, at PiratesFest at PNC Park.

Clint Hurdle clearly didn’t want to commit to it. But the Pittsburgh Pirates manager also didn’t seem too concerned about tipping his hand.

Are the Pirates considering joining the mini-trend across the majors of using “opener” as their pitcher for the first one or two innings?

“Do we have those guys who can do it?” Hurdle asked rhetorically the day the Pirates placed a starting pitcher on the injured list for the second time in a week. “We might have those guys. We have had those conversations.”

Jameson Taillon’s absence for more than a month coincides with Chris Archer’s stint on the 10-day disabled list. Will the Pirates begin to, on occasion, trot one of their relievers out to start a game?

Other than to say that’s not the immediate plan, Hurdle largely played coy, but he strongly hinted their hand might be forced should another injury or unforeseen circumstance strike.

“We’ve talked about it,” Hurdle said of using openers, “(but) we think we have a solution (to replace Taillon) that we are going to move on to next. And we will let you know, if that one doesn’t work, then (openers) could be something that we do visit.”

Hurdle said the option has been broached “three or four times” over the first five weeks of the season, perhaps after Archer was placed on the IL April 27, when Archer was suspended earlier in the month or when Jordan Lyles opened the season on the IL.

Hurdle seemed to enjoy toying with the curiosity surrounding the topic, one that fascinated fans across the league when the Tampa Bay Rays first started using openers last season. At one point after saying it would take a certain pitcher and a certain opponent and a certain situation that would make an “opener” work, he quickly said, “I’m not giving you anymore.”

When a reporter said he was changing the subject, Hurdle quipped, “Anything’s better right now.”

Hurdle said pitchers who have been used in the opener role seem to share characteristics.

“There’s certain criteria you look for in an opener,” Hurdle said. “… There seems to be a methodology involved in the people who are using them.”

If more misfortune strikes the Pirates pitching staff, we might find out what the organization’s methodology is.

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Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

Categories: Sports | Pirates
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