Pirates' Steven Brault treating spring training like open audition
BRADENTON, Fla. – Steven Brault doesn't know whether he'll be in the starting rotation or the bullpen, whether he'll pitch for the Pirates or spend another season at Triple-A Indianapolis.
So, Brault is treating spring training as an open audition for every role and trying to make the most of his opportunities.
"I'm flipping a coin and then just basically saying, 'All right, this time I'm a starter so I will start.' The weird part of it is not getting too stuck in a role," Brault said. "Now that I don't know exactly what it is that I'm going to do, I don't want to have my mind set on one thing. I'm being very open-minded and just kind of letting things come as they will. …
"I'm just out here competing because I don't know. I want to make the decision at least hard for them – or also make it very easy. That would also be nice."
As a 6-foot, 200-pound left-hander, Brault is something of an anomaly on a Pirates pitching staff loaded with tall, right-handed power pitchers. Brault was the organization's minor-league pitcher of the year last season, going 10-5 with an International League-best 1.94 ERA, a .199 batting average-against that ranked second and a 1.07 WHIP that was third. He spent time in both the Pirates' bullpen and starting rotation, and they won all four of his starts last season.
"We did not tell him he's on the team. We told him what the opportunity is: prepare to start and we'll see how it all plays out," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said, reminding reporters that he once lost three-fifths of his starting rotation in the final week of spring training while managing the Colorado Rockies. "It's tough to send a guy back that's done the work that he's done in Triple-A."
Brault is a charismatic character, one who keeps things light in the clubhouse. But he also has an edge to him that showed when he pitched two scoreless innings Tuesday against the Atlanta Braves, striking out lefty Nick Markakis and allowing one walk. Brault drew the ire of home plate umpire Laz Diaz for arguing a call, and apologized afterward for showing him up.
Brault chalked it up to immaturity and called it a learning experience. Hurdle was critical of Brault's body language but called it a "good outing" and joked that the Pirates made him write on the blackboard that he wouldn't argue calls with umpires again as a punishment.
"Since I'm not a guy who's going to make you stupid with a super nasty slider, I'm very competitive," Brault said. "It doesn't matter. When I'm on the mound, I'm going to have that edge. It's not like if I knew I was going to be in the big leagues I'd do something different and take my foot off the gas. I can't do that. When I'm on the mound, I want to win."
That's what the Pirates like about Brault, and why they are giving him a chance to prove that he belongs in the big leagues.
"It's nice having what I feel confirmed by the people who actually make the decisions because I feel that I would be able to learn some things still in Triple-A but I wouldn't be able to learn how to face big-league hitters," Brault said. "To do that, I need to be in the big leagues. It's nice to hear that we're on the same wavelength there."
Kevin Gorman is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @KGorman_Trib.