Pirates' George Kontos moved out of 8th-inning role
After being scored upon in three of his past four appearances, veteran George Kontos has been removed from the Pirates' eighth-inning setup role.
Manager Clint Hurdle said matchups will dictate which relievers will be called upon to preserve a slim eighth-inning lead.
"I don't see us naming an eighth-inning pitcher right now," Hurdle said before Tuesday's home game against the Chicago White Sox.
"We are going to use, basically, the (whole) bullpen to get outs to get to (closer Felipe Vazquez), without anybody being anointed an eighth-inning guy."
This represents an out-of-character decision by Hurdle, who believes players are most comfortable with defined roles. But with Kontos the lone veteran in the bullpen other than Vazquez, Hurdle said he will let it play out this way until or unless somebody emerges.
"Everybody would like to be 'this guy' or 'that guy,' " Hurdle said. "Well, go get some outs.
"They are all going to get the opportunity. It's a great opportunity for us together."
Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage on setup relief pitcher George Kontos: 'Very intense. Even when he eats eggs, he's very intense. When I get a smile out of him, that's worth more money than the bank." https://t.co/cKR5k8CihJ via @JDiPaola_Trib— Tribune-ReviewSports (@TribSports) March 26, 2018
Hurdle mentioned literally everybody in the bullpen with the exception of long reliever Tyler Glasnow and Vazquez as potential replacements for Kontos. Michael Feliz currently fills the seventh-inning role, with fellow right-handers Edgar Santana, Kyle Crick and Richard Rodriguez also in the bullpen (lefty Steven Brault potentially is the odd man out when a fifth starter is needed this weekend).
"Michael has done a nice job of keeping them off the plate in the seventh, but his pitch efficiency has been something we are monitoring going forward," Hurdle said. "Could he get the eighth inning? He sure could. Could Santana get an eighth-inning outing? He sure could.
"You look at where the lineup is going to be, you look at the part of the lineup that we are going to face. … Crick has got a cutter for left-handers as well as a slider for right-handers, so he may be a guy who will be provided an opportunity. … Rodriguez, that high fastball, that can play."
With the exception of George Kontos' extremely low 2.8 K/9, here are the #Pirates bullpen K/9 figuresRichard Rodriguez: 16.7Kyle Crick 14.0Tyler Glasnow 12.5Michael Feliz 12.0Felipe Vazquez 10.9Steven Brault 10.6 (in relief)Edgar Santana 8.6— ⚾️Jason Shetler⚾️ (@Jason_Shetler) May 9, 2018
Kontos, 32, has allowed four runs on six hits over his past 31⁄3 innings, raising his ERA to 4.58 and WHIP to 1.42, each of which the worst of his seven-year career and worse than any of the other candidates for high-leverage roles.
Opponents have an .839 OPS against Kontos, by far the worst of any reliever on the roster. In 172⁄3 innings, he has allowed more extra-base hits (eight) than strikeouts (seven).
Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.