Pirates have looked to Class AAA for pitching help
When the Nashville Sounds began this season 14-1 -- thanks in large part to a pitching staff that allowed two runs or fewer in 12 of those games -- Brian Meadows wasn't surprised.
In fact, he could have predicted it.
"We knew we had a good staff, before the games even started," he said. "You looked around, and there was a lot of big-league experience on the team. It was one of those pitching staffs in the minors that you don't really see a whole lot. There, for a long time, we just overmatched everyone."
And it didn't take long for the Pirates to take notice of their Class AAA affiliate. When Josh Fogg was placed on the 15-day disabled list April 22, Meadows was recalled from Nashville and became the first Sounds pitcher to play for the Pirates this season.
With the addition of Jim Mann to the staff Tuesday, that number has now grown to five. From the Sounds' Opening Day staff, Meadows, Duaner Sanchez and Mann are now with the Pirates, and Pat Mahomes and Ryan Vogelsong have spent time with the team.
"Back in Triple-A, we had the best pitching staff in the league," Sanchez said. "Everything was going perfect down there."
The Sounds began the season with a pitching staff that could have rivaled many major-league teams. Ten of the 12 pitchers had major-league experience and five -- starters Ariel Prieto, John Wasdin and Meadows, and relievers Mike Holtz and Mahomes -- had played five or more seasons in the majors.
That experience helped them to amass four shutouts and a team ERA of 1.42 in their first 15 games.
"Our five starters were all good starters, and you could turn to anyone in the bullpen and they were going to pick you up," Meadows said. "Everyone down there knew, at any time, that there could be four or five guys that could come up and take a role (with the Pirates).
"We were all having a good time with each other, and we were all having fun. We did the best we could and just waited for the phone to ring."
The first call came to Meadows after he started the season 3-0 with a 1.00 ERA. Meadows, who started 11 games for the Pirates last season and is in his sixth major-league season, has been called up three different times this year, mostly recently July 24.
The Sounds were unable to keep up their torrid start, but still enter today in first place in the Pacific Coast League's East Division (64-47), 51/2 games ahead of the New Orleans Zephyrs (Houston).
Meanwhile, their pitching had a team ERA of 3.69, second best in the PCL, and a league-leading 12 shutouts.
"There are a lot of people down there who could make it up," Sanchez said. "I won't name just one name because that's not my decision. But there are still a lot of guys down there that could come up at any time."
Meadows singled out Mahomes, Holtz and closer Mark Corey as Sounds pitchers who could join the Pirates before the season's end.
"To be honest with you, the guys that are down there, a majority of them could be up here," he said. "It's just one of those things where they have to wait and see what happens, or wait until September and maybe they'll be up here."