Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Pitcher's Signing Positive Sign?

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Pitcher's Signing Positive Sign?

Article excerpt

On the day they began a potentially season-curdling nine-game road trip, the one that will carry them past the midway point of what retains the scent of a doomed baseball season, the Pirates announced that they had signed Max Kranick.

So there's that.

Kranick, the club's 11th-round pick in the June draft, previously was seen pitching for Valley View High School, no more than a long relay throw northeast of Scranton, where he went 16-3 with a 1.17 earned run average in his career as a Valley View Cougars player.

I can practically hear the question before I have to ask it myself: "How soon can he be here?"

There's little utility in pointing out that Kranick's dominance in his various showdowns with Tunkhannock, Wallenpaupack and North Pocono might not translate into immediate or even eventual success at the Major League level, but it is perhaps highly instructive to mention that virtually nothing translates around here at the moment.

There's no predictive formula for pitching success along the three rivers right now, except perhaps to say that if you're pitching for the 2016 Pirates and your name is not Mark Melancon, you're probably not having any.

The Pirates have had better luck converting failed big-leaguers into useful starters than with their legendary patience and meticulous development of guys such as Jameson Taillon and Chad Kuhl, at least for the moment. Taillon and Kuhl were the big stories of June as they arrived to stabilize a rotation that had screwed itself into the ground, but their stories have been better than their pitching.

Taillon, the second player taken in the 2010 draft, launched a 4-0 shutout against the Mets June 14 in New York, but has been otherwise pedestrian. He has made four starts, but in the most recent two he has allowed eight runs in eight innings, and he'll try again tonight in Seattle.

Kuhl thrilled a rollicking PNC Park audience Sunday night as he stared down the baddest gunslinger in the league, Los Angeles left-hander Clayton Kershaw, but while his evident competitiveness with his bat and glove were highly promising, his stuff was purely meh. He allowed four hits and four walks in five innings, and though he lasted long enough to become only the second pitcher this year to beat Kershaw, Kuhl's ERA settled at a shabby 5.40, where it should feel right at home in the rotation.

Here are the ERAs of the three starters Clint Hurdle still plans to run out there in Oakland this weekend - 5.12, 5.40, and 5.33. The first belongs to Jeff Locke, who, depending on when you look at him, is either the Pirates pitcher who best illustrates the phrase "hanging onto a big-league career by the fingernails," or, well, the ace of the staff. He has seven wins, more than anyone on the staff as the trip began. …

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