Burnett could soon get call from Bucs
Left-hander has pitched well in relief role at Triple-A
NEW YORK -- It may have been John Van Benschoten who received the call up to the Majors over the weekend. However, Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said that, if the circumstances are favorable, Sean Burnett's turn may not be far off.
"Sean is and will continue to be under consideration for that last spot on the club," Huntington said. "I think this last spot in the bullpen is something we will continue to discuss internally."
With the amount of work the Pirates bullpen has had to put in this season, and especially most recently, the Pirates felt they had no option but to go with Van Benschoten after the decision was made to release Matt Morris. At the time, the thought was that Van Benschoten was the one who could offer as many innings as necessary if Paul Maholm had stumbled on Sunday.
Coming into that game, the 'pen had logged 96 innings in 24 games, calculating out to exactly four innings of relief per contest. Now, with two days of rest and the bullpen back at full strength, management can begin evaluating its options again.
Those options are sure to include Burnett.
"If we can get to the point where hopefully we don't need so many innings out of our bullpen, then we can really look at what are the best seven pitchers for that bullpen," Huntington said. "Sean has continued excel down in [Triple-a] Indianapolis, and he will continue to be a part of our discussions as we decide what bullpen makeup would best suit this club."
That decision on whether Burnett could replace Van Benschoten in Pittsburgh is one that the team most likely won't make until after Phil Dumatrait starts on Friday. It could also hinge on how Dumatrait fares.
The 26-year-old lefty will be making his first start of the season, and just the seventh of his Major League career. The first six didn't go so well. Last season, Dumatrait lasted just 18 innings in those six starts -- all with Cincinnati -- and allowed 30 earned runs on 39 hits and 12 walks.
If Dumatrait again stumbles in the starting role, Van Benschoten would be the one most likely to step in, meaning that any consideration on bringing Burnett up in his place would have to be put on hold.
However, if the Pirates are convinced that Dumatrait can be a capable fifth starter, and if the rest of the rotation begins to consistently pitch deeper into games, having Van Benschoten available as a long reliever won't be as critical.
While not to the same extent as Van Benschoten, who made four starts and has reached the 100-pitch mark in Triple-A this season, Burnett could provide the Pirates with multiple innings of relief if necessary. According to Huntington, the 25-year-old lefty has peaked at three innings and about 50 pitches.
"I think we are very comfortable he could go that far," Huntington said.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.