BRADENTON FL - FEBRUARY 20: Pitcher Rudy Owens #73 of the Pittsburgh Pirates poses for a photo during photo day at Pirate City on February 20 2011 in Bradenton Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
Looking over Rob Biertempfel's note from yesterday that Jeff Karstens, Brian Burres or Brad Lincoln are candidates to start in place of Ross Ohlendorf while Ohlendorf is on the DL, it struck me as a shame that Rudy Owens isn't on the 40-man roster right now. Owens pitched well in his Class AAA debut yesterday, posting five strikeouts and no walks while allowing one run over seven innings. (He did give up two doubles and a homer.) Because the Bucs had an off day yesterday, he next time they need an extra starter is Saturday, which would mean Owens would be perfect, getting four days of rest before making his first big-league start.
In addition to Owens not being on the 40-man, the Pirates have pretty specific development plans they usually stick to for top prospects. But as I've said before, Owens has the sort of polish that would make him a good candidate to succeed right away. And while Kyle Stark has emphasized the need for Class AAA to function as an emergency supply of potential major-leaguers in case someone gets hurt, I think it's pretty likely that Owens would be a better spot starter right now than guys like Karstens, Burres or Lincoln. That makes someone like Burres pretty superfluous, and unless you're Burres or his mother or something, that's a very good thing.
If I were in charge, I might just go ahead and put Owens on the roster and give him the start. That does complicate things a little, in that you then have to keep Owens on the 40-man, but since it looks very likely he'll be added at some point this year anyway, I don't think that's a big deal.
The other downside is that you start his arbitration clock. A couple things about that. First, as of right now, the Ohlendorf injury is just a strain, so hopefully Owens would just be up for a couple of spot starts. And even if that turned out not to be the case, it's not certain what will happen with Super Twos in the next Collective Bargaining Agreement, so whether Owens gets to the big leagues in April or mid-June might not even turn out to matter in terms of his future salaries.
Anyway, Burres pitched for Indianapolis today, so he'd only have three days' rest before Saturday, and he isn't on the 40-man roster either, so I'm guessing the Bucs will go with Lincoln or Karstens, probably Karstens.