What To Do With Jose Ascanio?

BRADENTON FL - FEBRUARY 20: Pitcher Jose Ascanio #45 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)

Tim reminds me that the Pirates will have a decision to make this week regarding Jose Ascanio, who pitched an inning Monday for Indianapolis. Ascanio is out of options and his rehab period is coming to an end, which means that the Pirates will have to decide whether to add him to the 25-man roster or risk losing him.

It's been a long road for Ascanio - he has been either injured or lingering on the periphery of one major league roster or another for so long that it feels like he's been around forever, but he only has 39.2 career big-league innings pitched.

Ascanio's results so far this year have been poor - in 11 innings between Indianapolis and Bradenton, he has 12 runs allowed. He also has 11 strikeouts, but striking out a batter an inning isn't so hard to do when you're allowing nearly two batters an inning to reach base.

Of course, that's still a very small sample size, and the Pirates should probably base their decision on how Ascanio looks and on the construction of their bullpen. On the first count, Neal Huntington says that Ascanio's velocity has been strong:

"Velocity-wise, he has been up to 96 [mph], maybe 97," general manager Neal Huntington said. "He's shown a good slider. He's been somewhat inconsistent. We have challenged him to get two-inning outings, because that's probably what his role would be up here."

Ascanio has a terrific arm when he's healthy, so a report of 96-97 MPH velocity is good to hear.

As for the Pirates' bullpen construction, it's lucky for Ascanio that Joel Hanrahan, Jose Veras and (recent blowups aside) Chris Resop have handled such a big portion of the load. The Pirates' bullpen isn't desperate for help, and the Bucs can afford to essentially treat Ascanio as a Rule 5 pick, letting him pitch for a month in low-pressure situations and evaluating him along the way.

To do so, they would probably option Mike Crotta or Danny Moskos, as Tim points out. I wouldn't have a problem with sending either of them down. Crotta's stats might look a bunch better if he had been getting calls on low strikes, but I've been squirming every time he has been brought in with anything at all on the line, and he has given up at least one hit in 10 straight outings. Moskos, meanwhile, has only pitched twice in two weeks.

If the Pirates had a really deep bullpen, or a bullpen in which they didn't have players they could send to the minors, it might make sense to try to sneak Ascanio through waivers. But in this case, there's no real harm in avoiding that risk and demoting Crotta or Moskos instead. So I expect that Ascanio will join the team this week.

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