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More On Rudy Owens And The Rotation

Tim responds to my post last week about Rudy Owens potentially taking Ross Ohlendorf's spot in the rotation. I don't mean to belabor a point that I know a lot of y'all think I'm wrong about, especially when I find some of your reasons for not wanting to call up Owens to be at least somewhat compelling. And besides, circumstances have changed: it now appears that Ohlendorf will be gone a month or so, which means that Owens' callup wouldn't be for just a couple of spot starts. That means the Pirates would be in the awkward position of having to demote Owens after an entire month in order to avoid having him get Super Two status, which would cause his arbitration payouts to escalate.

Given that it's going to be for a month rather than just a couple of starts, I probably wouldn't call up Owens either, although I would definitely still be tempted to. And, whatever I might think, it's not going to happen. That's fine - it would have been a pretty borderline decision to begin with.

Still, there are a couple ideas from Tim's post that I want to talk about, and a couple ideas from the original post I'd like to expand upon. Here's Tim:

I agree with Charlie's general idea that Owens is a better option than Karstens, Burres, and Lincoln, and I'd also like to see him in the rotation.  However, when he arrives in the rotation, I want to see him there for good. I don't want to see Owens called up for a few starts, only to be sent back to AAA when Ohlendorf returns.

I don't know. I agree that there's a tipping point where, if Owens is going to be in the rotation much longer than a few starts (as would appear to be the case here, as it turns out) and he pitches well, the Pirates probably simply can't send him back to Indianapolis without angering Owens and the rest of the players and probably just about everyone, because it will be 100 percent obvious that they're only doing it to avoid paying him later as a Super Two. Fan confidence would plummet even further, and Bob Smizik and the national media would sharpen their knives.

But if it's only for two or three starts, and Owens knows that, then it doesn't appear to me to be a problem, simply because I don't see any developmental obstacles there, unless Owens is extremely psychologically fragile. He wouldn't really have to do anything different than he's doing in Indianapolis, which is just to take the ball every fifth day. If we were talking about, say, a hitter with mechanical issues, or a pitcher over-relying on one pitch, that might be different, but Owens has good control and a very polished repertoire. You can correct me in the comments if you think I'm wrong, but I just don't see why someone like that can't come up to the majors and pitch for a couple of starts and then go back down. It happens all the time, and for a polished pitcher like Owens, I don't think it should be an obstacle that it is rarely done with top prospects.

Along the same lines, I'm all for a cautious, conservative approach to getting prospects through the minors, and I understand that Owens hasn't been in Class AAA long. But again, because of the type of pitcher he is, and due to the fact that he has dominated Class AA, I just don't feel that kind of conservatism is necessary. Hey, Mike Leake skipped the minor leagues completely and did fine, minus the whole alleged shirt-stealing thing. I do agree that Owens isn't perfect yet, but I think his main flaw (tuning up his command a hair, which you can see from this video isn't always pinpoint) isn't necessarily something he needs to work on in the minors.

Tim notes that he would rather give Brad Lincoln the rotation spot right now, in part because this gives Lincoln another opportunity in the rotation. Lincoln does interest me a lot more than Jeff Karstens or Brian Burres, but I would think that calling him up right now, when he's trying to work on undoing mechanical changes Joe Kerrigan proposed last year, might put him in a much more precarious position than Owens. Obviously, the downside of Lincoln falling apart again is a lot lower than it is with Owens, since Owens is the better prospect. But the chances of Lincoln falling apart appear to me to be much higher.

There's another idea I was getting at, too, that I didn't really spell out explicitly in the original post. When I spoke to Kyle Stark last month, one thing that repeatedly came up, both for offensive players and pitchers, was the need to use Class AAA roster spots on players like Burres who can potentially come up and fill in when there's an injury. I understand that a player like Burres can be nice to have around when you need some flexibility, but the need to have guys like that is one reason Stark gave me for why Jeff Locke (and, as it turns out, Bryan Morris) are now in Class AA. It may not be the only reason (and Morris has had control problems so far this year, which might explain why he's there), but it does weigh into the Pirates' considerations. If that's the case, then the presence of someone like Burres in the Class AAA rotation has the potential to hurt the Pirates from a developmental perspective.

Locke has been great at AA so far this year. He was very good there last year. If he can handle Class AAA right now, he should probably be there, and someone like Burres shouldn't be allowed to stop him, because hey, if you need an injury sub in the majors, Rudy Owens is already a better option than Burres, probably by a lot. If you can use a player like Owens to help you in that regard, as long as you don't have to hinder Owens' own development to do so, then you can put players like Locke at Class AAA, if that's where they need to be.