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Ask Bucs Dugout: How should the Pirates fix their pitching staff?

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Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Thanks, everyone, for the questions, and feel free to keep them coming.

Pedropower: At the trade deadline, will Pirates have to be more reliant on fixing their bullpen and other needs with internal options this year than they have in years past?

It's too early to say what the Pirates will need at the deadline, really -- it's only been a month. At the end of April 2014, for example, the Pirates were 10-16. A month just isn't long enough to tell what the team's weaknesses will be. That written, if it's July and the Bucs need pitching, they should be able to get it. They've got a ton of appealing talent at Triple-A, perhaps more than they'll actually need in the coming seasons. As Wilbur has pointed out, near-big-league-ready players make excellent trade bait.

JRoth95: Is there a good reason the Pirates aren't promoting Chad Kuhl to the bullpen?

Kuhl or someone like him, I assume you mean. That's a good question. How much starting depth do the Pirates really need? You'd think that someone from the large group of Indianapolis starting pitchers putting up great performances would be an excellent addition.

IAPHDBuccosFan: What do you think is the more likely scenario when Jung Ho Kang comes returns?

1. Jason Rogers gets sent back down to Triple-A and the Pirates keep everyone they currently have
2. Rogers stays, becoming the backup third baseman, and David Freese gets traded or designated for assignment

Definitely 1. Freese has a .387 OBP and a guaranteed contract; barring an unforeseen injury or an enormous collapse of some kind, he isn't getting designated for assignment, and it would also be pretty surprising if the Bucs traded him, especially so early in the season. Rogers is optionable, and the Pirates like to keep assets in their organization.

My guess, by the way, is that once everyone's healthy, Rogers will be sent down at some point. The Pirates would probably prefer to keep a more conventional middle infield backup rather than going with a bench of Rogers, Freese, Chris Stewart, Sean Rodriguez and Matt Joyce.

Long4Willie: Has Ray Searage lost his touch or has the front office asked too much of him?

This early on, it's hard to say, but probably more the latter than the former. Some of the new pitching recruits (Juan Nicasio, Neftali Feliz, A.J. Schugel) actually haven't been that bad. The main problem with the current staff is that it's leaned way too hard on pitchers with sketchy track records, like Ryan Vogelsong, Rob Scahill, Kyle Lobstein, Jeff Locke and even Arquimedes Caminero. The only clear-cut disappointments thus far, taking into account peripherals, results and previous performance records, have been Tony Watson and Jon Niese, particularly if you think Francisco Liriano is back on track after his last start. The problem heading into this season looked to be a lack of adequate talent, and right now, that still looks like the problem. Searage is great at what he does, but expecting him to work miracles was a bit much.

Of course, as noted above, there's a ton of talent at Indianapolis. And if the Bucs continue to contend, they can add pitching talent at the deadline. So there will still be ways to address the pitching staff's deficiencies.

Joey Mooney: It's June, after the Super Two threshold has passed. What does the Pirates 25-man roster looks like if everyone is healthy?

Fun question. Let's give it a shot.

C Francisco Cervelli
1B John Jaso
2B Josh Harrison
SS Jordy Mercer
3B Jung Ho Kang
LF Starling Marte
CF Andrew McCutchen
RF Gregory Polanco

C Chris Stewart
1B/3B David Freese
UT Cole Figueroa
UT Sean Rodriguez
OF Matt Joyce

I'm assuming here that the Pirates won't feel any pressing reason to call up Alen Hanson unless they need him to start. The same goes for Josh Bell. Other than that, this is pretty straightforward so far.

SP Gerrit Cole
SP Francisco Liriano
SP Jon Niese
SP Jameson Taillon
SP Juan Nicasio

Here's where things get iffy. Cole, Liriano and Niese obviously seem safe. I'm putting Taillon in the rotation but not Tyler Glasnow -- based on Neal Huntington's recent comments about Glasnow, it wouldn't surprise me if they held him in Triple-A a bit longer than anticipated. Nicasio gets the last starting spot, but obviously, much will depend on how he and Jeff Locke perform in the next six weeks or so. For me, Nicasio has shown enough to this point that he looks like a good bet to stick as a starter.

CL Mark Melancon
RP Tony Watson
RP Neftali Feliz
RP Jared Hughes
RP Arquimedes Caminero
RP Jeff Locke
RP Cory Luebke

And here's where things get really weird. I don't see Caminero's spot as being safe if he doesn't fix his control issues, but let's say he does, at least to a degree. Besides, he's out of options, and the Pirates will be reluctant to give up on his arm. Locke is out of options, and if he isn't still in the rotation in six weeks, it's hard to see the Bucs dropping him from their roster entirely. Luebke will also have to be rostered at some point if the Pirates wish to keep him.

From the Pirates' current staff, that leaves Vogelsong, Lobstein and Schugel as the odd men out. I don't think the Bucs will see Vogelsong and Lobstein as long-term assets they need to worry about protecting, and Schugel is optionable.

Mingy: We still doing the series previews? I really dig those.

Thank you. Hopefully I'll be able to get back to them, at least for most series. The school year ended this week, so I should have a lot more time over the next several months.

Pedropower: Why are you are so averse to issuing hot takes?

Because they usually turn out to be at least partially wrong.

Outlier: What's it feel like when you write a brilliant recap only to have readers complain about it because they don’t comprehend the benefits of brilliance over, say, a wire service game recap written by an algorithm?

I'm not sure comprehension is the problem, and I don't think it's a matter of how good they are or aren't. I understand why the weird recaps are polarizing. I also can't really do them every day, because they require too much energy. So they kind of come out of nowhere when I post them, and that probably seems strange to some readers. But they keep me from getting stuck in a rut, and some people seem to like them -- they're usually much more widely shared and rec'd than standard recaps. So I'm going to keep doing them from time to time.