In the midst of Drew Hutchison getting lit up in his third straight start, Neal Huntington took a few minutes to join the Root Sports booth yesterday for the final time before opening day.
Huntington was, for the most part, careful to not divulge anything new, but he did seem hesitant to be critical of Hutchison, and instead Huntington focused on the positives from the second and third inning by stating that Hutchison looks like “almost a completely different pitcher the last two innings with the mixing of his stuff, the quality and the command,” as well as calling the pacing “night and day” better in those two innings. (The Pirates, of course, optioned Hutchison today, leaving Tyler Glasnow and Trevor Williams as the two remaining candidates for the spot.)
Despite Huntington’s avoidance in that aspect, he was pressed to give to give insight into who the fifth starter might be and when the team might announce it. He ultimately said,
There is clarity, and I don’t want people to think that Steven Brault did anything wrong in his last start or that Drew Hutchison needed to go five scoreless tonight to make the team. We want to honor the body of work, but at the same time, we want to honor the progression or regression that we see here in spring training. The numbers don’t always dictate it, but a lot of the times, the results are driven by your process. If someone is scuffling, there is a reason why their numbers are there...we don’t want to overreact to struggles, and we also don’t want to overreact to somebody who has a good spring
Of course, it is naive to think that Huntington would openly state who won the battle at this point, but it is intriguing that he refers to not overreacting to “struggles” or a “good spring.” I’ll leave it to you all to interpret if he was hinting at anything specific.
The only other notable part of the conversation was that in answering when the team might announce the starter, Huntington seemed to speak about the importance of being flexible because of injuries and the uncertainty of who might pop up on waivers from another team. He then went on to qualify that this probably wouldn’t be the case with the fifth starter, so it was likely a general answer regarding their practice or quite possibly in reference to Alen Hanson and/or the bullpen.