The Pittsburgh Pirates said goodbye to one of their longest-tenured performers Monday, designating left-handed pitcher Steven Brault for assignment.
The move was made to open a roster spot for another veteran left-hander, Jose Quintana, whose signing was first rumored last week but not announced officially until Monday.
The Bucs made several more moves Monday, bringing veteran right-hander Jerad Eickhoff and minor league catcher James Ritchie into the fold on minor league deals, according to Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Quintana, if healthy, figures to grab a spot in the club’s starting rotation. He had a rough 2021 season, during which he pitched mostly out of the bullpen. In 29 appearances for the Los Angeles Angels and San Francisco Giants, Quintana had an ERA of 6.43, allowing 74 hits and 35 walks in 63 innings while striking out 85. But from 2012 through 2019, Quintana was a dependable starter, taking the ball at least 32 times in seven of those seasons.
Brault could never be described as dependable. He showed flashes of excellence during his six seasons as a Pirate but could never maintain it for any significant length of time. He worked as a starter and reliever his first two seasons, starting 11 times in 19 appearances, but made just five starts and 40 relief appearances in 2018.
In 2019, he notched a season-high 19 starts, going 4-6 with a 5.16 ERA, but he had one 15-game stretch during which he posted a 2.97 ERA as a starter covering 78 2/3 innings.
He appeared to be turning a corner, and during the truncated 2020 season, he compiled a 3.38 ERA in 10 starts after being sidelined by a lat injury. His final two starts once again raised Pirates fans’ hopes, as he pitched a complete-game two-hitter to beat the St. Louis Cardinals and then held the Chicago Cubs to two hits over seven scoreless innings to close out the season on a high note.
But that tease did not materialize into long-term success in 2021, as once again he was struck down by injuries at the start of the season and pitched in just seven games totaling 27 2/3 innings.
Eickhoff, who turns 32 in early July, has a career 4.9 WAR with a record of 21-32 and a 4.35 ERA. He has started 80 games and made five relief appearances during portions of six big league seasons.
The 6-foot-4, 246-pounder appeared in just five games last season, starting four times for the New York Mets, and things did not go well. In 19 2/3 innings, Eickhoff allowed 30 hits and 10 walks while striking out 13.
He did not compete during the COVID-shortened 2020 season but spent parts of the five previous seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies, during which time he went 21-30 with a 4.15 ERA in 76 starts. As a 25-year-old second-year player, Eickhoff put together an 11-14 mark with a solid 3.65 ERA in 33 starts covering 197 1/3 innings in 2016.
He made 24 starts the following year, compiling a 4.71 ERA in 128 innings, but since 2018 he has appeared in only 20 games, thanks to a combination of injuries and ineffectiveness.