The Pittsburgh Pirates experienced some highs and some lows from their bullpen in 2023, with several players looking like they could develop into competent relief pitchers. Moving forward, the bullpen is going to need some help, but not all was bad from that group in 2023. We will be taking a look at the bullpen depth chart that ended the season and analyzing how that group performed in relief appearances.
Originally signed by the Los Angeles Dodgers as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2016, the Pirates would sign Hernandez in the Rule 5 Draft and he would then make their opening day roster in 2023. This year, Hernandez would often see pitches get put into play, as he had an ERA of 4.97 and allowed 30 runs in 50 innings pitched, compiling a record of 1-3. Not the kind of stats you want to see from your “top” reliever, and is certainly one of the reasons this group struggled at times in 2023. That being said, there were moments early on in the season where the Pirates were praised for picking up Hernandez, but he just lost momentum in the back half of the season.
The New York Mets traded Colin Holderman to the Pirates in 2022, in which he had a perfect 5-0 record on the mound. This year he went 0-3 with a 3.86 ERA, and in his last seven games of the season he allowed a 10.29 ERA... yikes! If Holderman is planning on sticking around he needs to try and get back to his 2022 form because there was very little to be impressed by in 2023.
Of all the pitchers in the bullpen, Mlodzinski had one of the better seasons. He finished with a 3-3 record on the mound, and a 2.25 ERA in 36 innings pitched. Mlodziniski made his big league debut in June of this year, and at 24 years of age could be someone the Pirates look to next year to get some more reps and hopefully continued success. He has dealt with some injuries throughout his career, but I’m still optimistic that we can get a much needed boost from the man out of South Carolina.
Another pitcher who had an awesome 2023 for Pittsburgh, Ryan Borucki showed veteran presence on the mound and the stat sheets reflected that. The 29-year old was picked up in free agency this year and was originally assigned to Triple-A Indianapolis before being promoted in June and not looking back. Borucki had 4 wins with 0 losses and had 2 saves as well in his relief efforts. Should Borucki remain with the team next year, I think he too can be an asset out of the bullpen.
Colin Selby made his debut late in the season after previously being one of the top prospects in Pittsburgh’s system... he then went on to earn two wins with two losses and a 9.00 ERA. Hopefully these are just growing pains, but I am at a loss for words.
David “The Renegade” Bednar
The scene is Pittsburgh on a summer night, and the lights go out in the stadium. Silence descends upon PNC Park, until it is ripped apart by the opening lines to “Renegade” by Styx, a Pittsburgh sports anthem. As the music progresses to its highest and rowdiest point, we see All-Star pitcher David Bednar emerge from the bullpen to close out yet another game. There is simply no better closer in baseball than Bednar, as he was once again named to the All-Star team in 2023, with 39 saves for the Pirates and a 2.00 ERA. “The Renegade” is one of the strongest members of the team and is certainly the anchor in the bullpen with no one being more consistent.
The Pirates bullpen ranked 19th in ERA in 2023, with too many runs allowed in relief. However, there are clearly some guys in the pen that have showed they’re on the track to developing further into dependable relievers, and I think the bullpen can and will only get better from here.