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Pitching problems

PITTSBURGH — Who will be the Pirates’ new No. 5 starter?

Shawn Chacon would seem to be a good bet. He pitched just as well as Tony Armas did in spring training. But Chacon “lost” the battle for the spot because Armas did nothing in the spring to lose the job he was signed to do. The regular season, however, has been a far different story.

Armas has been terrible. He got seven starts and put up a 8.46 ERA in 27.2 innings. Chacon has been better than most folks expected in the long relief role, with a 1-0 record and a 2.84 ERA in 15 appearances (31.2 innings).

Chacon has plenty of experience as a starter and went 11-8 with a 4.60 ERA for Colorado in 2003.

Yet, Pirates manager Jim Tracy is reluctant to take Chacon out of the bullpen when he’s doing so well there. Chacon’s importance to the ‘pen is underscored by the impending suspension of setup guy Matt Capps, who is waiting for Major League Baseball to hear his appeal.

That could mean Marty McLeary will get the starter’s job.

Good luck with that. McLeary lugged a 7.36 ERA into tonight’s game against Arizona … and moments ago served up a game-tying grand slam to Tony Clark.

If Tracy really is intent on keeping Chacon in the bullpen, it might be best to give John Van Benschoten, Bryan Bullington or Sean Burnett a promotion from Class AAA Indianapolis.

The next six weeks of the season are crucial, if the Pirates have any hope of staying in the hunt in a watered-down NL Central. The pitching staff has to be sorted out, pronto.

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