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Earlier this season, Pirates management liked to brag about the team’s young, homegrown pitching rotation. The Pirates were, we were reminded time and again, the only team in the majors that raised all five of its starters from its farm system. It was wonderful, it was impressive, it was a hopeful sign of progress.

It did not last through July.

Shane Youman, who was pitching well, and John Van Benschoten, who was not, have been yanked from the rotation and replaced by a pair of aging, pricey outsiders who do not figure in the Pirates’ long-range plans. It is fair to wonder what purpose is being served by adding Matt Morris and Tony Armas to the rotation.

At least Van Benschoten is still getting regular turns at Class AAA Indianapolis. Youman is in limbo in the Pirates’ bullpen — not really a reliever, not a starter, just sort of hanging around to pitch who knows when.

Why waste the chance to get more of a look at Van Benschoten and Youman? It’s not like these guys are young prospects — they’re both 27 years old.

Armas is gone after this year. But barring a trade, Morris and his $9.5 million salary will be around for another season. By the time Morris finally departs, Van Benschoten and Youman will be nearing the big 3-0 and will be off the radar. And, I’m betting, the Pirates still will not have broken the .500 barrier. What will have been gained? Whatever happened to that “young pitching” mantra?

Maybe Bryan Bullington, the top overall draft pick in 2004, will have made his first start for the Pirates by then. After all, he’ll turn 27 the day the 2007 season ends.
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