How muddled is pitching picture?

Cloudy skies this morning led to a 46-minute rain delay during the Orioles-Pirates game at McKechnie Field.
Cloudy skies this morning led to a 46-minute rain delay during the Orioles-Pirates game at McKechnie Field.

BRADENTON, Fla. — MLB Network analyst John Hart, who was general manager in Cleveland when Pirates GM Neal Huntington worked there, thinks Huntington made a great move by acquiring right-hander A.J. Burnett. “They went out and they got a big, strong guy with good stuff,” Hart said. “Obviously, he struggled in New York, but I think that was a gamble and a risk worth taking. You put him in a different environment, I think A.J. Burnett is gonna help. Then, they went and got the lefty, Erik Bedard. He’s always been a strikeout guy, swing-and-miss kind of stuff, (but) he’s been plagued with a lot of injuries throughout his career. They added two guys that they needed. Starting pitching, they have to have it if they’re gonna go.”

Yet, not everyone is convinced Burnett and Bedard will make a huge difference in Pittsburgh. Former MLB pitcher Curt Schilling, who now works for ESPN’s “Baseball Tonight,” offered this opinion to Trib reporter Bob Cohn: “If you want to look at it realistically, their opening day starter is a guy that the Red Sox were trying to throw into their No. 5 spot last year for three or four September starts, and their No. 2 guy is a guy that somebody was willing to pay millions and millions and millions of dollars for him to go play for somebody else. If those guys take that personally and play with chips on their shoulder, then you’ve got a little different ballgame. But there are so many challenges for them to do what they do.”

»»» If the Pirates open the season with a seven-man bullpen, then it looks like there are five guys — Chris Leroux, Daniel McCutchen, Brad Lincoln, Daniel Moskos and Jared Hughes — fighting for one spot. At this point, I would say the winner is Lincoln.

Lincoln can be the long reliever and also make a spot start in case Charlie Morton’s not quite ready by April 14. He also has pitched the past four years at Triple-A Indy and has little left to prove in the minors; what he is, is what he is.

Leroux is out of options, and I’d be willing to bet management believes they can sneak him through waivers. A few minutes ago, Leroux insisted he hasn’t gotten word yet one way or the other. “I feel like I’ve made the most of my last three outings,” Leroux said. “So, we’ll see what happens Tuesday (when final cuts are made). I just want to be part of that seven-man pen.” Leroux said he’s been told to junk his changeup and go back to being more of a power pitcher. “I don’t mind it,” he said. “It’s kind of one less thing to worry about.”

McCutchen gave up three runs on three hits in one inning today against the Twins, further dimming his chances. Jared Hughes is very much a prospect, but he has options remaining and is better probably suited for a short-relief role. The Pirates would be comfortable with only one lefty in the pen, which hurts Moskos’ chances.

After today’s game, manager Clint Hurdle bristled when asked if the bullpen situation is muddled. “Muddled? Maybe in your eyes, but not in ours. Everybody who’s still in camp is battling for jobs.”

»»» Here’s a wild card for the bullpen equation: Juan Cruz was struck on the right forearm by a line drive today. He was taken out of the game as a precaution, and no other information is available. We’ll have to wait until tomorrow morning to see what shape he’s in.

»»» Chris Resop shaved his head to raise awareness for the Pediatric Cancer Foundation on Friday during a “Cut for the Cure” event in Tampa. “It was child who has cancer who took the first cut,” Resop said, smiling as he rubbed his bald dome. “I’m going to keep it this way all season,”

Last year, Resop and his wife, Kara, made several visits to Pittsburgh Children’s Hospital and the Children’s Institute in Squirrel Hill. The two of them raised about $17,000 which was used to battle pediatric cancer. “I had a cousin who had cancer when she was a little girl, so this really hits home for me,” Resop said. “You see these kids who are suffering and you wonder, ‘What did they do to deserve this?’ It makes you think and want to help.”