A strange thing happened during the Pirates’ win against the Cardinals this afternoon; the Indianapolis Indians broke the news of Gerrit Cole’s rehab start on their twitter account, with none of the reporters that cover the team breaking the news first.
The reason for that seems clear now: after the game, the Pirates announced that Steven Brault will start tomorrow’s game, and Jameson Taillon will go to the disabled list with shoulder fatigue. It seems like a safe bet that the Pirates wanted to hold the Brault news as close to the vest as possible to try and get a competitive advantage on the Cardinals for tomorrow night, and announcing Cole would’ve tipped everyone’s hand.
There is some speculation that this is being done to save innings for Taillon, but I’m not really sure that makes a ton of sense this close to the All-Star Break. It’s a relatively common move to send a young starter to the minors on paper before the break to save them a start, and leave them room to be called up almost as soon as their first post-All-Star Break start comes up on the schedule. With Cole possibly returning as soon as Taillon’s NEXT start (Saturday at home against the Cubs), they could’ve sent Taillon down today and had him eligible to return by the weekend after the break. Given that they were worried enough about his super-two clock that they were willing to demote him immediately after his first start while they shuffled the rotation to make room for him (which was their plan before he was recalled to start in the injured Cole’s place), I doubt that they would put him on the disabled list and keep his clock ticking just to skip him for a start or two with the break looming.
Of course, they do have well-understood (given his two lost seasons) interest in keeping Taillon’s innings count down, and Brault himself did just return from an injury and was re-inserted in Indy’s rotation in a spot that was close to Taillon’s in Pittsburgh. Putting Taillon on the DL instead of moving him down gives them an opportunity to skip more than two starts, should they choose to do so, and it lets them give him a rehab start or two. John Dreker has a source telling him that this is just that.
I’m still concerned, though; “shoulder fatigue” is an ominous sounding thing for that sort of disabled list placement (Arquimedes Caminero had a “quad” injury in May, for example, and Francisco Liriano had an “oblique” injury in 2014), and I’m skeptical that the Pirates would execute this in a way that required a 40-man roster change to get Brault ready.
In the short-term, this means Brault gets at least one start before the break and that either he or Cole will start against the Cubs this weekend. Taillon will, in theory, be eligible to return shortly after the break ends. If he doesn’t Cole will certainly replace him at that point (if he hasn’t already), but that would mean the Pirates will have to continue trotting out Niese and Liriano while they wait for his return or Glasnow’s arrival.
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