With a few announcements today, the Pirates have all but set their Opening Day roster for 2013. As expected, Jeff Locke will take the last unannounced rotation spot (I'm hesitant to call him the "fifth" starter whether the team does or not because he's not really the fifth best starter) while Kyle McPherson and Vin Mazzaro go back to Triple-A. The last bullpen spot goes to Jeanmar Gomez, which is hugely unfortunate but was unavoidable news since Bryan Morris was demoted to minor league camp in the middle of last week and Jeff Karstens was put on the disabed list.
Charlie has been writing at Bucs Dugout most of the week about how players like Gomez and Sanchez are making the team because that's the only way for the Pirates to hold on to them as badly needed depth pieces while Karstens and Liriano and Morton rehab from their injuries. That's true, to an extent, but having a 25-man roster that includes John McDonald, Jonathan Sanchez, Jeanmar Gomez, and maybe even Brandon Inge is absolutely exasperating for what is supposed to be a young team about to come out of its shell.
The real decision point on keeping Gomez is that he's on the team for now instead of Bryan Morris. This is a tough call to make; Morris was not particularly good this spring, nor did he finish 2013 strong for Indianapolis. He pitched last Monday against the Red Sox in a game that I was at; he didn't have great command, and the Red Sox scrub crew squared up on several of his pitches. You can't really make a judgment on one inning, of course, but you also can't really argue that Morris should've made the squad on merit based on his spring. Of course, that's also true of Gomez, who was mostly terrible except in his start against the Rays last Friday when he was only a little terrible.
In any case, this sort of decision sets the Pirates up for the same fall they took with the bullpen last August. They kept Juan Cruz up well past his sell-by date and they kept giving big innings to guys like Chris Resop instead of bringing Morris up earlier in the year. They didn't really need Morris (or any other young reliever) until August, but because they hadn't used them in the big leagues to that point they decided they had no confidence in them. And then they got stuck with Chad Qualls. Using a bullpen spot on Gomez now instead of Bryan Morris or Vic Black or Duke Welker just starts the cycle over again.
It would appear to me that Gomez is around to be a long-man and an insurance policy in case Sanchez or Locke are terrible. As insurance policies go, though, Gomez is about as useful as volcano insurance for someone that lives in the eastern United States. The Pirates clearly see something in him because they keep making ridiculously glowing statements about him, but I'm just not convinced that there's anything there to be seen. I'd like to say he won't be around long and the Pirates won't need to use him much, but I know better.