After his struggles in yesterday’s minor league game, Kevin Hart has been re-assigned to minor league camp and Dan McCutchen will be the team’s fifth starter. Neal Huntington says that with an off-day a week for the first three weeks, the team will probably only count on McCutchen making one start through April 24th (though I’m looking at the schedule and whoever the fifth starter is will have to start on the 25th and regularly from there on out, so it’s really just one start that’s being skipped) so how McCutchen finishes the spring and performs in that one start (and maybe a bullpen outing or two) compared with how Hart fares in minor league camp and Triple-A games will probably act as an extension of the spring training competition for the two of them.
I understand why the Pirates like Hart and why they favor him over McCutchen, but it’s become apparent that there’s nothing to be gained by keeping him in the rotation right now. Going to Triple-A gives him a chance to work on the inconsistencies in his delivery without the pressure of a big league game or the fallout that would come with outings like the one he delivered in Bradenton last week. Hopefully he’ll get himself straightened out (for their parts, neither Huntington nor the coaching staff seem to think that’s an impossibility, which is interesting and worth considering).
The other guys sent down with Hart were Chris Jakubauskas, Neil Walker, Jean Machi, Brian Burres, Wil Ledezma, Brian Myrow, and Hector Jiminez. Walker is another subject for another day (not that I have a problem with his demotion, but rather a rhetorical question to ask about him), but no one in this round of demotions is a surprise. I had thought Jakubauskas might have a shot at one of the last two bullpen spots, especially with Joel Hanrahan to start the season on the DL, but I think that Vinnie Chulk and Jack Taschner have them pretty well in hand (Chulk has a ton of strikeouts this spring and Taschner has pitched very well and is another lefty) at this point in the spring.