“Timing is everything.” We always hear that. Last week, the Pirates unwittingly gave us a demonstration of it.
Left-hander J.A. Happ is starting tonight against the Cubs, making his debut for the Bucs. There is little doubt that the guy taking the mound at PNC Park instead would have been Vance Worley — if only A.J. Burnett’s right elbow had throbbed a day earlier.
- On Wednesday, the Bucs traded for Joe Blanton.
- Thursday afternoon, Blanton reported to Cincinnati and Worley was designated for assignment to open up a roster spot for him.
- Thursday night, Burnett painfully faced the Reds.
- Friday morning, Burnett went on the 15-day disabled list with elbow inflammation.
- Friday afternoon, the Pirates, in the words of GM Neal Huntington “directly influenced by Burnett’s injury,” dealt for Happ hours before the Trade Deadline — and paid a pretty hefty price in Adrian Sampson, who had carried over a solid Spring Training showing with the Bucs into a solid Triple-A campaign at Indianapolis.
Tweak that timeline just a bit, and the Pirates still have Sampson, and have Worley dealing against a Cubs team he has already defeated this season, without allowing an earned run in 5 2/3 innings on April 22.
Not to mention, not have the additional concern (slightly alleviated by Monday night’s rainout) of having Happ start between Francisco Liriano and Jeff Locke against a Cubs team 13-8 this season against lefty starters.
After all, while Worley was still squirreled away in the bullpen, Huntington repeatedly hailed having in reserve someone who “was one of 15 pitchers in the National League last season to work more than 110 innings and have an ERA of 2.85 or under.”
There is nothing positive about Burnett’s injury. But one possible outcome of it is the increased probability of Worley returning to the Bucs.
It will be his call because, if he goes unclaimed by another team in the five days remaining before his 10-day designation period ends, he would become a free agent by refusing to be outrighted to the Minors by the Pirates — as they would need to as a prerequisite of getting him back on their 40-man roster.
There was little chance of Worley accepting that before. Now, he might, seeing the road back to Pittsburgh dramatically shortened by Burnett’s injury.