PITTSBURGH - It wasn't ever much of a secret, but Brandon Cumpton gets the first shot at replacing Wandy Rodriguez in the Pittsburgh Pirates' rotation.
Cumpton will be recalled from Class AAA Indianapolis to start today's 1:10 p.m. holiday game against the New York Mets at Citi Field.
However, general manager Neal Huntington emphasized that it's still a competition between Cumpton and lefthander Jeff Locke for the vacant spot.
"We have two guys we like a lot and who we believe can fill that role," Huntington said. "We have a couple of other guys in Casey Sadler and Vance Worley, who is putting himself in the discussion. We have some depth, we have some options."
Cumpton has been a lightly-regarded prospect, but he's generally done well when the Pirates have summoned him to fill in at the major league level. Last season he made six appearances and five starts, posting a 2-1 record with a 2.05 earned run average and 1.011 WHIP. This year he's made two starts and is 0-1, 4.26 with a 0.947 WHIP.
Cumpton has shown good control. In 43 and major league innings, he's walked six and struck out 31.
The Pirates think Cumpton needs to expand his arsenal of pitches so he can work deeper into games.
"It's hard for a major league starter to get through a lineup a third time with two pitches," Huntington said. "That third pitch becomes a prerequisite to get through a lineup on a consistent basis unless you have two wipeout pitches."
Huntington made a point to emphasize that Locke still has a future with the Pirates. He made the All-Star team last year with an 8-2 start that included a 2.15 ERA and 1.128 WHIP. In the second half of the season, he was 2-5, 6.12, 1.866 and had pitched himself out of the rotation by the end of the season.
Locke spent part of spring training on the disabled list and opened the season at Indianapolis. He made one spot start for the Pirates and allowed six earned runs in 5 and 1/3 innings against San Francisco on May 5. He didn't have a decision in a game the Pirates lost 11-10.
"Jeff wants to be in the big leagues and deserves to be in the big leagues," Huntington said. "We continue to reinforce to Jeff that we see the positives and we do have confidence that he's ready to come up here. The timing was poor this time through but we're looking forward to him continuing to do what he needs to do to put himself in position to be the next guy up."
Locke has made seven starts at Indianapolis and is 2-1 with a 3.92 ERA.
Cumpton's timing was perfect as he was scheduled to start today for Indianapolis.
The Pirates return to New York for the second time in 10 days. They played the Yankees there May 16-18.
The trip then takes them to Los Angeles for four games, followed by three at San Diego.
The Pirates have another 10-game trip in September, but that is a St. Louis-Chicago-Philadelphia jaunt that requires far less travel.
Not an option
Some fans have been clamoring for hot-hitting Josh Harrison to get some time at shortstop, where Jordy Mercer (.201) and Clint Barmes (.209) haven't contributed much offensively.
That isn't likely to happen.
"While Josh is swinging the bat better, Jordy and Clint are better defensively," Huntington said. "That's a position in the organization where we believe we have to handle the baseball."