Armas out of Pirates' rotation, but who's in?

Armas out of Pirates' rotation, but who's in?

Armas out of Pirates' rotation
Fri, May 18, 2007
By Associated Press

PITTSBURGH -- Tony Armas was sent to the Pittsburgh Pirates' bullpen on Friday after failing to pitch longer than three innings in his last two starts, a move that means the club's two highest-paid pitchers are relievers.

The right-handed Armas (0-3, 8.46 ERA) was the only Pirates starter not to win this season, never going longer than six innings in any of his seven starts. The Pirates beat Florida 7-2 as Armas started Thursday, but he was lifted trailing 2-1 after throwing 77 pitches - only 43 for strikes - in three innings.

Armas went only two innings in the start before that, a 9-2 loss to Atlanta on May 12, and he was on the mound for a combined 6 2-3 innings in his first two starts of the season last month.

''I think it's important to do this for his benefit and the club's benefit, in order to get him straightened out,'' manager Jim Tracy said Friday. ''We're not going to be able to do that pitching him every fifth day in the rotation. He needs a different environment, to work out some of the things necessary to get him back on track.''

One problem is Armas is throwing a lot of pitches in nearly every start but is not going deep into games. Armas has lasted only 10 innings in his last three starts.

''He's found it very difficult when he gets to two strikes to be able to put him (the batter) away - there are eight, nine, 10 pitch at-bats,'' Tracy said. ''There are some delivery and mechanical issues we need to sort out because, for whatever reason, the ball is not coming out of his hand right. But by no stretch of the imagination are we giving up on him.''

Armas, 9-12 with a 5.03 ERA for Washington last season. signed with the Pirates for $3 million and was their only major pitching addition during the offseason. The Pirates' only higher-paid pitcher is right-hander Shawn Chacon (1-0, 2.84), who replaced Armas on Thursday to pitch five shutout innings of relief and get the victory.

Chacon, who is making $3,825,000, is a possibility to start May 26 in Cincinnati, the next time the Pirates need a fifth starter. They have an off day Monday and thus can skip a spot through this turn in the rotation.

''That could include Shawn Chacon, yes, it could, along with a few other guys we're keeping an eye on, not only here but with our Triple-A club,'' Tracy said.

The Pirates might be more inclined to bring up one of two former first-round draft picks: 2001 pick John Van Benschoten (3-3, 2.47 ERA) or 2002 pick Bryan Bullington (6-1, 2.40 ERA), two right-handers who have pitched well all season at Triple-A Indianapolis.

Sooner or later, the Pirates need to find out what the two pitchers - both of whom have had major arm operations - can do in the majors. Van Benschoten is 27, yet has pitched only six games in the majors. Bullington, 26, has appeared in only one major league game.

Armas, the son of former major league outfielder Tony Armas, is 48-63 in 158 career games with the Expos, Nationals and Pirates.

Shortstop Jack Wilson, who jammed his right shoulder running down a foul popup Thursday night, was out of the lineup Friday for only the second time this season. He is day to day.

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