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Pirates midseason report: Improved pitching keys turnaround

By By The Sports Xchange
Published On: Jul 13 2014 08:15:28 PM CDT
Updated On: Jul 13 2014 08:15:28 PM CDT

After a 10-16 April, the Pirates have bounced back to be in the thick of both the National League Central and wild-card races.

The Pirates are 49-46 and in fourth place in the division race but just 3 1/2 games behind the first-place Milwaukee Brewers. They are 2 1/2 games behind in the wild-card standings.

The Pirates have gone 31-20 since falling a season-low eight games below .500 on May 20.

A big reason for the Pirates' turnaround and why they feel they can return to the postseason after ending a 21-year playoff drought last season is improved pitching. The Pirates have a 3.46 ERA since June 1 after posting a 4.20 mark in May and a 3.65 mark in April.

The Pirates had to rely heavily on their organizational pitching depth as right-handers Charlie Morton and Edinson Volquez are the only members of the starting rotation that began the season who have not either spent time on the disabled list or been demoted to the minor leagues. Left-hander Jeff Locke and right-hander Vance Worley have both bolstered the rotation since being called up from Triple-A Indianapolis.

The Pirates also have a reshuffled bullpen after trading closer Jason Grilli to the Los Angeles Angels for right-hander Ernesto Frieri last month. Set-up man Mark Melancon was promoted to closer but the Pirates will look to upgrade their relief corps before the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline and even into August.

The Pirates filled two lineup holes in the first half by trading for New York Mets first baseman Ike Davis in April and calling top prospect Gregory Polanco up from Triple-A Indianapolis in June to play right field. Thus, it is doubtful Pittsburgh will look add any more offense before the trade deadline.

"We're always looking to improve," Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said. "That being said, I don't think we have any glaring holes that absolutely need to be addressed. We're happy with the club we have now."