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Monday June 27, 2011 2:39 pm

Pirates’ pen mild without Evan Meek




Posted by Adrien Griffin Categories: Athletes, Injuries, MLB

Evan MeekIn 2010, pitcher Evan Meek was one of the Pittsburgh Pirates' top relievers. Pitching for a team that has failed to reach even low expectations over the past two decades, Meek emerged as one of the team’s only reliable late inning options. Meek was exceptional all season long. He finished the year with a 5-4 record, but had a 2.14 ERA in 80.0 innings pitched, allowed 35 walks to 70 strikeouts, had a WHIP of 1.05 and opponents hit just .185 off him.

If you throw out his worst appearance, an August 13 game versus the Houston Astros, his ERA improves to 1.69 and has one less loss, one less walk and one less blown save. Despite his incredible numbers, he still managed to blow six out of 10 save opportunities, as well as an MLB All-Star Game nod, exceptionally rare for a reliever not anointed as a capital “C” closer. But then, tightness in his shoulder slowed him down and in 2011, has seen him land on the DL twice with shoulder tendinitis.

While the Pirates’ starting rotation has seemingly come around this season, already combining for 30 wins (last year they had 34 all season long), it’s been the bullpen that’s hurting the team. With the exception of closer Joel Hanrahan, who has been simple fantastic in converting all 22 save opportunities, the bullpen’s numbers look horrendous. In all, six out of 13 relievers have ERAs above four, and unless they turn that around, they’ll continue to put excessive pressure on the starting five to go deep into the game every night.

With Meek on the disabled list and not expected to return until late July at the earliest, it’ll likely take a bit longer than that for him to return to form. By then, who knows where the Pirates will be, what with the trade deadline arriving and the whole makeup of the division likely to have changed. If the Pirates are still in a playoff race, they’ll throw Meek into the fire and hope he doesn’t get burned. If they aren’t, at least Meek will still have some personal goals to achieve.

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