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Pirates Spring Training: The Great 5th Starter Debate

PITTSBURGH (93-7 The Fan) - Can a team that considers itself a contender afford to have a rookie without a changeup start the year in their rotation?

That's the kind of question Neal Huntington, Clint Hurdle, and Ray Searage will be tasked with answering this spring, but they're in no hurry.

"That set of guys, we're going to let them go get it, and let the chips fall where they may," said Pitching Coach Ray Searage on Wednesday. "We'll make an assessment at the end of Spring Training, and have a better idea in how each and every one of their stuff will play, and we'll go from there."

Whether it's Tyler Glasnow's electric stuff – but lack of maturity – or Drew Hutchison's experience, the team feels confident they have their 5th starter present at Pirate City right now, as General Manager Neal Huntington shot down last week any lingering rumors of a Jose Quintana deal.

"We've got a ton of options, and some of our young starters may end up in the bullpen," Huntington explained on Tuesday.

Steven Brault and Trevor Williams remain in the mix as well, and Huntington has reiterated the fact that they'll probably need more than five starting pitchers to get through the season.

After getting through 2014 and 2015 using just eight starters each, last season the Pirates used 14 different starting pitchers, so the need for depth is apparent.

So why the growing angst over a team that may not bring it's No. 1 starting pitching prospect to Boston with them when they open the season at Fenway Park?

Maybe it's the growing sense with fans that Hutchison has the inside line on the job simply because he was acquired in the Francisco Liriano salary dump. Maybe it's the sense that Glasnow's development has slowed somewhat because of mental factors that have cropped up as he adjusts to the jump from AAA to the Major League level.

What it may come down to, ultimately, is the experience factor. And if that is the leading criteria for the decision that will be made at the conclusion of Spring Training, it will lead to Hutchison more than likely landing the job.

"I like the fact that we have guys with experience. Adversity may come. It will in some area," said Hurdle earlier in the week when discussing his rotation.

Both he and Searage have explained their desire to see Glasnow be pushed this spring, and to see him handle that well. Hutchison has gone through difficult periods during his time in the Blue Jays' organization, and that mental toughness is what we have yet to see from Glasnow.

That doesn't mean he won't have an impact this season, though.

It just means it's up to him when he does.

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