Glasnow wins Pirates' rotation competition

Top prospect named fifth starter as Bucs set pitching staff

Glasnow wins Pirates' rotation competition

MONTREAL -- A few weeks ago, Tyler Glasnow sat down after a Spring Training outing and evaluated his chances of making the Opening Day roster. At the time, he thought they were fading away.

But Glasnow turned a corner over the past two weeks, putting together two strong starts and showing the Pirates the growth they needed to see from their top prospect. On Friday night, Pittsburgh rewarded Glasnow's efforts by naming him the club's fifth starter.

"I felt really good, consistent, probably the best I've felt in a long time," Glasnow said. "I like where I'm at right now. I feel really good. I'm excited to go out and pitch."

With Glasnow rounding out the rotation, right-hander Trevor Williams was shifted to the bullpen. He will work as a multiple-innings reliever along with veteran lefty Wade LeBlanc.

With no room in the bullpen, the Pirates offered Rule 5 Draft pick Tyler Webb back to the Yankees. Webb put together a strong spring and finished particularly well, but the Bucs preferred LeBlanc's experience and flexibility to the 26-year-old Webb's upside.

"That was probably my best spring to date, so I can't be too upset about that. It's a good bullpen. It's a good staff. It's a good team," Webb said. "I enjoyed it. I learned a lot. I'll miss these guys, for sure."

With the final pieces in place, the Pirates can now look at their staff as a whole. The rotation consists of Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon, Chad Kuhl, Ivan Nova and Glasnow. The bullpen is made up of closer Tony Watson, setup men Daniel Hudson and Felipe Rivero, middle relievers Juan Nicasio and Antonio Bastardo plus the long men, Williams and LeBLanc.

The Pirates delivered the news to each pitcher after the 1-1 tie with the Blue Jays on Friday night in Montreal. Glasnow said he immediately texted his mother, who he expected would "cry enough for all of us."

"I was extremely excited when they told me," Glasnow said. "It's great. It was honestly really exciting."

The fifth-starter competition was perhaps the most wide-open race in camp. The group was whittled down from four -- Glasnow, Williams, Drew Hutchison and Steven Brault -- and Glasnow's enormous potential proved to be the difference.

"There's going to be some growing pains along the way," manager Clint Hurdle said. "However, what he can bring to the table and how that can play out, there's a ceiling there that's significant. We need to help that development. I think we all believe the best opportunity for development is at this level now. … I like the buildup and the evolution of the guy through the two-month period of spring."

LeBlanc, 32, showed enough promise in a brief September audition to earn a $750,000 contract with a club option for 2018. With Williams converting into a long reliever, the Pirates preferred to pair him with LeBlanc, who has done it before.

Williams pitched well as a starter this spring, but he has shown the tools to be an effective long reliever. The right-hander induces ground balls at a high rate, and his velocity should play up in shorter stints. Of his seven big league outings last September, only one was a start; he picked up his memorable first win, in fact, as a reliever.

"We still believe he can be a starter," Hurdle said. "However, we believe the combination of him and LeBlanc, long [relievers] out there, give us the best opportunity to be the best fits for the bullpen."

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, read his blog and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.