PITTSBURGH -- Pirates manager Clint Hurdle occasionally compares young starting pitchers to new drivers. At a certain point, Hurdle said, you must put the keys in their hands and say, "Take me for a ride." That often requires a high level of tolerance and trust.
But the Pirates' patience with their young starting pitchers appears to be paying off. Trevor Williams has quietly been one of their most effective starters since joining the rotation on May 8, and Chad Kuhl has the starting staff's lowest ERA since the beginning of June after another quality start in the Bucs' 6-3 win over the Tigers on Tuesday night.
"There were times when we looked at this rotation and where we felt it could go, we knew we were going to have to show some patience that we may not have had in place before," Hurdle said. "We believed we had to give them some outings that were going to be learning experiments. ... I think it's shown the benefits of it now. They keep moving the chains."
As a result, the Pirates have only used six starters this season. The sixth, Williams, has been a revelation with a 3.56 ERA over his last 16 starts, including his seven innings of one-hit ball on Monday night. After Tyler Glasnow's struggles prompted a demotion to Triple-A Indianapolis, Williams took the job and ran with it.
Since his first start, opponents are slashing .247/.301/.365 off him. The MLB-average slash line from the 8-hole this year is .248/.316/.395
With Kuhl seemingly taking a step forward after a rough start, and the Pirates' continued belief in his ability and competitiveness, it creates an interesting question for the front office.
Gerrit Cole is under club control through 2019, and Ivan Nova signed a three-year deal last offseason. Jameson Taillon is only in his second Major League season. Kuhl and Williams look like Major League starters, and they'll be around for a while.
Glasnow and Steven Brault are dominating in Triple-A, and Drew Hutchison remains under club control. Nick Kingham is nearly out of Minor League options, and Clay Holmes has had a solid year in Indianapolis. Will the Pirates have a rotation logjam in the near future?
"That may be the best problem we can have -- too much starting pitching. I don't think anyone ever has that," general manager Neal Huntington said on Sunday. "You continue to see Chad develop. Trevor has been just solid, steady. ... Tyler Glasnow's ceiling, he's going to be in our rotation at some point in time."
These situations typically resolve themselves. Pitching is a game of attrition due to injuries or ineffectiveness. The Pirates eventually could decide to move someone to the bullpen, explore trades to address other needs or simply preserve as much depth as possible in Triple-A.
If the "problem" presents itself, they'll be happy to address it.
"We'll figure it out," Huntington said. "When that day comes, that's a great theoretical question that we'll practically figure out when we get to that point."
Setup success story
• Right-hander Juan Nicasio, who recorded his third career save on Monday night, entered Tuesday leading the Majors with a career-high 56 appearances while posting a 2.25 ERA.
After struggling as a starter last season, Nicasio set out this spring to establish himself as a durable, effective late-inning reliever. He's done exactly that.
"Whether he's built for the bullpen, I don't know that. All I know is it works really well for him out there," Hurdle said. "His ability to get ready and stay ready, and be strong throughout the process, has been impressive."
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.