Bucs could shuffle rotation with eye toward playoffs

Bucs could shuffle rotation with eye toward playoffs

PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates could be heading for their second consecutive National League Wild Card Game this season.

It's familiar territory for the Bucs, who won the do-or-die game against Cincinnati last season, and did so by lining up Francisco Liriano to make the start. The Pirates have a good opportunity to lock in a playoff spot in the next few days, and general manager Neal Huntington said there have been some discussions about which starting pitcher the team would like to use in a plethora of different scenarios.

Pittsburgh still has an outside chance at winning the NL Central, as they came into Sunday 3 1/2 games back of the Cardinals. They also trailed the Giants by one game for the top Wild Card spot, which would allow them to host the one-game playoff. The Pirates just need to catch San Francisco in the standings, as they hold the tiebreaker after winning the season series.

With all that in mind, Huntington said the team will think about saving a given starter based on how many regular-season games left on the schedule can have an impact on the Pirates' postseason fate.

"We worked through a number of different options and we're fortunate that we have a handful of guys that we feel very comfortable with the ball in their hand in what arguably will be the most important game of the year," Huntington said. "We've got any number of scenarios ready to go, depending on how the rest of the season plays out."

The NL Wild Card Game is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 1, meaning a pitcher would have to last throw on Friday to enter on regular rest.

Stephen Pianovich is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.