In relief, Gorzelanny gains confidence
Left-hander will return to Triple-A to join starting rotation
WASHINGTON -- Tom Gorzelanny's clutch performances out of the bullpen on Monday and Tuesday won't do anything to extend the left-hander's stay with the Pirates longer than initially anticipated. There still is an urgency to get him back in the Triple-A starting rotation.
But in an unexpected-yet-encouraging sort of way, this short bullpen stay could, in the long run, expedite Gorzelanny's return.
Confidence in Gorzelanny wasn't exactly resounding when the Pirates called him up over the weekend. Pittsburgh needed someone with the ability to pitch multiple innings out of the bullpen, and because of when his rotation day fell, Gorzelanny fit the bill.
As it has turned out, however, Gorzelanny has been needed twice, and both times in critical situations. He struck out Adam Dunn, the potential tying run, in Monday's win before relieving Sean Burnett in the ninth on Tuesday, getting out the inning with another strikeout and then pitching a perfect 10th to seal the win.
So how can this experience help him as a starter?
"I think his focus and his intensity and the way he attacked the hitter is the way he needs to do it as a starter," Pirates manager John Russell said. "The last two games he's pitched, he's had to make quality pitches. You can't leave a ball up, because the game's over. I hope he takes this and takes it back when he goes back to pitching every fifth day. The mental frame that he has now is a pretty good indication of what he's capable of doing."
Gorzelanny, who had made only two Major League and one Minor League relief appearances before this week, agreed.
"I feel like this is actually a really good learning experience for me," Gorzelanny said. "I can bring that into when I start and go out there in the first inning and act like it's the eighth inning. Just go out there and get the job done from the get-go. It will go a long way to when I go back to starting."
In other words, what the Pirates looked at as not much more than a desire to have Gorzelanny be a stopgap could pay long-term dividends.
It goes without saying, too, that this has been a confidence boost for the lefty. It hasn't completely erased the memories of his 6-9 record and 6.66 ERA last season, but it has been a reminder that Gorzelanny does have the ability to be a Major League pitcher.
"It goes a long way to have a positive outing," he said. "Coming up and doing this is definitely a good stepping stone."
There still is no definitive timetable for Gorzelanny's current stay with the club, though the bullpen should be able to finish recovering with one or two lengthy outings from the starters in the next few days. That would allow the organization to move Gorzelanny back into a starting role in Indianapolis.
"We always hold on to the fact that we believe he's going to be a major help for us at some point," Russell said. "He was making progress, and hopefully this will be another push for him to boost his confidence and to realize that he can attack the zone and get after it."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.