For the hardcore Pittsburgh sports fan, the euphoria of the Steelers' Super Bowl XL victory has quickly given way to the grim reality of the Pirates' upcoming campaign. Fresh off a 67-95 season and projected to be the dregs of the National League Central again, Pittsburgh has already taken a major hit to its shaky pitching staff.
Kip Wells, who was expected to be the No. 2 starter, has a blood clot near his right arm that might require surgery. Wells could miss five to eight months, and Pittsburgh has only three surefire starters without him in the rotation. The enigmatic Oliver Perez, young standout Zach Duke and 23-year old Paul Malholm are the only pitchers who are locked into the rotation right now. A handful of other pitchers will contend for two open spots on the staff.
Veterans Victor Santos and Ryan Vogelsong will be in the running, along with prospects Ian Snell, Sean Burnett and Tom Gorzelanny. Santos and Vogelsong are the only possible starters above age 24. While there is an obvious mix of youth and a pair of veterans with little upside, Pirates GM Dave Littlefield told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that the team will fill its pitching holes from within because there are no real possibilities in the trade or free-agent markets right now.