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Starting pitching depth paying off for Pirates

Starting pitching depth paying off for Pirates

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PITTSBURGH -- Pirates manager Clint Hurdle began talking confidently about his team's pitching depth back in February, when he could scan the practice fields of Pirate City and see a full complement of starting pitchers with others (Gerrit Cole, Francisco Liriano and Charlie Morton most prominent among them) on the waiting list.

Hurdle sounded like an Army recruiter when he termed his rotation "Eleven Strong."

So, guess what? Brandon Cumpton on Saturday became the 11th different starter used by the Bucs in the season's first 68 games.

"Little did we know that we'd have to pull in all 11 in the first half," Hurdle said.

Last season, the Pirates needed only 10 different starters. Not sure whether that statistic is the better indication of the current depth -- or the fact the 2013 eleven includes only five who were also in the '12 mix (A.J. Burnett, Wandy Rodriguez, Jeff Locke, James McDonald, Morton)?

"It's tangible evidence of what Neal [general manager Neal Huntington] and staff had been able to do before," said Hurdle. "A lot of hard work for three years went unnoticed because there was no tangible evidence of success at the Major League level."

Next? If needed, it could be Stolmy Pimentel. The 23-year-old Dominican righty, acquired as part of the Boston package for Joel Hanrahan, has just been promoted to Triple-A Indianapolis after 13 solid starts at Altoona (4-3, 3.61).

"He and [Jameson] Taillon [the 2010 No. 2 overall Draft pick, who is still in Double-A] are banging the drums," Hurdle said. "They're coming."

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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