WASHINGTON -- The Bucs' bullpen has been a major component of the team's contention in the National League Central. Pittsburgh relievers have 21 wins, 36 saves, a collective ERA of 2.76 -- all among the best in Major League Baseball.
What the Pirates did not have until Vic Black checked in on Tuesday was a "born" reliever.
One of the more impressive aspects of the bullpen assembled by GM Neal Huntington and manager Clint Hurdle and staff is its composition of guys drafted and developed as starting pitchers.
Including Jeanmar Gomez, the occasional spot-starter and current long man in the bullpen, the five incumbent relievers setting up new closer Mark Melancon started 501 of their combined 666 Minor League appearances before being transitioned by the Bucs.
• Gomez (144 starts of 146 Minor League games)
• Bryan Morris (79 of 162)
• Tony Watson (56 of 106)
• Justin Wilson (98 of 112)
• Vin Mazzaro (124 of 144)
Conversely, Black is a natural reliever who has worked to perfect that role since being the Pirates' pick in the supplemental round of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, the overall No. 49 selection that year.
Black pulled into Nationals Park on Tuesday during batting practice and spent his first big league night in, well, the bullpen.
"As I have been all year [at Triple-A Indianapolis], I was ready to pitch, and I'll be ready again tonight," Black said before Wednesday's game.
Hurdle wants to get Black's big league feet wet quickly -- but also will look for a low-stress situation for his debut, meaning a game with a differential of at least five runs one way or the other.
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.