HOUSTON -- Tom Gorzelanny's raw numbers would suggest that he's earned a return to Pittsburgh and another shot at proving he belongs in the Pirates' rotation. Well, not so fast.
General manager Neal Huntington said on Tuesday that not only does Virgil Vasquez have a hold on the team's fifth-spot in the rotation indefinitely, but that Gorzelanny is still a ways from being at the point where management feels comfortable enough to bring him back up to the Majors. That's a stance that management maintains despite a string of what looks like four strong starts from the left-hander since he was sent to Triple-A Indianapolis.
"I think Tom still has to prove that he can get Major League hitters out in Triple-A," said Huntington, when asked what's holding Gorzelanny back. "Even a 12-strikeout outing against Toledo was very erratic. Tom can't cruise and get the Nos. 2 or 3 hitters out with his best stuff and best focus and then get the Nos. 7 and 8 hitters out with a fastball down the middle that the guy just misses.
"It's the consistent quality pitches," Huntington added. "If we had a need, I think we're getting to a place where we could call him back up. However, there are still improvements needed to be made."
Gorzelanny has allowed just two earned runs in 22 innings with the Indians, walking five and striking out 26. Still, Huntington pointed to Gorzelanny's efficiency and aggressiveness as not being up to expectations yet.
"We're hearing signs that he's getting closer to the '07 approach than he has -- with his attacking the plate, his velocity," Huntington said. "That's encouraging, but we brought Tom up last year after he had a dominant stay in Triple-A and he really didn't do that well up here."
That was in reference to the 0-2 record and 7.13 ERA Gorzelanny had in four 2008 outings after being demoted early last July.
Even if Gorzelanny were deemed as Major League ready, Huntington said that the organization has no immediate plans to take Vasquez out of the rotation.
Vasquez (1-2) has pitched six innings in each of his three starts, allowing two, three and four runs, respectively, in those outings. It's not been dominance by any means, but the Pirates see it as good enough despite potentially having other options.
"He's had two quality starts in three outings," Huntington said. "I think we'll take that from any pitcher. If he can continue to give us that, he'll continue to earn opportunities to pitch. Virgil has done a nice job for us.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.