PITTSBURGH -- All season long, Pirates fans will be getting looks at a reliever almost certain to be in the team's 2015 starting rotation.
Manager Clint Hurdle and coaches have been effusive in the potential they see in right-hander Stolmy Pimentel, and his first outing of the season did nothing to sway them from that anticipation.
Pimentel came on in the 13th inning on Wednesday night to blank the Cubs on two hits for four innings and pick up the 4-3 victory on Thursday morning when the Bucs pushed across a run in the 16th.
"We see a guy with a three-, four-pitch mix who can get through the lineup three times," Hurdle said. "He'll be a potential starter moving forward."
The only current starters under team control for next season are Charlie Morton and Gerrit Cole. Veteran lefties Francisco Liriano and Wandy Rodriguez are both in the final years of their pacts, and Edinson Volquez inked a one-year deal as a free agent. So even factoring in Jeff Locke, currently on the DL rehabbing from right-side discomfort, there could be two openings in 2015.
Well, make it one. Pimentel seems to have dibs on the other.
"The arm is big," Hurdle said. "We love the young man, the guy -- he's very passionate, a great listener, hard worker. Two-seam and four-seam fastballs, slider, splitter. It feels old school, the way we used to cut young starters' teeth in the bullpen."
Pimentel's starting debut will not have to wait for next season. If the Pirates need spot starts -- a virtual certainty given normal attrition -- the 24-year-old Dominican is certain to get first call.
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.