NEW YORK -- The routine has been very much that for Brandon Cumpton the last two seasons: get called up to Pittsburgh, pitch, get sent back down to Triple-A Indianapolis. Pittsburgh, Indy, Pittsburgh, Indy -- 11 times since the start of 2013, the Pirates moved Cumpton from one level to another, usually for the sake of a one- or two-game stint in the Majors.
This time, though, he's getting a legitimate chance to stick in the bigs, even aside from what happens Monday against the Mets.
"We believe he's at the top of the list of guys who have earned this opportunity," manager Clint Hurdle said. "He's been given spot starts. Time for him to go ahead and get an opportunity that's got some legs to it."
Hurdle commended Cumpton's fastball command, confidence and "blue collar mentality," but there is plenty of room for improvement. In only two of his eight Major League games (seven starts) has the 25-year-old right-hander finished as many as six innings. It doesn't take away from his overall impressive numbers -- a 2.70 ERA and 0.99 WHIP to go with a 5.17 strikeout-to-walk ratio -- but Hurdle would like see to see him pitch a little deeper.
In his most recent big league start on May 1 against the Orioles, Cumpton shut out Baltimore for five innings, but he could not escape the sixth. He gave up four runs on four hits while recording two outs.
"A handful of times the sixth inning has complicated things for him," Hurdle said. "It's the third time through the lineup that's always the biggest question for a young pitcher coming from Triple-A to the Major Leagues. Can they navigate three times through the lineup?"
So far, Cumpton hasn't. In his seven starts (40 1/3 innings), he limits opposing batters to a .105 average, .190 on-base percentage and .105 slugging mark the first time through the lineup. The second time around, those numbers leap to a still-effective .254/.290/.339, but the third time through a lineup, they are .382/.405/.529.
Tim Healey is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.