After six years, a $4 million signing bonus and plenty of other investments, all the Pirates had to show for Bryan Bullington yesterday, when Cleveland claimed him off waivers, was an 0-3 record, a 5.89 ERA and endless questions about how previous management could have made him the No. 1 overall pick of the 2002 draft.
Be sure, too, that Bullington will have questions ...
"I feel like I never really got the opportunity that others did," he said yesterday, on his way to reporting to the Indians' Class AAA affiliate in Buffalo, N.Y. "You know, just to get the ball for five starts and see what I could do. I felt I was just as qualified as other guys who did get those chances."
He acknowledged that injury played "a big part" in that: Immediately after making his major league debut in late 2005, he was shut down to shoulder pain and, eventually, had surgery that cost him all of the following season.
He bounced back last summer with Class AAA Indianapolis and made it back to Pittsburgh in September. He was up this year, too, but he sat idle for two weeks, May 29 to June 12, in an episode that might have been equally embarrassing to the team and the player.
INDIANAPOLIS (44-51) lost to Toledo, 3-1. RHP Jason Davis (4-9, 4.66) allowed one run and five hits in 7 2/3 innings. 1B Steve Pearce (.265) went 2 for 4 with a double. 3B Neil Walker (.232) went 1 for 4. CF Andrew McCutchen (.285) went 0 for 3 with a walk.
ALTOONA (38-53) lost at Trenton, 5-3. RHP Jared Hughes (0-1, 9.00), making his Class AA debut, allowed five runs and four hits in five innings. RHP Jeff Sues (4.50) pitched three scoreless innings of relief. He struck out six. 1B Jason Delaney (.304) went 2 for 3 with a walk to extend his hitting streak to 12 games.
LYNCHBURG (41-48) beat Kinston, 7-1. LHP Tony Watson (5-8, 3.54) pitched four scoreless innings and allowed three hits. CF Alex Presley (.267) went 3 for 3 with a double and two RBIs. RF Jamie Romak (.305) went 1 for 2 with a double, a walk and two RBIs.
HICKORY (38-52) won at Lake County, 2-1. RHP Brad Clapp (3-6, 3.31) pitched six scoreless innings and allowed four hits. He struck out three, walked one. SS Jordy Mercer (.167) hit his first home run and went 1 for 2 with two walks.
STATE COLLEGE (4-17) lost to Hudson Valley, 6-4, in 11 innings. LHP Rudy Owens (0-3, 6.88) allowed three runs and seven hits in 4 1/3 innings. C Mark Carver (.179) went 2 for 5 with a double.
BRADENTON (8-9) was off.
"Obviously, it wasn't ideal for anyone," Bullington said. "I understand that there weren't a lot of game situations at the time, but to not even get a sniff was frustrating."
Now, Bullington, 27, will get what he considers a fresh start in a new system, with an aim on upgrading the numbers he brings from Indianapolis: 4-6 with a 5.52 ERA in 15 starts.
"Obviously, this was ideal," he said of changing organizations. "They called and told me what they expect from me, and I'm excited for the chance."
Pirates general manager Neal Huntington, who designated Bullington for assignment eight days ago, had expressed hope that Bullington would clear waivers and return to Indianapolis.
"He wasn't in our immediate picture, but we felt there was more there," Huntington said. "We thought it was a worthwhile risk, and it didn't pay off."
One last time ...
Among the players drafted in the 2002 first round after Bullington: B.J. Upton, Prince Fielder, Jeremy Hermida, Joe Saunders, Scott Kazmir, Zack Greinke, Jeff Francis, Khalil Greene, Nick Swisher, Cole Hamels, James Loney, Jeff Francoeur, Matt Cain and Joe Blanton.
Munoz not here long
In a glaring sign of the organizational lack of pitching, the Pirates promoted Luis Munoz from Class AA Altoona to eat up innings through the All-Star break. Munoz, 26, was 3-3 with a 5.09 ERA for Indianapolis early this season and was demoted to the Curve. He went 1-2 with a 5.09 ERA there, with his most recent outing bringing five scoreless innings.
Huntington minced no words on that front.
"I would not anticipate Luis being here for an extended period of time," he said. "It was a step short of desperation. Our pitching staff has taken a beating of late, and he was the best available option to give us 75-90 pitches if necessary."
Munoz already was on the full 40-man roster, which played a role.
Sign of the times
Anyone wondering why the Pirates will pursue pitching prospects at the upcoming trade deadline needs only to point to this move.
"Candidly, there is not the depth that we need," Huntington said. "As we've talked about, if we're going to be a championship organization, we're going to need a lot of pieces. Especially pitching."
Craig Wilson to Seattle
The Pirates made two minor league trades, sending first baseman Craig Wilson to the Seattle Mariners for a player to be named and acquiring right-handed starter Dan Reichert and utilityman Ryan Mulhern from Cleveland for a player to be named.
Wilson, a decade-long fixture in Pittsburgh, batted .223 with 10 home runs for Indianapolis after being signed as a minor league free agent in April.
Reichert, 32, was 1-3 with a 4.40 ERA for Buffalo. Mulhern, 27, was batting .250 with seven home runs for Buffalo. Each was assigned to Indianapolis.
• Paul Maholm, the Pirates' starter last night, will make the first start after the All-Star break, Thursday in Denver.
• Huntington, on starter John Van Benschoten's demotion Wednesday: "He's not out of the picture. We needed someone to give us some innings right now, and John wasn't going to be able to pitch for another five days."
• The sellout crowd last night was the fourth of the season, 53rd in PNC Park history.