Pittsburgh Pirates

Pittsburgh Pirates Fantasy Baseball Daily Bullpen Updates and Closer Depth Chart

Closer1st in line2nd in line2024 CloserUpdated
PITDavid BednarWil CroweYerry De Los SantosDavid Bednar3/16/23

Previous updates:

March 16, 2023

Pittsburgh Pirates – If the Reds weren’t the worst bullpen in 2023, it was probably the Pirates, who are now on year 8 of the 5 year rebuilding plan. Like the Reds, the Pirates also saw the emergence of a top closing option in David Bednar, who fought off an early committee to take the reins of the bullpen and never really looked back. Bednar is joined by Wil Crowe, who had an excellent season going before falling apart in August and September, and Yerry De Los Santos, who has showed flashes of being a top flight reliever, but has struggled with consistency. Another option is Duane Underwood Jr. who has excelled at keeping the ball in the park, but is otherwise unspectacular. A pair of Colins, Holderman and Selby, have a chance of making the roster out of spring training, and look like solid relief prospects, but they are better left until they have secured a major league role. Overall, Bednar is a solid choice as the clear closer on a bad team, but he also has a high risk of being traded as he enters his arbitration years, which means the Pirates bullpen is a good one to steer clear of.

Starting 2023 hierarchy: Bednar | Crowe | De Los Santos.
Holds candidates: Crowe, De Los Santos, Underwood.

September 29, 2022
Pittsburgh Pirates — Resting David Bednar as we expected, the Pirates gave Chase de Jong a chance to close out a game with a three-run lead, but he gave up two home runs. De Jong looks to still be fourth in the Pirates’ pecking order.

Hierarchy remains: Bednar | Crowe | Underwood.

September 23, 2022
Pittsburgh Pirates — David Bednar was activated from the injured list Thursday and will likely resume his role as Pirates closer down the stretch.

Updated hierarchy: Bednar | Crowe | Underwood.

September 15, 2022
Pittsburgh Pirates — Long reliever Miguel Yajure gave an overworked bullpen a rest on Wednesday, pitching the last three innings of a 10-4 win to pick up his first career save.

Hierarchy remains: Crowe | Underwood | de Jong.

September 14, 2022
Pittsburgh Pirates – As the Vulture Save Watch predicted, Duane Underwood Jr. closed out a 1-0 win for the Pirates on Tuesday.

Hierarchy remains: Crowe | Underwood | de Jong.

August 31, 2022
Pittsburgh Pirates – Score one for the Vulture Save Watch, as Chase de Jong secured his first MLB save thanks to a sweet double play.

Hierarchy remains: Crowe | Underwood | de Jong.

August 30, 2022
Pittsburgh Pirates – Wil Crowe had a brutal outing on Monday, giving up the game-tying home run in the bottom of the 8th, and then a walkoff two-run homer in the 9th. Despite an underwhelming August, the Pirates probably aren’t ready to make a move here yet, but if they do want to tinker, setup man Duane Underwood has been steady, while Chase de Jong has a 13.1 inning scoreless streak.

Updated hierarchy: Crowe | Underwood | de Jong.

August 19, 2022
Pittsburgh Pirates — In winning 8-2 Thursday, Pittsburgh finally stuck it to Red Sox broadcaster Dennis Eckersley, who drew the ire of Pirates players, including current closer Wil Crowe, when he called the team a “hodgepodge of nothingness” this week. Eckersley, who would have been a Closer Monkey mainstay in his heyday as a Hall of Fame closer if we were around and, well, if the Internet had existed, wasn’t necessarily wrong (especially in reference to the lineup and starting rotation), but we’re bullpen-obsessed so it’s worth mentioning the Pirates bullpen has had interesting pieces over the years and currently boasts a top young closer in David Bednar, though he is currently hurt. 

Hierarchy remains: Crowe | Underwood | Holderman.

August 11, 2022
Pittsburgh Pirates — Derek Shelton tried to get a two-inning save out of Wil Crowe on Wednesday, but Crowe loaded the bases in the ninth and departed after a confusing, run-scoring double play cut the Pirates’ lead to one. Enter lefty Eric Stout, likely summoned to avoid Arizona bringing in Josh Rojas as a pinch-hitter. Stout got a flyout and earned his first career save.

Hierarchy remains: Crowe | de los Santos | Underwood.

August 4, 2022
Pittsburgh Pirates — After Duane Underwood pitched a clean seventh inning in a tie game, Yerry de los Santos got the chance to protect a three-run lead in the eighth. After getting two quick outs, he gave it all back on four hits and a walk, requiring Wil Crowe to bail him out. Crowe ultimately picked up the win on a walk-off homer off Devin Williams and seems even likelier to have the ninth inning to himself.

Updated hierarchy: Crowe | de los Santos | Underwood.

August 3, 2022
Pittsburgh Pirates – As we hinted at this morning, David Bednar has been placed on the 15-day IL. Expect Wil Crowe to be the first option for saves in Bednar’s absence, with Yerry de los Santos also potentially in the mix for the ninth inning.

Updated hierarchy: Crowe | de los Santos | Holderman.

August 3, 2022

Pittsburgh Pirates – David Bednar hasn’t pitched since Friday, his only appearance since a July 24 outing, which made it a bit surprising that it was Wil Crowe who got the ninth inning on Tuesday. Crowe converted his third save of the year and after the game manager Derek Shelton said that Bednar’s lower back was bothering him again. Shelton added that they’ll determine whether or not he’ll need an IL stint in the next day or two. Expect Crowe to be the first option for saves if Bednar does indeed land on the IL.

Hierarchy remains: Bednar | Crowe | de los Santos.

July 12, 2022
Pittsburgh Pirates – Yerry de los Santos got the last out of the 8th in what was a 2-run game, then stayed on for the 9th when the Pirates stretched their lead to four. It’s his third save of the season, all of which have come since June 29.

Updated hierarchy: Bednar | Crowe | de los Santos.

July 3, 2022
Pittsburgh Pirates — David Bednar bounced back from a pair of rough outings to pitch a scoreless 9th inning for his 12th save of the season.  Hopefully, this means that Bednar is over his back injury that kept him out at the beginning of last week.

Hierarchy remains: Bednar | Crowe | Stratton.

July 1, 2022
Pittsburgh Pirates — David Bednar returned to action on Thursday night, tasked with protecting a four-run lead in the ninth after the Pirates added an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth. Bednar struggled, however, so Yerry de los Santos came on to close out an 8-7 win for his second career save and his second save in as many days. The Pirates thought they’d avoid having to place Bednar on the injured list at the beginning of the week, but we’d be surprised if he doesn’t end the week on the IL.

Hierarchy remains: Bednar | Crowe | Stratton.

June 30, 2022
Pittsburgh Pirates — David Bednar remained unavailable on Wednesday, and the best-rested option in the Pirates’ bullpen was Yerry de los Santos. The rookie picked up his first career save as a result.

Hierarchy remains: Bednar | Crowe | Stratton.

June 29, 2022
Pittsburgh Pirates — David Bednar has been dealing with a lower back issue and was not available Tuesday night. Manager Derek Shelton said they hope to avoid an IL stint.

Hierarchy remains: Bednar | Crowe | Stratton.

June 16, 2022
Pittsburgh Pirates — Wil Crowe and David Bednar combined to get 14 outs on Wednesday to seal a two-run victory for the Pirates. Crowe has moved ahead of Chris Stratton in Pittsburgh’s ‘pen.

Updated hierarchy: Bednar | Crowe | Stratton.

June 1, 2022
Pittsburgh Pirates — It was no surprise that David Bednar got the night off after a 50-pitch outing on Monday, but it was a surprise that Chris Stratton pitched the eighth and Wil Crowe got the ninth. Both Stratton and Crowe fired 1-2-3 frames, with Crowe earning his second save of the season. With Bednar likely off on Wednesday as well, we’ll see who the Pirates go to if another save chance arises. 

Updated hierarchy: Bednar | Stratton | Crowe.

May 25, 2022
Pittsburgh Pirates — Heath Hembree is on the IL, which means we welcome Duane Underwood Jr. to the hierarchy. Underwood is someone who can throw multiple innings as a bridge to Chris Stratton and David Bednar.

Updated hierarchy: Bednar | Stratton | Underwood Jr.

May 12, 2022
Pittsburgh Pirates — David Bednar earned a two-inning save, his fifth of the season, right after Chris Stratton blew the lead in the seventh inning. We think Bednar has clearly established himself as the top save option in the Pittsburgh bullpen.

Updated hierarchy: Bednar | Stratton | Hembree.

May 8, 2022
Pittsburgh Pirates — The Pirates went with Chris Stratton in the 8th inning and David Bednar in the 9th inning yesterday to close out an 8-5 victory.  Bednar continues to impress as he struck out the side and lowered his ERA to 0.71.  He also has both Pirates’ saves in May and could be close to kicking the committee tag.

Hierarchy remains: *Bednar | Stratton | Hembree.
*= closer-by-committee 

April 29, 2022
Pittsburgh Pirates — Pittsburgh held a 2-1 lead Thursday and went with David Bednar in the eighth and Chris Statton in the ninth. Bednar retired the side on 10 pitches for his fourth hold but Stratton was not nearly as effective, yielding four hits and two runs to cough up the lead and blow the save. Bednar (0.00 ERA) is the better pitcher here, but the pair will likely continue to share save chances, unless Stratton (5.40 ERA) starts to scuffle a bit more.

Hierarchy remains: *Bednar | Stratton | Hembree.
*= closer-by-committee 

April 23, 2022
Pittsburgh Pirates — The Pirates turned to Chris Stratton again to handle the 9th inning with 1 run lead. He pitched himself into and out of trouble to earn his second save in as many days. David Bednar did pitch in a higher leverage situation, taking on the heart of the order in the 8th. Bednar continues to have better overall numbers, and this is definitely still a timeshare at closer, but if Bednar starts getting put into “relief ace” situations it will mean more save chances for Stratton than usual. 

Hierarchy remains: *Bednar | Stratton | Hembree.
*= closer-by-committee

April 22, 2022
Pittsburgh Pirates
— It was Chris Stratton’s turn in the ninth on Thursday in this Pittsburgh committee, which seems to be a 50/50 split between Stratton and David Bednar at this point. Stratton converted for his first save. Bednar (0.00 ERA) got the last out of the seventh and pitched a clean eighth ahead of him. Look for Bednar to get a shot if the Pirates have a chance Friday. Stratton has pitched in two straight.

Hierarchy remains: *Bednar | Stratton | Hembree.
*= closer-by-committee

April 14, 2022
Pittsburgh Pirates
— Wil Crowe, who led the Pirates in starts last season, has been converted to long relief, and picked up his first career save in a scoreless three-inning performance on Wednesday.

Hierarchy remains: *Bednar | Stratton | Hembree.
*= closer-by-committee

April 4, 2022
Pittsburgh Pirates
— As noted in our NL Central Preview, the Pirates have a 2 handed committee approach to this season, with David Bedner and Chris Stratton sharing the closing duties. Manager Derek Shelton confirmed that in an interview last week, noting that they plan to cycle them in and out of the 9th inning as matchups dictate. The Pirates still will struggle to win games, but if you’re looking for a saves option that may have flown under the radar in your draft, picking up either half of this committee might earn some cheap saves.

Hierarchy remains: *Bednar | Stratton | Hembree.
*= closer-by-committee

March 24, 2022
Pittsburgh Pirates – The Pirates lost 100 games last year, and there’s no reason to think they can’t do it again! The bullpen was…not the worst part of the team, but it’s hard to lock up saves if you don’t win games. This Pirates bring back both David Bednar and Chris Stratton, who were both solid closing options for them down the stretch, where they split save chances pretty evenly. Joining them will be Heath Hembree, who struggled last year, and will probably be out of the 9th inning picture to start. Lefty Sam Howard will be in the mix for holds as well, but if you’re chasing holds there are much better places to look. Of the options Pittsburgh has, Bednar is the most intriguing, and will probably be the 1A to Stratton’s 1B in this two headed committee, but volume of chances is a major concern for the perpetually rebuilding Pirates.

Starting 2022 hierarchy: *Bednar | Stratton | Hembree.
* = closer-by-committee
Holds candidates: Stratton | Hembree | Howard.

September 29, 2021
Pittsburgh Pirates – In his second appearance since returning from the IL, David Bednar struck out two and walked two in a scoreless eighth inning to set up a Chris Stratton save. Stratton appears to be in the lead for saves, but as we wrote yesterday, don’t be surprised to see Bednar earn a chance this week. In fact, Bednar has allowed just two runs (both earned) since July 2.

Hierarchy remains: *Stratton | Bednar | Shreve.
* = closer-by-committee

September 28, 2021
Pittsburgh Pirates – The Pirates welcomed David Bednar back from the IL over the weekend; expect him to return to a high-leverage role — likely sharing save chances with Chris Stratton — in the season’s final week.

Updated hierarchy: *Stratton | Bednar | Shreve.
* = closer-by-committee

September 15, 2021
Pittsburgh Pirates – David Bednar hit the IL tonight with a right oblique strain and is unlikely to pitch again this season. Chris Stratton, who notched his fifth save of the season on Tuesday, should get the bulk of the save chances for the remainder of the season.

Updated hierarchy: Stratton | Shreve | Kuhl.

September 14, 2021
Pittsburgh Pirates – David Bednar hit the IL tonight with a right oblique strain. Chris Stratton should get the bulk of the save chances for the remainder of the season, as it would be foolish for Bednar to pitch again in 2021.

Updated hierarchy: *Stratton | Shreve | Kuhl.

September 12, 2021
Pittsburgh Pirates – Chris Stratton pitched a scoreless 9th inning to pick up his fourth save of the season.  That’s two straight saves for Stratton and we will monitor this situation to see if he has moved ahead of David Bednar in this committee.

Hierarchy remains: *Bednar | Stratton | Shreve.

September 8, 2021
Pittsburgh Pirates – David Bednar faced the heart of the Tigers’ order in the eighth inning and maintained his team’s one-run lead, setting the stage for Chris Stratton to earn the save in the ninth.

Hierarchy remains: *Bednar | Stratton | Shreve.

August 25, 2021
Pittsburgh Pirates – David Bednar got the day off, so Chris Stratton pitched a perfect ninth inning to record his second save of the season. Congrats to everyone who not only read the Vulture Save Watch but knew the lowly Pirates would beat the lowlier Diamondbacks.

Hierarchy remains: *Bednar | Stratton | Shreve.

August 22, 2021
Pittsburgh Pirates – The Pirates’ bullpen recorded their first save since Richard Rodriguez was traded at the end of July and it went to David Bednar.  Bednar pitched a scoreless 9th inning, with Chris Stratton getting the 8th inning hold ahead of him.  In Friday night’s 4-0 win, it was Bednar in the 8th and Stratton in the 9th so this looks like it could still be a committee.  

Hierarchy remains: *Bednar | Stratton | Shreve.

August 1, 2021
Pittsburgh Pirates – We got our first glimpse of the Pirates bullpen yesterday without Richard Rodriguez and David Bednar got the call in the 8th inning with the Pirates up one run.  Bednar couldn’t get the job done as he allowed the game-tying run to score.  With the game still tied in the top of the 9th, Chris Stratton came on and ended up with the win after pitching a scoreless inning and watching the Pirates walk it off in the bottom of the inning.  We still like Bednar but it looks like this will be a committee at the very least and we will keep an eye out to see if Stratton moves ahead of him.

Hierarchy remains: *Bednar | Stratton | Shreve.

July 31, 2021
Pittsburgh Pirates – The Pirates dealt their closer, Richard Rodriguez, to the Atlanta Braves yesterday. David Bedner, who has been excellent in the setup role, will take his place at the back end of the bullpen. Chris Stratton and Chasen Shreve will try to help bridge the gap to Bednar. 

Updated hierarchy: Bednar | Stratton | Shreve.

July 30, 2021
Pittsburgh Pirates – The Pirates have traded Richard Rodriguez to the Braves. David Bednar is the likely closer in his absence.

Updated hierarchy: Bednar | Stratton | Keller.

July 20, 2021
Pittsburgh Pirates – Kyle Crick’s recent struggles prompted the Pirates to DFA him on Monday night, which was a bit of a surprise given the way he has dominated in brief stretches during his young career. David Bednar becomes the odds-on favorite for saves should Richard Rodriguez get traded before the deadline.

Updated hierarchy: Rodriguez | Bednar | Stratton.

July 8, 2021
Pittsburgh Pirates — The likelihood that Richard Rodriguez will be traded this month makes the Pirates’ setup job more important than you would otherwise expect — a possible stepping stone to an interim closer role. Heir apparent Kyle Crick is not making a strong case to take over, entering with a one-run lead in the sixth and giving up four runs on the road to an eventual 14-3 loss. David Bednar is probably a better handcuff here, with Chris Stratton also outperforming Crick of late.

Updated hierarchy: Rodriguez | Bednar | Crick.

July 5, 2021
Pittsburgh Pirates – Righty David Bednar picked up an 8th inning hold on Sunday, and has now given up just 1 run in his last 8 outings, and the peripherals look good, too, as he’s now recorded 40 Ks in 32 innings to go along with a 3.38 ERA and 1.09 WHIP on the year. With Richard Rodriguez a prime trade candidate, we’ll be watching the Pirates set-up men closely to see who might grab the job should Rodriguez get moved.

Updated hierarchy: Rodriguez | Crick | Bednar.

June 5, 2021
Pittsburgh Pirates – The Pirates’ bullpen was brilliant yesterday, scattering three hits over seven scoreless innings. Chris Stratton did the bulk of the work pitching 3.2 perfect innings to earn his first save of the year. Stratton has been a solid contributor for the Pirates but doesn’t get many high leverage chances for a last-place team.

Hierarchy remains: Rodriguez | Crick | Stratton.

May 23, 2021
Pittsburgh Pirates – The Pirates have reinstated Kyle Crick from the IL.  Crick should jump right back into the set-up role for the Pirates and could see some save chances when Richard Rodriguez is unavailable.

Updated hierarchy: Rodriguez | Crick | Stratton.

May 12, 2021
Pittsburgh Pirates – Kyle Crick landed on the IL, retroactive to May 10, 2021, with a right triceps strain. David Bednar should see additional high-leverage opportunities in Crick’s absence.

Updated hierarchy: Rodriguez | Stratton | Bednar.

April 23, 2021
Pittsburgh Pirates – Richard Rodriguez nailed down his third save Thursday with a clean ninth inning. He has all of the team’s saves this year and has yet to allow a run. Goodbye, asterisk!

Hierarchy remains: Rodriguez | Crick | Stratton.

April 2, 2021
Pittsburgh Pirates – Richard Rodriguez looked impressive Thursday in nailing down his first save, walking one and striking out two. David Bednar, who turned heads in spring training, pitched nicely in a seventh-inning appearance, striking out two in a scoreless frame. Kyle Crick, meanwhile, was unavailable as he is on paternity leave and will be away from the team to start the year.

Hierarchy remains: *Rodriguez | Crick | Stratton.
* = closer-by-committee

March 26, 2021
Pittsburgh Pirates – We’ve got to stick a committee asterisk on this bullpen, with Kyle Crick’s strong spring training giving Richard Rodriguez a fight for the closer’s role. Chris Stratton’s setup role is secure behind these two.

Updated hierarchy: *Rodriguez | Crick | Stratton.
* = closer-by-committee

March 5, 2021
Pittsburgh Pirates – Wins will be tough to come by for a Pirates team in the midst of a rebuild, and save opportunities may be few and far between. Richard Rodriguez is the presumptive closer for the Pirates, but he may be a trade target and likely wouldn’t close wherever he lands. Chris Stratton has been a reliable arm for the Pirates, and might end up closing if Rodriguez is out of the mix while Kyle Crick has looked like a future closer in the past. Sam Howard is the most likely left hander to get high leverage innings in the early going, and has posted some sneaky good strikeout rates, albeit with an inflated ERA.

Starting 2021 hierarchy: Rodriguez | Stratton | Howard
Holds candidates: Stratton, Howard, Crick, Shreve

September 26, 2020
Pittsburgh Pirates — It was Chris Stratton who got the save chance Friday night with Richard Rodriguez resting, but Stratton couldn’t get through a second inning and coughed up the lead and the ballgame to Cleveland. 

Hierarchy remains: Rodriguez | Turley | Stratton.

September 16, 2020
Pittsburgh Pirates – Pirates GM Ben Cherington had some bad news for anyone holding out hope that Keone Kela will return this season, as he said that the calendar is starting to work against them. 

Hierarchy remains: Rodriguez | Turley | Stratton.

September 15, 2020
Pittsburgh Pirates – The Pirates placed Kyle Crick back on the IL on Monday. That seriously limits Richard Rodriguez’s competition for the closer job, if there was any in the first place. We’ll remove his asterisk and welcome Chris Stratton to the hierarchy.

Updated hierarchy: Rodriguez | Turley | Stratton.

August 30, 2020
Pittsburgh Pirates — The Pirates have activated Kyle Crick from the 10 day IL.  Crick did not pitch yesterday but the Pirates may wish they had used him.  Chris Stratton, Nik Turley, and Richard Rodriguez all gave up at least one run in, with Rodriguez ultimately blowing the save in the 9th and taking the loss.  Crick has been a big part of the Pirates bullpen for the past couple years and could challenge for save opportunities while Kela is out if he can round into form quickly.

Updated hierarchy: *Rodriguez | Crick | Turley.
* = closer-by-committee

August 28, 2020
Pittsburgh Pirates — Keone Kela was moved to the IL with right forearm tightness. Richard Rodriguez continues to be the best bet for saves in his absence, but he did allow two runs (one earned) in getting the save in game one of a doubleheader Thursday. In game two, Nik Turley earned his first save (and only the team’s fourth this season). He pitched in a high-leverage spot on Sunday, too, so perhaps he’s beginning to make his move toward the back end of the bullpen. For now, we’ll slot him behind Rodriguez and Chris Stratton. 

Updated hierarchy: *Rodriguez | Stratton | Turley.
* = closer-by-committee

August 23, 2020

Pittsburgh Pirates — Keone Kela is day-to-day and will be re-assessed next week.  If the Pirates happen to stumble into a 9th inning lead over the next several days, Richard Rodriguez would likely fill the closer’s role.

Hierarchy remains: *Rodriguez | Stratton | Hartlieb.
* = closer-by-committee

August 22, 2020

Pittsburgh Pirates — Keone Kela left the mound in the middle of the ninth inning Friday night, accompanied by a trainer and holding his pitching arm. The postgame comments blamed the dreaded “forearm tightness,” although it’s not clear how serious it might be. We expect Kela to miss at least some time, potentially ruining the Pirates’ chief trade chip.

Updated hierarchy: *Rodriguez | Stratton | Hartlieb.
* = closer-by-committee

August 14, 2020
Pittsburgh Pirates — Keone Kela returned Thursday and was thrust into the ninth inning with a four-run lead. He wasted no time turning that into a three-run lead after allowing a homer to his first batter of the season. He followed that by giving up a base hit, but then retired the next three hitters in order to finish the game. Kela threw 28 pitches, so he might not be available Friday as he is eased back into game action.

Hierarchy remains: *Kela | Rodriguez | Stratton.
* = closer-by-committee

August 13, 2020
Pittsburgh Pirates — The Pirates haven’t lost in three days. Haven’t won either, but we’ll look on the bright side! Adding to this recent turn of good fortune, Keone Kela returns today. Kela hasn’t pitched yet this year due to his bout with COVID-19, but he’ll be active for this weekend’s series against the Reds. Kela has asked to be used in whatever situation the team needs, but he immediately jumps to the top of our hierarchy. 

Updated hierarchy: *Kela | Rodriguez | Stratton.
* = closer-by-committee

August 6, 2020
Pittsburgh Pirates – To add to the Pirates’ bullpen injury woes, Nick Burdi was placed on the 45-day IL and will miss the rest of the season with an elbow injury. Keone Kela is progressing towards a return and will immediately step into the closers role when he’s fit to pitch. If the Pirates get a save opportunity before then (a big if) we expect Richard Rodriguez to be their first choice, although this bullpen may be better left alone. 

Updated hierarchy: *Rodriguez | Stratton | Rios.
* = closer-by-committee

August 5, 2020
Pittsburgh Pirates – We’ll hopefully learn more today about when Keone Kela will return to the Pirates’ bullpen. Manager Derek Shelton did confirm yesterday that Kela will close when he comes back. Meanwhile, the Pirates placed Michael Feliz on the 45-day IL.

Updated hierarchy: *Burdi | Rodriguez | Stratton.
* = closer-by-committee

July 29, 2020
Pittsburgh Pirates – Pittsburgh placed Kyle Crick on the 10-day IL on Tuesday, which paved the way for Nick Burdi to record his first career save that night. Burdi will be the favorite for save chances going forward, but Derek Shelton said on Monday that he will be careful with Burdi’s usage because of Burdi’s injury history. Richard Rodriguez and Michael Feliz are the most likely candidates to see the ninth inning if Burdi is unavailable. Keep an eye on JT Brubaker as well, who struck out four Cardinals over two innings in his MLB debut on Sunday. 

Updated hierarchy: *Burdi| Rodriguez | Feliz.
* = closer-by-committee

September 11, 2019
Pittsburgh Pirates – Kyle Crick will miss the rest of the season with a hand injury after getting into a fight with Felipe Vazquez in the clubhouse. Your 2019 Pirates, everyone.

Updated hierarchy: Vazquez | Rodriguez | Liriano.

September 6, 2019
Pittsburgh Pirates – Reliever Brian Moran picked up a win in his first career game, pitching a scoreless fourth inning against his brother Colin’s Pirates. He actually faced Colin, striking him out (much to the excitement of their parents). This marked the first time in baseball history that a pitcher making his major league debut faced his brother during that appearance. Baseball is pretty cool.

Hierarchy remains: Vazquez | Kela | Crick.

August 28, 2019
Pittsburgh Pirates – Kyle Crick nearly got out of the sixth inning without any trouble, but he allowed a two-out solo shot that tied the game. Crick has not been great during the second half of the season, posting a 7.56 ERA since July 12. Meanwhile, Keone Kela has scattered five hits and given up just one earned run in 10 innings of work since his return from the IL on July 24.

Updated Hierarchy: Vazquez | Kela | Crick.

August 2, 2019
Pittsburgh Pirates – The suspensions for the ugly Pirates/Reds brawl were issued, and Keone Kela is out 10 games for his role in instigating it. Kyle Crick, meanwhile, received a three-game ban for “inappropriate actions.” Both players are appealing. Consider Richard Rodriguez and Francisco Liriano good vulture save candidates if Felipe Vazquez needs rest.

Hierarchy remains: Vazquez | Crick | Kela.

July 31, 2019
Pittsburgh Pirates – It was quite the night at the fights last night for the Pirates in Cincinnati. On the undercard, Keone Kela threw at a guy’s head and then later told Joey Votto that he could be next. That led to the main event, when the Reds’ Amir Garrett charged the entire Pirates dugout and Kyle Crick was right in the middle of it. Expect some suspensions to come from this. In non-boxing news, the price tag for Felipe Vazquez remains high and it seems unlikely any team, including the Dodgers, gives the Pirates what they want. There is of course a chance that someone like Kela is traded; he’s a reliever that NL teams may be interested in just for safety’s sake.

Hierarchy remains: Vazquez | Crick | Kela.

July 24, 2019
Pittsburgh Pirates – Keone Kela, who concluded his extended stint on the IL this week, has also finished his two-game suspension due to an altercation with a club staffer and will be activated today. Clint Hurdle said that they’ll look to use Kela in a non-leverage situation right off the bat, but expect Kela to eventually play a big role for the Pirates in the late innings.

Updated hierarchy: Vazquez | Crick | Kela.

June 13, 2019
Pittsburgh Pirates – The Pirates turned to Felipe Vazquez to face the top of the Braves’ order in a tied eighth inning, leaving the save opportunity for Kyle Crick once Pittsburgh scored in the top of the ninth. The first batter Crick faced tied the score with a home run, and the Pirates ultimately lost in the eleventh.

Hierarchy remains: Vazquez | Crick | Liriano.

May 9, 2019
Pittsburgh Pirates – Keone Kela went to the IL on Wednesday with right shoulder inflammation, and Francisco Liriano (1.08 ERA in 16 games; 10.8 K/9) should get more high-leverage looks as a result.

Updated hierarchy: Vazquez | Crick | Liriano.

May 6, 2019
Pittsburgh Pirates – For the third straight appearance, Kyle Crick got the 8th inning ahead of Felipe Vazquez. Keone Kela is starting to turn himself around, but right now, usage indicates that Crick would get save chances on nights that Vazquez is unavailable.

Updated hierarchy: Vazquez | Crick | Kela.

April 17, 2019
Pittsburgh Pirates – Felipe Vazquez got another day off after throwing 47 pitches on Sunday, so Keone Kela pitched the ninth inning on Tuesday with the Pirates holding a 3-2 lead. Kela gave up the tying run, but the Pirates scored twice in the 10th and paved the way for Nick Kingham to earn his first career save. Kyle Crick returned from the IL on Tuesday, but it looks like he’ll be eased back into high-leverage work since Richard Rodriguez pitched the eighth inning on Tuesday.

Hierarchy remains: Vazquez | Kela | Rodriguez.

April 8, 2019
Pittsburgh Pirates – Felipe Vazquez and Keone Kela both got ejected in the 4th-inning fracas/Renaissance painting, so Richard Rodriguez pitched the 9th for his first save of the year.

Hierarchy remains: Vazquez | Kela | Rodriguez.

April 6, 2019
Pittsburgh Pirates – Kyle Crick’s absence on Thursday was explained when he hit the IL on Friday with triceps tightness. Richard Rodriguez ascends in his absence.

Updated hierarchy: Vazquez | Kela | Rodriguez.

April 5, 2019
Pittsburgh Pirates – Felipe Vazquez had a bit of an adventure in recording his first save of the year on Thursday. After inducing a leadoff groundout, Matt Kemp struck out on a wild pitch and eventually advanced to third base after the next batter doubled. Vazquez rebounded by striking out the next two hitters to lock down the save. Richard Rodriguez, who struggled on Opening Day, pitched well in the eighth inning ahead of Vazquez. Keone Kela was unavailable on Thursday, as was another pitcher, who we’re presuming was Kyle Crick based on Rodriguez’s appearance.

Hierarchy remains: Vazquez | Kela | Crick.

February 21, 2019
Pittsburgh Pirates – The Pirates enter the 2019 season with one of the more stable bullpens in baseball. Clint Hurdle has been known to stick with defined bullpen roles, and to start the year he has a pretty clear hierarchy to work with. Closer Felipe Vazquez saved 37 games last year, and will return to his spot at the back end of the Bucco bullpen. Keone Kela was perhaps the best pitcher for the Pirates last year, and will serve as the primary setup man, with Kyle Crick and Richard Rodriguez also getting late inning looks. The Pirates signed Francisco Liriano and Brandon Maurer to tryouts, and if they make the team they could add some bullpen depth, but a more interesting prospect is rule 5 draftee Nick Burdi. Burdi is coming off of Tommy John surgery, and the Pirates will have to hold on to him for at least 2 months or he goes on waivers. He has a lot of upside as a former top prospect, and with the Pirates in a bit of a rebuild, they may want to see what they have in the young righty.

Starting 2019 hierarchy: Vazquez | Kela | Crick.
Holds candidates: Kela, Crick, Rodriguez.

September 17, 2018
Pittsburgh Pirates – Over the weekend, the Pirates announced that Keone Kela will not pitch again this season, as they attempt to protect his arm from any additional workload. Kyle Crick and Richard Rodriguez will slide up — they got the 8th and 7th innings, respectively, in both of the last two games.

Updated hierarchy: Vazquez | Crick | Rodriguez. 

July 31, 2018
Pittsburgh Pirates – The Pirates have acquired former Rangers’ closer Keone Kela.  Felipe Vazquez should hang out to the closer’s job with Kela sliding into a set-up role alongside Kyle Crick.

Updated hierarchy: Vazquez | Kela | Crick.

July 25, 2018
Pittsburgh Pirates – The Pirates have won 11 in a row and all of a sudden are just three games back of the second Wild Card spot. This may make the buyers at the deadline, and one player they’re eyeing is Rangers closer Keone Kela. If the Pirates add Kela, it’s unlikely he’ll replace Felipe Vazquez as closer, but Kela will certainly give the Pirates another solid late-inning option.

Hierarchy remains: Vazquez | Crick | Santana.

July 14, 2018
Pittsburgh Pirates – As predicted in the Vulture Save Watch, Felipe Vazquez was rested after pitching in three of the last four. That paved the way for Kyle Crick to get the last four outs of Friday’s win and earn his second save of the year. Crick extended his scoreless streak to 13 games and will continue to be the first choice for the Pirates when Vazquez is unavailable.

Hierarchy remains: Vazquez | Crick | Santana.

June 2, 2018
Pittsburgh Pirates – The Pirates bullpen has been a disaster as of late. Closer Felipe Vazquez has blown four out of the past five save opportunities he has had, ballooning his ERA to 4.84 in the process. Despite this, Manager Clint Hurdle has said they have not considered removing him from the closer’s role. That is at least partially due to a lack of options behind him, as Michael Feliz has given up runs in four straight outings and the Pirates still don’t seem to trust Richard Rodriguez despite his excellent stat line. The main options behind Vazquez right now are Kyle Crick, who has holds in his last two appearances; and Edgar Santana, who closed out a 4-0 win last night with a clean 9th inning. Hurdle is notoriously stubborn about keeping his closer in place (see: 2017 Tony Watson), so we don’t expect that Vazquez will lose his job soon. However, the bridge to him has certainly shifted.

Updated hierarchy: Vazquez | Crick | Santana.

May 30, 2018
Pittsburgh Pirates – It wasn’t a save situation, but Felipe Vazquez worked a clean ninth inning in a Pirates loss. Not only that, but Vazquez hit triple digits with his fastball four times, his way of showing everyone he’s fine.

Hierarchy remains: Vazquez | Feliz | Santana.

May 29, 2018
Pittsburgh Pirates – The Pirates got good news about Felipe Vazquez, as the closer’s forearm injury turned out to be minor. He may miss another day or two as he recovers, but he should be fine going forward.

Hierarchy remains: Vazquez | Feliz | Santana.

May 28, 2018
Pittsburgh Pirates – Sometimes, forearm discomfort is no big deal. But often, it’s a precursor to Tommy John surgery. Felipe Vazquez, who left the game early complaining of forearm discomfort in his final two pitches, will get evaluated today, and the Pirates may need a new closer for the foreseeable future. Up until recently, this looked to be Michael Feliz, but he’s been knocked around over his last few outings. More consistent lately has been 7th inning man Edgar Santana, who may jump Feliz and get first crack at saves. And then there’s Richard Rodriguez and Kyle Crick, who are both sporting sub-2 ERAs, but haven’t generally been trusted with leads late in games. We will monitor Vazquez’s injury — and any subsequent team announcements about the role — closely today.

Hierarchy remains: Vazquez | Feliz | Santana. 

May 24, 2018
Pittsburgh Pirates — The Pirates used Felipe Vazquez to try to protect a lead in the eighth, leaving the save opportunity in the 12th to one of the guys we told you about last week: Kyle Crick. Crick loaded the bases, but managed to get out of trouble in the end. We would have gone with strikeout king Richard Rodriguez, but apparently Clint Hurdle trusts Crick (and Edgar Santana, who keeps getting the seventh) more. Ugh.

Updated hierarchy: Vazquez | Feliz | Santana. 

May 17, 2018
Pittsburgh Pirates — George Kontos’s struggles have earned him a demotion from high-leverage spots, but Clint Hurdle is happy with the many strikeout-heavy options he has in setup. We think former seventh-inning guy Michael Feliz, who grabbed an eighth-inning hold on Wednesday, is most likely to move up, followed by rookie Richard Rodriguez (27 K in 15.2 IP) and 25-year-old Kyle Crick.

Updated hierarchy: Vazquez | Feliz | Rodriguez. 

April 11, 2018
Pittsburgh Pirates – There’s a new name in the Pirates’ late-inning mix, as Felipe Rivero changed his name to Felipe Vazquez. The name change has not affected his pitching, as Vazquez earned his fourth save of the season on Tuesday.

Hierarchy remains: Vazquez | Kontos | Feliz. 

April 3, 2018
Pittsburgh Pirates – With Felipe Rivero pitching both ends of the doubleheader on Sunday, George Kontos was summoned for the save chance on Monday night, and he responded with a clean inning. To all our little Monkeymaniacs out there, say your prayers, take your vitamins, and read your Vulture Save Watch every day.

Hierarchy remains: Rivero | Kontos | Feliz. 

March 27, 2018
Pittsburgh Pirates – Kevin Siegrist, who seemed like one of the most promising relievers in baseball a few years ago, failed to make the Pirates’ opening day roster. He’s only 28, so we’re guessing he resurfaces at some point, but for now, look for Michael Feliz to pitch the 7th inning in Pittsburgh.

Updated hierarchy: Rivero | Kontos | Feliz.

February 28, 2018
Pittsburgh Pirates – One bright spot for in an otherwise forgettable season was the emergence of Felipe Rivero as a top tier closer. On a better team he would be one of the first closers off the board, but with the Pirates in the midst of a rebuild he may not see as many save chances as Kenley Jansen or Aroldis Chapman. Rivero is locked into the 9th inning for the Pirates, while Geroge Kontos returns as the primary set-up man. After them, there isn’t much certainty. Kevin Siegrest was signed this past weekend, and will compete for the LOOGY role. Steven Brault is the other lefty that could end up in the bullpen, but he projects as a starter so the Pirates may keep him in long relief if he makes the opening day roster.

Starting 2018 hierarchy: Rivero | Kontos | Siegrist.
Holds candidates: Kontos, Siegris, Brault.

September 27, 2017
Pittsburgh Pirates – Steven Brault allowed just two hits over the final three innings of a 10-1 Pirates win en route to picking up his first career save.

Hierarchy remains: Rivero | Kontos | Hudson.

September 25, 2017
Pittsburgh Pirates – Twice over the last three days, waiver wire acquisition George Kontos pitched the 8th inning ahead of Felipe Rivero. The Pirates only have six games remaining, but if anyone other than Rivero is needed for a save opp, Kontos is the best bet.

Updated hierarchy: Rivero | Kontos | Hudson.

September 4, 2017
Pittsburgh Pirates – Felipe Rivero pitched the ninth inning twice this weekend, and both times, Daniel Hudson got the 8th inning hold ahead of him. With Juan Nicasio gone, Hudson should continue to be a source of holds down the stretch for the Pirates.

Updated hierarchy: Rivero | Hudson | Schugel.

September 3, 2017
Pittsburgh Pirates — Daniel Hudson pitched a scoreless eighth inning ahead of closer Felipe Rivero yesterday for his 18th hold of the season.  The veteran righty should continue to see time in the later innings for the Pirates.

Updated hierarchy: Rivero | Schugel | Hudson.

September 1, 2017
Pittsburgh Pirates –The Pirates placed top setup man Juan Nicasio (a free agent at season’s end) on waivers, where he was claimed right away by the league-worst Phillies on his 31st birthday. Pirates GM Neal Huntington released an extremely candid statement explaining the move. The Pirates didn’t want to trade him to a rival even though a deal was on the table, so instead of getting a marginal return, they placed him on waivers hoping an AL team would pick him up. When the cross-state Phillies, who are also out of contention, nabbed him, the Pirates just let him go. Cost savings were also a consideration, as was the team’s desire to allow younger arms the chance to shine in the late innings. Lithuanian Dovydas Neverauskas may be one of those young pitchers to get a shot. As for Felipe Rivero, he wasn’t happy with the move.

Updated hierarchy: Rivero | Schugel | Neverauskas.

August 23, 2017
Pittsburgh Pirates — George Kontos (right groin strain) and Joaquin Benoit (left knee inflammation) each hit the DL on Tuesday. Although A.J. Schugel was unavailable on Tuesday due to a heavy recent workload, we expect him to pick up the bulk of the seventh-inning load for the Pirates, with Daniel Hudson another option.

Updated hierarchy: Rivero | Nicasio | Schugel.

August 9, 2017
Pittsburgh Pirates – The Pirates picked up George Kontos off waivers from the Giants, and Clint Hurdle plans on using Kontos in many different situations. So far, he’s earned two holds in two tries for Pittsburgh, retiring all six hitters he’s faced on just 16 total pitches. And just like that, Joaquin Benoit is off another hierarchy.

Updated hierarchy: Rivero | Nicasio | Kontos.

August 8, 2017
Pittsburgh Pirates – Felipe Rivero got a day of rest on Monday after throwing 41 pitches Sunday, which allowed Juan Nicasio to pick up his second save of the year. The Vulture Save Watch: 60 percent of the time, it works every time.

Hierarchy remains: Rivero | Nicasio | Benoit.

August 1, 2017
Pittsburgh Pirates – Despite moving on from Tony Watson, the Pirates weren’t selling by any stretch, as they also moved to acquire Joaquin Benoit from the Phillies. Benoit will take over Watson’s 7th inning role.

Updated hierarchy: Rivero | Nicasio | Benoit.

July 15, 2017
Pittsburgh Pirates — Tony Watson pitched a clean seventh inning in a tie game last night. The Pirates may simply be showcasing him for a trade, but Watson has responded by giving up a run in only one of his last twelve appearances, earning a place in the late-inning mix and our hierarchy.

Updated hierarchy: Rivero | Nicasio | Watson.

July 7, 2017
Pittsburgh Pirates — Count it as a half-win for the Vulture Save Watch. Marked down to likely be rested Friday, regular closer Felipe Rivero was instead rested Thursday, giving Juan Nicasio a vulture save in his third straight game. Keep an eye on Tony Watson too. The former closer tossed a clean seventh inning on Thursday and has allowed onliy one run since June 18. He’s pushing Daniel Hudson to be second in line and could be traded to a contender soon.

Hierarchy remains: Rivero | Nicasio | Hudson.

June 17, 2017
Pittsburgh Pirates — Felipe Rivero pitched a clean eighth inning with a one-run lead, facing the lefty-heavy top of the Cubs lineup. This gave Juan Nicasio his first chance to close — but Nicasio imploded (with a little help from former closer Tony Watson), allowing four runs without recording an out. Rivero was close to kicking the asterisk even before last night, so now that his main competition has fallen apart, he should have the job free and clear.

Updated hierarchy: Rivero | Nicasio | Hudson.

June 12, 2017
Pittsburgh Pirates – Sunday’s game made two four-out saves in two days for Felipe Rivero. If this is indeed a committee, Rivero is the clear leader, but let’s make him get one more before we remove his asterisk. And don’t panic if Juan Nicasio gets the save tonight (which he may, per VSW) — Rivero will still be the one to own regardless.

Hierarchy remains: *Rivero | Nicasio | Hudson.
* = closer-by-committee

June 11, 2017
Pittsburgh Pirates — The first save opportunity since Tony Watson lost his job went to Felipe Rivero.  He struck out three batters in 1.1 innings on his way to his first save with the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Rivero’s stuff is nasty (just ask Dee Gordon), and the only thing keeping him from being the full time closer is the possibility that the Pirates decide to use him like the Indians use Andrew Miller.  We will slide Rivero to the top of the committee for now, and if he reels of  a couple more saves in a row, the job will likely be his for the rest of the season.

Updated hierarchy : *Rivero | Nicasio | Hudson.
* = closer-by-committee

June 10, 2017
Pittsburgh Pirates — Hours after officially losing his job, Tony Watson was back in the ninth inning for the Pirates. Granted, they were down five at the time, but he did pitch a clean inning. Clint Hurdle said that he’ll use a committee for saves going forward, but we give Juan Nicasio the edge, since Hurdle seems to view Felipe Rivero in more of an Andrew Miller role. As we noted at the beginning of the year, Hurdle has a tendency to stick with the roles he has laid out for his relievers longer than he should (see: Watson, Tony), so the next few save opportunities could be vital in determining who will get the bulk of the chances going forward.

Updated hierarchy : *Nicasio | Rivero | Hudson.
* = closer-by-committee

June 9, 2017
Pittsburgh Pirates — Clint Hurdle has finally made the long-expected move, demoting Tony Watson from the closer role in favor of a combination of Felipe Rivero and Juan Nicasio. Rivero has (slightly) better numbers, but if Hurdle decides that he’s more comfortable leaving Rivero in his eighth-inning role, Nicasio may get a chance to run away with the job.

Updated hierarchy : *Nicasio | Rivero | Hudson.
* = closer-by-committee

June 9, 2017
Pittsburgh Pirates — The Pirates lost 7-1 Thursday, so we got no more clarity on the team’s bullpen situation. Late Wednesday night, manager Clint Hurdle mentioned that he has given some “serious thought” to making Juan Nicasio his closer, essentially calling Felipe Rivero his Andrew Miller for being the team’s relief ace but not its saves leader. As for Tony Watson, who should be available Friday, he’s still the team’s closer. For now.

Hierarchy remains: Watson | Rivero | Nicasio.

June 8, 2017
Pittsburgh Pirates — For the second straight night, Tony Watson gave up a tying two-run dinger, completing a four-run Baltimore comeback in the ninth. About an hour later, everyone on Twitter made the same obvious joke. Felipe Rivero remained unhittable in his inning of relief, leading Pirates fans and bullpen speculators to wonder what it will take for Clint Hurdle to finally make the switch.

Hierarchy remains: Watson | Rivero | Nicasio.

June 7, 2017
Pittsburgh Pirates — Tony Watson gave up a two-run homer in Tuesday’s ninth inning to send the game to extra innings, a game the Pirates eventually lost. His fourth blown save of the year came after Felipe Rivero struck out two and lowered his ERA to 0.60. Clint Hurdle was noncommittal after the game but did note that Rivero’s stuff was electric and that one day he’ll close. We expect that day to be arriving soon. Grab Rivero if he’s still available in your league and we’ll keep you up to date once he officially gets the job.

Hierarchy remains: Watson | Rivero | Nicasio.

May 30, 2017
Pittsburgh Pirates – Tony Watson blew his third save of the year on Monday, earning the win when Andrew McCutchen hit a walkoff homer in the bottom half of the inning. Watson’s ERA is now 4.03, and he should be looking over his shoulder at Felipe Rivero, Pittsburgh’s prize acquisition in the Mark Melancon deal last year. Rivero, who earned his 12th hold of the season on Monday with a scoreless 8th inning, throws 100 mph and has an ERA of 0.68. That groan you heard just now was from the fans in Washington.

Hierarchy remains: Watson | Rivero | Nicasio.

May 19, 2017
Pittsburgh Pirates – The Astros are intrigued at the prospect of adding Tony Watson as they gear up for a World Series run. It’s still early, and nothing is imminent, but if Watson is dealt the Pirates could employ a committee with Felipe Rivero at the top. The monkey is just speculating, though.

Hierarchy remains: Watson | Rivero | Nicasio. 

May 3, 2017
Pittsburgh Pirates – Wade LeBlanc picked up his third career save in fairly impressive fashion, allowing just one hit over the final three innings of a 12-3 victory.

Hierarchy remains: Watson | Rivero | Nicasio. 

May 2, 2017
Pittsburgh Pirates – Clint Hurdle was probably hoping that pushing Daniel Hudson right back out there would be a good way to clear the reliever’s mind after a disastrous outing on Sunday. It didn’t work, though, as Hudson gave up a walkoff double to Billy Hamilton and took the loss. He’s now given up 8 runs in his last three outings (1.2 IP), and it’s likely than Juan Nicasio is used — at least for the time being — when the Pirates need a righty in the late innings.

Updated hierarchy: Watson | Rivero | Nicasio. 

April 17, 2017
Pittsburgh Pirates – Felipe Rivero picked up his third consecutive hold on Sunday, his last two coming in the 8th inning. Rivero, who the Nationals viewed as a future closer before swapping him for Mark Melancon last year, has only allowed 1 run through 8 innings this season, along with 7 strikeouts and only 1 walk. He’s been steadier than righty Daniel Hudson, who has allowed runs in three of his last four appearances, though Hudson will continue to get late inning looks when matchups are right.

Updated hierarchy: Watson | Rivero | Hudson.

March 1, 2017
Pittsburgh Pirates — Tony Watson will close again in Pittsburgh, although he’ll make $400,000 less than he hoped after losing an arbitration hearing. Behind him will be Daniel Hudson and Felipe Rivero, both solid options to fill in if Watson needs a day off. Clint Hurdle tends to stick with particular roles for his relievers so, barring injury or a trade, you can expect stability for the Pirates bullpen — making Watson a bit more valuable than his stats might suggest.

Starting 2017 hierarchy: Watson | Hudson | Rivero.
Holds candidates: Hudson, Rivero, Antonio Bastardo, Jared Hughes.

September 24, 2016
Pittsburgh Pirates — The Pirates used newly-acquired lefty Phil Coke in the seventh inning of a one-run game yesterday. The 34-year-old journeyman was acquired for cash considerations on Thursday, and this was his first action since the deal. Coke won’t crack Pittsurgh’s hierarchy, but could be a sneaky add for the playoffs in holds leagues, as he will probably be used both as a LOOGY, and to spell Felipe Rivero with the Pirates nearly out of contention.

Hierarchy remains: Watson | Rivero | Bastardo.

September 18, 2016
Pittsburgh Pirates — Wade LeBlanc picked up his second three inning save of the season yesterday.  LeBlanc only gave up one hit and zero runs in his three innings, which was much better than his last three inning save where he gave up three runs.  Also for those following at home, Juan Nicasio got another strikeout yesterday and now has the longest streak of consecutive relief appearances with a strikeout in the league this season.

Hierarchy remains: Watson | Rivero | Bastardo.

September 17, 2016
Pittsburgh Pirates — Tony Watson converted his 13th save in the tenth inning of Friday’s game, but the real stories happened in front of him. Swingman Juan Nicasio set a club record with his 28th straight relief appearance with at least one strikeout, and Antonio Bastardo picked up the win with a clean ninth inning. Neftali Feliz hasn’t pitched since September 3, and though the team believes he’ll pitch again this season, it’s time to reward Bastardo for his legit work setting up Watson.

Updated hierarchy: Watson | Rivero | Bastardo.

September 9, 2016
Pittsburgh Pirates — Setup man Neftali Feliz will be unavailable through the weekend due to a muscular issue in his right arm. He hasn’t pitched since last Saturday. In the meantime, expect Felipe Rivero, Juan Nicasio and Antonio Bastardo to fill up the back end of the bullpen behind Tony Watson.

Hierarchy remains: Watson | Feliz | Rivero.

August 28, 2016
Pittsburgh Pirates — As predicted in yesterday’s Vulture Save Watch, Tony Watson got the day off on Saturday and Neftali Feliz picked up the save.  Feliz should continue to fill in as closer when Watson is unavailable.

Hierarchy remains: Watson | Feliz | Rivero.

August 7, 2016
Pittsburgh Pirates — Tony Watson bounced back from a blown save on Friday night to record his second save since closer Mark Melancon was traded.  Despite the slip up on Friday, Watson should continue to see save chances for the rest of the season.

Hierarchy remains: Watson | Feliz | Rivero.

July 30, 2016
Pittsburgh Pirates — The Pirates traded Mark Melancon to Washington for multiple players, including reliever Felipe Rivero. GM Neal Huntington has named Tony Watson the closer, with Neftali Feliz spelling him if necessary and Rivero pitching the seventh.

Updated hierarchy: Watson | Feliz | Rivero.

July 30, 2016
Pittsburgh Pirates — The Pirates are fielding offers from the Nationals, Indians, and Giants for closer Mark Melancon. Although Pittsburgh is in the playoff hunt and Melancon has been one of the most effective closers in the game, the team may be looking to improve other areas of its roster while trusting some combination of Neftali Feliz and Tony Watson in the ninth. Watson, a lefty, has owned the eighth most of the year, while Feliz has 98 career saves and better peripherals, including a 10.3 K/9 ratio. We still give Feliz a slight edge, but both could be excellent speculative adds; the Pirates are a good team that plays a lot of close games.

Hierarchy remains: Melancon | Feliz | Watson.

July 20, 2016
Pittsburgh Pirates – Mark Melancon has had two rare hiccups in his last two outings, recording back-to-back blown saves. He has been excellent this season and his job shouldn’t be in any danger. However, it is worth noting that he also struggled a bit in the second half of last season as well, allowing 12 of his 19 total earned runs after August 1 en route to an impressive 51-save season.

Hierarchy remains: Melancon | Feliz | Watson.

July 10, 2016
Pittsburgh Pirates – Jared Hughes pitched the last three innings of a Pirates’ blowout win to record the save.  Hughes has pitched pretty well this season but the Pirates’ back end of the bullpen is pretty set right now with Melancon, Feliz, and Watson.

Hierarchy remains: Melancon | Feliz | Watson.

July 5, 2016
Pittsburgh Pirates – The Pirates have used Tony Watson as the primary set-up man recently, but they still went with Neftali Feliz for the vulture save chance last night. Serves us right for not trusting our own hierarchy.

Hierarchy remains: Melancon | Feliz | Watson.

June 8, 2016
Pittsburgh Pirates — After a horrible weekend for Tony Watson, which included a blown save, a loss and six earned runs allowed, it looks like Neftali Feliz is the trusted arm in the eighth inning for Clint Hurdle. Feliz pitched the eighth in both games of Tuesday’s doubleheader and his only blemish was a solo home run in the afternoon affair.

Updated hierarchy: Melancon | Feliz | Watson.

May 26, 2016
Pittsburgh Pirates — Bullpen completists and holds connoisseurs should know that Tony Watson went on paternity leave Wednesday, and could be out until Saturday.

Hierarchy remains: Melancon | Watson | Feliz.

April 26, 2016
Pittsburgh Pirates – Colorado native A.J. Schugel came into the game hoping to hold the lead for Watson and Melancon, but pitched well enough that Clint Hurdle left Schugel in after the Pirates scratched out a couple more runs. The 2.1 inning outing was Schugel’s first career save.

Hierarchy remains: Melancon | Watson | Feliz.

April 25, 2016
Pittsburgh Pirates – Arquimedes Caminero picked up a save in the 13th inning on Sunday. Though he’s the reigning “best name in baseball” (having taken the title from Coco Crisp, who wrested it from Boof Bonser, who claimed it from Tim Spooneybarger, who won it from Quinton McCracken), Caminero does not factor in to the Pirates’ usual late inning plans.

Hierarchy remains: Melancon | Watson | Feliz.

April 9, 2016
Pittsburgh Pirates — In a one-run game in the eighth, Clint Hurdle used Neftali Feliz yet again. Both Hurdle and GM Neal Huntington have called Tony Watson the team’s second-best reliever, but say he won’t be limited to the eighth inning alone. That doesn’t explain why he sat and watched Feliz pick up this high-leverage hold, but for now, we’ll keep the status quo. (P.S. — Only two days left to secure your own piece of Neftali Feliz memorabilia! Prove you bought this and we’ll give you free Closer Monkey Premium for a year!)

Hierarchy remains: Melancon | Watson | Feliz.

April 4, 2016
Pittsburgh Pirates – With a three-run lead in the seventh inning, the Pirates went to Tony Watson first, handing the 8th inning to Neftali Feliz. Matchup-wise, it made sense, as Watson faced a pinch hitter followed by two lefties, but it was still a little bit surprising to see Feliz thrust into such an important spot right away. Watson remains the handcuff for Mark Melancon, but the fact that the Pirates trusted Feliz with the 8th suggests he’ll be a good source for holds this season.

Hierarchy remains: Melancon | Watson | Feliz.

April 1, 2016
Pittsburgh Pirates — Jared Hughes has a strained lat and will start the year on the DL. Taking his place is Neftali Feliz, who will try to add another high point to his roller-coaster career.

Updated hierarchy: Melancon | Watson | Feliz.

March 2, 2016
Pittsburgh Pirates – Last year’s NL Reliever of the Year and major league saves leader Mark Melancon returns to the closers role in 2016. While he had a couple of struggles last year, Melancon never lost the closers job, and will likely have a longer leash this year. Tony Watson will take the set-up role, and feels comfortable closing if called upon. Jared Hughes will fill the role left by Antonio Bastardo and Joakim Soria in the early going, but fireballer Arquimedes Caminero will also be in the mix for holds. The Pirates have a solid set of relievers and figure to be in the hunt for the playoffs again in 2016, so they can be a good source of holds in leagues that count them.

Starting 2016 hierarchy: Melancon | Watson | Hughes.
Holds candidates: Watson, Hughes, Caminero.

September 25, 2015
Pittsburgh Pirates — Congratulations are due for Mark Melancon, who converted his major-league-leading 50th save in 52 chances Thursday. Those are a bunch of saves for a guy everyone had concerns about in mid-April. Melancon managed to pitch well all season (1.86 ERA, 0.91 WHIP) despite dips in his K/9 ratio (down to 6.81/9) and pitch velocities.

Hierarchy remains: Melancon | Soria | Watson.

August 14, 2015
Pittsburgh Pirates — Joakim Soria was a key acquisition for Pittsburgh at the deadline, but with Mark Melancon firmly entrenched in the closer’s role (1.53 ERA, 35 saves), Soria’s value has been restricted to holds leagues. None of this should be news to you, but a closer look reveals Soria isn’t the best holds option for the Pirates either. That honor goes to Tony Watson, who pitched the eighth inning last night to secure another hold (his 28th). Watson hasn’t pitched in a loss since June 25. Soria, meanwhile, could only get one out in the seventh inning Thursday, allowing two earned runs on three hits and a walk. If Soria keeps struggling, we’ll swap him with Watson, but for now, we’ll leave them be, in the belief that any fill-in chances will go to the guy with the ninth inning experience. If it’s holds you want, though, Watson’s the man.

Hierarchy remains: Melancon | Soria | Watson.

August 3, 2015
Pittsburgh Pirates — Three batters into his appearance, Mark Melancon got ejected for hitting Tucker Barnhart. Joakim Soria entered and picked up his first save as a Pirate. Should Melancon be suspended — and we don’t think he will, since the HBP didn’t seem intentional at all — Soria would pick up any save chances.

Hierarchy remains: Melancon | Soria | Watson.

July 31, 2015
Pittsburgh Pirates — Soria had the job in Detroit, but he likely won’t be unseating Mark Melancon anytime soon. Melancon has only allowed 7 runs in 47.2 innings (1.32 ERA) in what has been an excellent season to this point. His velocity is still down across the board, though, which may be causing his pedestrian K/9 numbers (6.2 Ks per 9 IP this year, versus 9.0 Ks per 9 IP in 2014). So if he tires or falters down the stretch, Soria is there to back him up.

Updated hierarchy: Melancon | Soria | Watson.

July 30, 2015
Pittsburgh Pirates – As good as Joakim Soria has been, he won’t displace Mark Melancon, who leads baseball with 32 saves and sports a sparkling 1.32 ERA. (And this, after battling through concerns about his velocity for the whole month of April.) Soria will join Tony Watson as set-up men in what has become one of the strongest bullpens in baseball.

Updated hierarchy: Melancon | Soria | Watson.

July 9, 2015
Pittsburgh Pirates — Mark Melancon was given the night off after pitching in three of the last four, which opened the door for…Antonio Bastardo? The one-time Phillies closer picked up his first save of the year after the Pirates scored three runs to break a tie in the bottom of the 8th. Bastardo was already warmed up to face the bottom of the Padres order, and remained in the game to pick up the save. In addition to Melancon pitching in 3 of 4, Tony Watson and Jared Hughes had both thrown back-to-back games. Bastardo doesn’t project to become a part of Clint Hurdle’s late-inning plans.

Hierarchy remains: Melancon | Watson | Hughes.

July 5, 2015
Pittsburgh Pirates — Remember all the concern over Mark Melancon back in April when his velocity was down?  Well there isn’t any reason for concern now as Melancon recorded his 26th save yesterday, and hasn’t given up any earned runs in last 25 appearances.  Jared Hughes wasn’t needed on Saturday so instead he got to celebrate being the only active player born on the 4th of July with a day off.

Hierarchy remains: Melancon | Watson | Hughes.

July 4, 2015
Pittsburgh Pirates — Over the last 10 days, Arquimedes Caminero has given up six runs in five innings; meanwhile, Jared Hughes has given up no runs and only three hits in his last 10 appearances.

Updated hierarchy: Melancon | Watson | Hughes.

June 8, 2015
Pittsburgh Pirates – Arquimedes Caminero got the 8th inning ahead of Mark Melancon on Sunday, and has gotten more high-leverage chances in recent weeks. He’s surpassed Jared Hughes on the Pirates hierarchy.

Updated hierarchy: Melancon | Watson | Caminero.

April 24, 2015
Pittsburgh Pirates — With his velocity still down, embattled Pirates closer Mark Melancon managed to shut down the Cubs 1-2-3 in the ninth inning Thursday, finishing with a strikeout of über-prospect Addison Russell. Melancon’s cut fastball hovered in the 85-90 mph range, down from the low-to-mid-90s range he reached for most of last season. Melancon remains Pittsburgh’s primary closer, but his seat ought to be feeling very warm

Hierarchy remains: Melancon | Watson | Hughes.

April 23, 2015
Pittsburgh Pirates — After Tuesday’s troubles, Mark Melancon was ruled unavailable by manager Clint Hurdle before Wednesday’s game, with Hurdle maintaining that Melancon is still the closer. In a one-run game it was Tony Watson who got a six-out save for the Pirates in Melancon’s stead. As we noted yesterday, Melancon’s velocity is down and he has struggled mightily this season. Despite Hurdle’s statement, still expect to see Melancon on the hot seat in our weekly column.

Hierarchy remains: Melancon | Watson | Hughes.

April 22, 2015
Pittsburgh Pirates – Mark Melancon had another rough outing on Tuesday in what has been a less than stellar year for the Pirates closer. His velocity has been down all season and his ERA moved to 8.53 after he allowed three runs on Tuesday. Melancon doesn’t “pay attention” to the drop in his fastball and manager Clint Hurdle was quick to point out that even with a slight dip, “there’s no injury.” But something doesn’t seem right with Melancon, and fantasy owners should look for him to be added to the hot seat in this week’s column.

Hierarchy remains: Melancon | Watson | Hughes.

April 20, 2015
Pittsburgh Pirates – Jared Hughes picked up his fifth hold of the season on Sunday, which places him among the league leaders. Though Arquimedes Caminero has the better raw stuff, Hughes has been excellent so far this year, so we’ll nudge him into the hierarchy, while acknowledging that he and Caminero are essentially neck and neck behind Mark Melancon and Tony Watson.

Updated hierarchy: Melancon | Watson | Hughes.

April 16, 2015
Pittsburgh Pirates – The Pirates are watching Mark Melancon’s velocity, as it is down three miles per hour from last year. Clint Hurdle isn’t “concerned” or “disappointed,” but is going to watch what happens with his closer. His ERA of 6.75 is a bit misleading, as he has three scoreless appearances (including last night in a loss) and one in which he yielded three runs. However, he has yet to record a save this year, mostly due to lack of opportunities. This isn’t enough to earn Melancon a spot on the hot seat just yet, but if he does begin to concern or disappoint his manager, Arquimedes Carminero and Jared Hughes remain next in line.

Hierarchy remains: Melancon | Watson | Caminero.

April 12, 2015
Pittsburgh Pirates – After a ridiculous spring that included a 21:1(!) K:BB ratio, Arquimedes Caminero has brought his 101-mph fastball to the 7th inning in Pittsburgh. On Sunday, he picked up his 2nd hold of the season, and he’s now totaled 2.2 scoreless to start the year.

Updated hierarchy: Melancon | Watson | Caminero.

March 8, 2015
Pittsburgh Pirates – The Pirates head into the season with no major changes to their bullpen. Mark Melancon will get the first shot at saves after taking over the closers role last year — he converted 23 of 24 save opportunities down the stretch and was instrumental in Pittsburgh’s playoff run. Behind him, the Pirates will turn to lefty Tony Watson as their primary set up man, who has value as a middle reliever, particularly in holds leagues, as a strikeout-per-inning pitcher who doesn’t walk many batters. Newly acquired Antonio Bastardo joins him as the other lefty in the pen, with Jared Hughes also in the mix for late-inning work. In holds leagues, the pride of New Zealand, John Holdzkom, is a sleeper candidate for high leverage innings. He has a power arm and performed well in his brief call up at the end of 2014, but he’s unproven in the majors and has minor league options available. The Pirates may send him down early, and lean on new acquisitions Arquimedes Caminero and former top prospect Radhames Liz to fill out the back end of their bullpen.

Starting 2015 hierarchy: Melancon | Watson | Bastardo.
Primary holds candidates – Watson, Hughes.

September 24, 2014
Pittsburgh Pirates — Tony Watson grabbed his second vulture save in three days as the Pirates continue their torrid run. Pittsburgh has won 16 of their last 19 games.

Hierarchy remains: Melancon | Watson | Holdzkom.

September 22, 2014
Pittsburgh Pirates – Mark Melancon got the day off Sunday after pitching in three straight and four of five, allowing Tony Watson picked up his first save of the season. Chalk another one up for the Vulture Save Watch.

Hierarchy remains: Melancon | Watson | Holdzkom.

September 17, 2014
Pittsburgh Pirates — John Holdzkom’s major league career now comprises six scoreless innings, two baserunners, and 11 strikeouts. A former prospect rediscovered in an independent league earlier this season, Holdzkom is eliciting comparisons to a young K-Rod, and is a name to remember for October and beyond, especially in holdz holds leagues.

Updated hierarchy: Melancon | Watson | Holdzkom.

September 7, 2014
Pittsburgh Pirates – Rookie John Holdzkom recorded a save yesterday, as the Pirates won the continuation of their suspended game on Friday.  Holdzkom, a 6-foot-7 right handed reliever with an interesting back story, has been a pleasant surprise for the Pirates since getting called up, but he will not normally factor into the Pirates’ late inning plans at this point.

Hierarchy remains: Melancon | Watson | Hughes.

August 16, 2014
Pittsburgh Pirates – Recently acquired John Axford had a solid debut for his new team, as he pitched a perfect inning with two strikeouts.  Axford has good strikeout numbers this season, but the walks have really hurt him.  If he can limit his walks he should work his way into some high leverage spots for the Pirates, but that is a big if.

Hierarchy remains: Melancon | Watson | Hughes.

August 9, 2014
Pittsburgh Pirates – The Pirates have seen enough of Ernesto Frieri and designated him for assignment yesterday.  It’s possible that Frieri could catch on somewhere else but it’s more likely that Frieri’s days as being a relevant part of a team’s bullpen are over.

Hierarchy remains: Melancon | Watson | Hughes.

July 26, 2014
Pittsburgh Pirates – Ernesto Frieri had been pitching pretty well recently, but last night he gave up 4 runs in one inning of work.  The outing raised Frieri’s ERA to 7.38 for the season.  Jared Hughes, on the other hand, has an ERA under 2.00.  The change of scenery hasn’t helped Frieri as much as the Pirates’ hoped and it’s likely that he will be relegated to middle relief at this point.

Updated hierarchy: Melancon | Watson | Hughes.

July 16, 2014
Pittsburgh Pirates – Pittsburgh could move Mark Melancon back to a setup role if it can wrest Huston Street away from the Padres. TRADE DEADLINE SELL: Mark Melancon.

July 13, 2014
Pittsburgh Pirates – Jeanmar Gomez picked up the save in the 11th inning last night.  Melancon, Watson and Frieri all pitched earlier in the game so, despite the save, Gomez still does not factor into the Pirates’ late inning plans.

Hierarchy Remains: Melancon | Watson | Frieri.

July 4, 2014
Pittsburgh Pirates – His first two appearances as a Pirate had gone relatively smoothly, but last night, Ernesto Frieri had one of his signature meltdowns, allowing five runs and five hits in just 0.1 innings. At this point, with the way Tony Watson is pitching this year, we don’t think Frieri would be first up for a save chance on nights when Mark Melancon is unavailable.

Updated hierarchy: Melancon | Watson | Frieri.

June 28, 2014
Pittsburgh Pirates — Ernesto Frieri has been traded to the Pirates in a swap of former closers.  Mark Melancon just became the Pirate’s closer a week ago, and he should hang on to the job for now.  However the Pirates like Frieri’s stuff so if he can get back on track he could challenge Melancon for saves.

Updated hierarchy: Melancon | Frieri | Watson.

June 20, 2014
Pittsburgh Pirates — As we expected, Jason Grilli has been removed as the Pirates’ closer in favor of Mark Melancon, with Tony Watson getting the occasional save opportunity as well. Clint Hurdle added that, for now, Grilli would pitch with the team behind, but that the move was not necessarily permanent.

Updated hierarchy: Melancon | Watson | Wilson.

June 20, 2014
Pittsburgh Pirates — Jason Grilli blew his fourth save of the season on Thursday. Four blown saves — and an accompanying 4.34 ERA — isn’t exactly horrendous, but it’s obviously not what you want to see out of your closer, especially when your bullpen has been stellar otherwise. So after the game, Clint Hurdle wasn’t exactly giving Grilli a ringing endorsement, and Mark Melancon might be on the verge of a promotion.

Hierarchy remains: Grilli | Melancon | Watson.
Jason Grilli to Hot Seat.

June 14, 2014
Pittsburgh Pirates — The Pirates bullpen had a rough 9th inning last night.  They started the inning with a 4 run lead, but after Justin Wilson walked two batters, the Pirates had to call on closer Jason Grilli.  He gave up a hit and walked three more batters (one intentionally) and was pulled with the bases loaded and the Pirates clinging to a one run lead.  Mark Melancon came on and walked the first batter of the inning, the sixth walk of the inning for Pirates’ pitchers, and allowed the game-tying run to score.  Although Grilli was removed in the 9th last night we don’t think he is danger of losing his job.  He had converted five straight save chances.

Hierarchy remains: Grilli | Melancon | Watson.

May 31, 2014
Pittsburgh Pirates — Jason Grilli recorded his second save in two days on Friday night and is ready to return to the closer’s role full time.  Clint Hurdle said he will monitor Grilli’s health the rest of the season, so Melancon will still see some save opportunities when Grilli is given a night off, but Grilli is definitely the guy when he is available.

Hierarchy remains: Grilli | Melancon | Watson.

May 28, 2014
Pittsburgh Pirates — Jason Grilli struck out the side in the eighth on Tuesday with the Pirates trailing, after Clint Hurdle explained that he has no timeline for Grilli’s official return to the closer role. Although Mark Melancon might get the next save opportunity, Hurdle won’t hold off long, saying, “I do like my bullpen best with Grilli closing.”

Hierarchy remains: Grilli | Melancon | Watson.

May 27, 2014
Pittsburgh Pirates — As predicted in Monday’s Vulture Save Watch, Mark Melancon earned another save on Monday as Jason Grilli is eased back into the closer role.

Hierarchy remains: Grilli | Melancon | Watson.

May 25, 2014
Pittsburgh Pirates — We mentioned in the Vulture Save Watch yesterday that the Pirates might want to ease Jason Grilli back from his injury and that was the case yesterday as Grilli was unavailable.  Mark Melancon recorded the save, and lowered his ERA under 2 in the process.  Manager Clint Hurdle didn’t insert Grilli immediately into the closer’s role last year when he came back from injury, and even though Grilli got the save on Friday, Melancon could still see some save opportunities for the time being.

Hierarchy remains: Grilli | Melancon | Watson.

May 24, 2014
Pittsburgh Pirates — Jason Grilli was activated from the DL on Friday and immediately got the call in the 9th inning.  He worked around a lead-off walk and picked up his 5th save of the season.  Mark Melancon pitched well in Grilli’s absence, and is worth handing onto in case Grilli struggles, but it looks like he will go back to his set-up role for now.

Updated Hierarchy: Grilli | Melancon | Watson

May 22, 2014
Pittsburgh Pirates — Jason Grilli expects to return on Saturday, and should slide back into the closer role soon thereafter. He’s owned in over 80% of ESPN and Yahoo! leagues, so we won’t issue an email alert when he comes back, but if he’s available in your league, act now.

Hierarchy remains: Melancon | Watson | Wilson.

May 15, 2014
Pittsburgh Pirates — After throwing 24 pitches in a simulated game on Wednesday afternoon, Jason Grilli pronounced himself “ready” to return to the Pirates. But given the description of his new book — by a Pirates blog, no less — as “a tour de force of delusional narcissism,” you may wish to take this news with a grain of salt.

Hierarchy remains: Melancon | Watson | Wilson.

April 25, 2014
Pittsburgh Pirates – Jason Grilli has been placed on the disabled list with a left oblique strain.  Mark Melancon will close in his place, while Tony Watson moves up to cover the 8th.  Hierarchy change: Mark Melancon to Closer, Tony Watson to Set-up, Justin Wilson to 2nd in line, Jason Grilli to DL.

April 21, 2014
Pittsburgh Pirates – Jason Grilli has been burned on consecutive days by Ryan Braun home runs, and now has three blown saves for the season.  Generally speaking, Grilli’s recent history as a lights-out closer gives him a longer leash than most.  But Mark Melancon is yet again proving himself to be one of the best set-up men in baseball, and if Grilli can’t get things straightened out, then the struggling Pirates will be forced to look elsewhere.  Jason Grilli to Hot Seat.

March 13, 2014
Pittsburgh Pirates — Jason Grilli had a great 2013, but he’s older than you might think, with lingering health concerns. Still the top option for a team good enough to win a lot, but not good enough to win by a lot. Ranked #10 in our preseason closer rankings.

March 9, 2014
Pittsburgh Pirates– Jason Grilli is the closer for the Pirates and was very good when healthy last season.  However he is 37 years old and missed time last year with a right forearm injury.  Luckily for Pirates fans they have Mark Melancon, and his 1.39 ERA, waiting to step in if anything happens to Grilli.  Tony Watson should round out the back end of the Pirates bullpen.  Starting 2014 hierarchy: Closer – Jason Grilli, Set-up – Mark Melancon, 2nd in line – Tony Watson.

September 22, 2013
Pittsburgh Pirates – Jason Grilli pitched a scoreless ninth on Saturday to pick up his 31st save of the season.  The Pirates have announced that Grilli will take over as the closer again and move Mark Melancon back to his set-up role.  Hierarchy change: Jason Grilli to Closer, Mark Melancon to Set-up.

September 14, 2013
Pittsburgh Pirates – Jason Grilli blew a one run lead in the 7th inning last night.  He has now given up at least one run in his last three appearances and if he continues to pitch like this, Mark Melancon should continue as closer for the rest of the season. No hierarchy change.

September 12, 2013
Pittsburgh Pirates – Kyle Farnsworth picked up his first save of the season on Wednesday, on a night when Mark Melancon and Jason Grilli were unavailable.  Farnsworth would have been far from our first choice, as the 37-year-old righty was out of a job just a few weeks ago.  But his usage yesterday suggests Clint Hurdle will value his 9th inning experience on nights where his top two relievers can’t pitch.  Hierarchy change: Kyle Farnsworth to 2nd in line, replacing Tony Watson.  

September 4, 2013
Pittsburgh Pirates — Nearly eight years ago, Jason Grilli pitched 7.2 solid innings to lead the Toledo Mud Hens to their first AAA championship in 38 years. But his dream of recapturing Governors’ Cup glory was put on hold today when Pittsburgh summoned him to the big leagues for some boring old regular season action. Clint Hurdle confirmed that he will use Grilli in some non-save situations before transitioning him back into the closer role. Hierarchy change: Jason Grilli to Set-up, Tony Watson to 2nd in line.

September 3, 2013
Pittsburgh Pirates — Mark Melancon’s outstanding performance as the Bucs’ interim closer could give Clint Hurdle the luxury of easing Jason Grilli back into high-leverage use. Grilli struck out the side in his Monday rehab appearance with the Altoona Curve; he’s expected to make one last rehab appearance on Wednesday for AAA playoff team Indianapolis, unless the big club calls him up first. Hierarchy change: Jason Grilli to Set-up (DL).

August 16, 2013
Pittsburgh Pirates – Justin Wilson pitched the 7th inning last night with the Pirates down 1.  Tony Watson came on for the 8th after the Pirates tied the game.  In save situations, Watson has come on in the 8th 11 times while Wilson has only been used once.  On another note, Jason Grilli could be back September 1stHierarchy change: Tony Watson to Set-up,  Justin Wilson to 2nd in line.

July 27, 2013
Pittsburgh Pirates — Jason Grilli will not need surgery on his injured right forearm but is expected to miss 4-8 weeks. Mark Melancon will continue to close while Grilli is out. No hierarchy change.

July 24, 2013
Pittsburgh Pirates — Jason Grilli officially hit the DL on Tuesday and Mark Melancon will indeed take his place in the ninth inning. No hierarchy change.

July 23, 2013
Pittsburgh Pirates – The Pirates have not released much on the injury to Jason Grilli, who will be re-evaluated today.  The official word thus far is “right forearm tightness,” which is often an ominous precursor to Tommy John surgery.  Vin Mazzaro picked up his first career save on Monday, getting the last out after Grilli’s exit, but All Star set-up man Mark Melancon will be the one to get saves going forward.  Justin Wilson and Tony Watson are the two best candidates for the 8th inning role. Hierarchy change: Mark Melancon to Closer, Justin Wilson to Set-up, Tony Watson to 2nd in line, Jason Grilli injured.

July 22, 2013
Pittsburgh Pirates – After his 24th pitch of the night, Jason Grilli winced, grabbed his arm, and beckoned for the trainers.  If it’s serious, and observers are speculating that it is, then Mark Melancon will take over as Pirates closer for the foreseeable future.  Hierarchy change: Mark Melancon to Closer, Justin Wilson to Set-up, Tony Watson to 2nd in line, Jason Grilli injured.

July 18, 2013
Pittsburgh Pirates – Pittsburgh’s bullpen has been very good, so if they do make a move, it would probably be only to add a setup manTRADE DEADLINE BUY/SELL: None.

June 29, 2013
Pittsburgh Pirates – With the Pirates up big last night Ryan Reid pitched the final three innings for the save.  No hierarchy change.

June 27, 2013
Pittsburgh Pirates – After a taxing outing on Sunday, Jason Grilli has gotten a few days off.  On Wednesday, Mark Melancon pitched the 9th inning in his stead.  So far, there’s no indication that this is anything serious.  No hierarchy change.

June 21, 2013
Pittsburgh Pirates – Tony Watson picked up a two-inning save on Thursday.  Jason Grilli, Mark Melancon, and Justin Wilson had all received pretty heavy workloads this week, and all three were given the night off.  No hierarchy change.

May 23, 2013
Pittsburgh Pirates — Mark Melancon picked up the save on Wednesday.  As noted in yesterday’s Vulture Save Watch, Jason Grill had pitched three of the last four games. No hierarchy change.

May 22, 2013
Pittsburgh Pirates — With a win and two holds in the last week, Justin Wilson has moved ahead of Tony Watson in the Pirates’ pen. Hierarchy change: Justin Wilson to 2nd in line, replacing Tony Watson.

May 15, 2013
Pittsburgh Pirates — Whatever kept Jason Grilli from playing on Monday didn’t interfere with his Tuesday performance — he struck out the side in a perfect ninth. No hierarchy change.

May 14, 2013
Pittsburgh Pirates — Jason Grilli left the clubhouse abruptly on Monday due to personal reasons, and should be considered day-to-day. No hierarchy change.

April 26, 2013
Pittsburgh Pirates – With both Jason Grilli and Mark Melancon getting a day off, Tony Watson picked up a 2-inning save on Thursday.  Barring injuries, Watson won’t get too many opportunities like this one.  No hierarchy change.

April 4, 2013
Pittsburgh Pirates – Tony Watson came on to finish the 7th inning for the Pirates on Wednesday, then stayed on to pitch the 8th, logging a perfect 1.1 innings and picking up his first save of the year.  Due to his past experience, Mark Melancon is likely the guy the Pirates will use on days where Jason Grilli is unavailable, but Watson may get some 8th inning action as well.  Hierarchy change: Tony Watson to 2nd in line, replacing Jared Hughes.

February 24, 2013
Pittsburgh Pirates – Starting 2013 hierarchy: Closer- Jason Grilli, Set-up- Mark Melancon, 2nd in line- Jared Hughes.

October 2, 2012
Pittsburgh Pirates – With Joel Hanrahan and Jason Grilli unavailable after pitching in two straight, Jared Hughes picked up his second save of the season.  No hierarchy change.

August 18, 2012
Pittsburgh Pirates – Juan Cruz, who returned from the DL a week ago, pitched in the 7th inning last night.  Cruz should return to that role on a regular basis, especially given how shaky Chad Qualls has been lately.  Hierarchy change: Juan Cruz to 2nd in line, replacing Chad Qualls.

August 10, 2012
Pittsburgh Pirates – With the Pirates down by 1 run in the 7th, they went to Jared Hughes, who got knocked around and was unable to escape the inning.  The Pirates traded for Chad Qualls at the deadline, and used him in the 8th inning ahead of Joel Hanrahan on Wednesday; he’s now ahead of Hughes on the depth chart.  Hierarchy change: Chad Qualls to 2nd in line, replacing Jared Hughes.

July 29, 2012
Pittsburgh Pirates – Jason Grilli picked up the save on Saturday.  As noted in yesterday’s Vulture Save Watch, Joel Hanrahan had pitched three days in a row.  No hierarchy change.

July 26, 2012
Pittsburgh Pirates – Jared Hughes pitched the 7th inning in a 1-run game on Wednesday, notching his 9th hold.  The righty now has a 1.90 ERA and has picked up three holds this week.  Hierarchy change: Jared Hughes to 2nd in line, replacing Brad Lincoln.

July 22, 2012
Pittsburgh Pirates – Brad Lincoln was summoned in the 8th inning with the Pirates up by 4 runs and several runners on base.  He got out of the jam, then stayed on for the 9th to record his first save of the season.  Lincoln won’t often get a save chance, but with Juan Cruz recently hitting the DL, he will play an increasingly important role in the Pirates bullpen.  Hierarchy change: Brad Lincoln to 2nd in line, replacing Juan Cruz.

July 12, 2012
Pittsburgh Pirates – The first-place Pirates are buyers, but most media reports have them seeking a bat, not an arm. Even if they were to tack on in the bullpen, an acquisition would probably inherit the 7th or 8th inning role, as Joel Hanrahan has been solid all year. BUY/SELL: None.

July 1, 2012
Pittsburgh Pirates – Jared Hughes got the last out of the 8th inning with the Pirates up three runs, then stayed on for the 9th after the Pirates added to their lead.  Hughes does not fit in to the Pirates regular late-inning plans.  No hierarchy change. 

June 11, 2012
Pittsburgh Pirates – Up until Sunday, the Pirates had used Jason Grilli exclusively in the 8th inning, vaulting Juan Cruz from his 7th inning role into the closer role on nights when Joel Hanrahan was unavailable.  But yesterday, with Hanrahan getting the night off, the Pirates finally gave Grilli a save opp, and he converted.  Hierarchy change: Jason Grilli to Set-up, Juan Cruz to 2nd in line.  

June 8, 2012
Pittsburgh Pirates – Chris Resop picked up a 10th inning save last night.  Joel Hanrahan had already pitched, blowing the save an inning earlier, but his job is not in jeopardy.  No hierarchy change. 

May 13, 2012
Pittsburgh Pirates – Juan Cruz picked up the save on Saturday.  As noted in yesterday’s Vulture Save Watch, Joel Hanrahan was on the bereavement list due to the death of his grandmother.  Hanrahan is expected to return to the team today.  No hierarchy change.

April 19, 2012
Pittsburgh Pirates – As noted in yesterday’s vulture save watch, Joel Hanrahan is still sidelined with a mild hamstring injury, allowing Juan Cruz to pick up his second save in as many days.  While Hanrahan could return as soon as Friday, the Pirates have shown that Cruz will get any save opportunities when Hanrahan is unavailable, while Jason Grilli remains the 8th inning guy regardless.  Hierarchy change: Juan Cruz to Set-up, Jason Grilli to 2nd in line. 

April 18, 2012
Pittsburgh Pirates – Joel Hanrahan has sustained a mild hamstring injury, and Juan Cruz picked up the save in his absence last night.  Hanrahan’s job is not in jeopardy and he is considered day to day, but Cruz has been solid this season, having not allowed any runs through 5 innings so far.  Hierarchy change: Juan Cruz to 2nd in line, replacing Evan Meek.

April 16, 2012
Pittsburgh Pirates – Jason Grilli has pitched the 8th inning in four of the last six games for the Pirates.  Grilli has surpassed Evan Meek, who struggled during spring training, on the depth chart.  Hierarchy change: Jason Grilli to Set-up, Evan Meek to 2nd in line.

September 25, 2011
Pittsburgh Pirates — Joel Hanrahan was unavailable for the 9th inning after throwing 32 pitches the previous night, so the Pirates turned to Jason Grilli for the save.  No hierarchy change. 

September 16, 2011
Pittsburgh Pirates — Evan Meek, the Pirates lone All Star in 2010, has been re-establishing himself as a reliable late-inning reliever since returning from the DL a few weeks ago.  Hierarchy change: Meek to 2nd in line, replacing Grilli.