The Pirates placed left-hander Jose Hernandez on the 15-day injured list due to a right calf strain. Taking Hernandez’s place in the bullpen is veteran Ryan Borucki, whose contract was selected from Triple-A Indianapolis. No further transaction was necessary to create room for Borucki, since the Pirates already had only 39 players on their 40-man roster.
Hernandez was the third pick in last December’s Rule 5 draft, with Pittsburgh selecting the southpaw out of the Dodgers’ farm system. The 25-year-old hadn’t yet pitched in Triple-A before jumping right to the Pirates’ Opening Day roster, but Hernandez has looked very sharp in his rookie season. Over 27 1/3 innings out of the Bucs’ bullpen, Hernandez has a 2.63 ERA, an above-average 25.7% strikeout rate, and a borderline elite 5.5% walk rate. Batters haven’t made much hard contact against Hernandez, and his slider has quickly become a devastating weapon.
R5 draft picks must remain on a team’s big league roster for the entire season or else be offered back to their original club, and while a Rule 5 player can be on the IL, they have to clock at least 90 days on the active roster. Hernandez isn’t quite at 90 days yet, but he’ll easily clear that threshold assuming his calf injury isn’t serious. Beyond Hernandez’s R5 status is the bigger issue of how his absence will further impact an injury-riddled Pirates bullpen — Hernandez, Colin Holderman, and Rob Zastryzny on the 15-day IL, while Jarlin Garcia (who has yet to pitch at all this season) and Wil Crowe are on the 60-day IL.
Borucki signed a minor league deal with the Pirates in May, after he elected free agency rather than accept an outright assignment to the Cubs’ Triple-A affiliate. Chicago inked the lefty to a minor league deal during the offseason, and designated him for assignment just a few days after selecting his contract to the 26-man roster (without Borucki ever appearing in a game).
Borucki now looks primed to make his first official appearance of the 2023 campaign, which will make it six MLB seasons for the left-hander. Borucki has a 4.45 ERA over 170 career innings with the Blue Jays and Mariners, working exclusively as a reliever since 2020. There has been a lot of inconsistency in Borucki’s work over the years, as he has very prone to allowing home runs and has occasionally struggled with control.