PITTSBURGH -- Is it time for the Brewers to move Tom Gorzelanny back to the bullpen?
That question was asked and answered again Wednesday, after a pitcher who had been so effective in relief over the past season and a half continued to scuffle in the starting rotation. Gorzelanny surrendered four runs and nine hits over 5 1/3 innings of a 7-1 loss to the Pirates at PNC Park.
Will he start again? To be determined, said Brewers manager Ron Roenicke, who will discuss the team's upcoming pitching plans with general manager Doug Melvin.
"That's a discussion that Doug and I have had, and we'll have again," Roenicke said. "Then, we'll make a determination. We've got September coming up and we know there's a couple guys that we'd like to see, so we'll discuss all that."
The Brewers signed Gorzelanny to a two-year contract expecting to use him in a variety of relief roles and for the occasional spot start, but he performed so well when other Brewers injuries pushed him into the rotation that club officials opted to give Gorzelanny, 31, a late-season audition. They wondered whether his bullpen experience had made Gorzelanny a better starter.
The numbers are beginning to pile up. After allowing only one earned run over his first three starts and 16 innings, Gorzelanny has pitched to a 6.87 ERA in his last seven starts, with 25 earned runs and 40 hits in 32 2/3 innings. One of those outings was excellent -- a seven-inning start at Seattle on Aug. 10 in which Gorzelanny allowed three hits and no runs. Another was aborted after one inning when he was struck on the pitching elbow by a line drive. In the five others, including Wednesday, Gorzelanny surrendered at least four earned runs.
Among the Brewers' alternatives is big right-hander Johnny Hellweg, who earlier Wednesday was named the Triple-A Pacific Coast League's Pitcher of the Year. The team has also talked about taking a September look at Jimmy Nelson, MLB.com's top Brewers prospect, or perhaps reinstating Tyler Thornburg, who prevented further damage to Gorzerlanny's pitching line on Wednesday with a two-pitch, two-out relief performance.
"Whatever direction we go, I don't think it's going to be like we're taking a guy who's just dealing as a starter out of there and putting somebody else in his spot," Roenicke said. "I don't see that there's going to be that much of a negative there, whichever way we go."
Gorzelanny declined to weigh in.
"I haven't thought about it once," Gorzelanny said. "It's more the mindset of, whenever they tell me to throw, I'm going to throw. Whatever situation it is, starting, relieving, my main focus is trying to stay healthy all year."
After scoring seven times to take Tuesday's series opener, the Brewers were limited to one unearned run in Game 2. It came in the seventh inning, when Pirates catcher Russell Martin snapped a wild pickoff throw past first base and down the right-field line.
The Brewers were otherwise silenced by Pirates starter Charlie Morton (6 2/3 innings, five hits, no earned runs) and relievers Vin Mazzaro and Jared Hughes. Pirates newcomer Marlon Byrd delivered the biggest of the Pirates' 13 hits, a three-run home run off Burke Badenhop in the seventh inning.
"I was looking around the stands, seeing everyone in Pirates shirts, and I started to smile," Byrd said. "I wanted to take it all in, and I enjoyed all of it. That was my first curtain call ever, and for it to come in a new city fighting for a title ... amazing. I wanted to feel accepted, and I did."
Gorzelanny allowed one run in a first inning that might have been much worse if not for his own quick reflexes in snaring a Byrd line drive and starting a slick double play. The left-hander allowed another run on a two-out hit in the fourth and two more runs in the fifth, when Pittsburgh's Jose Tabata led off with a triple and Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer supplied successive run-scoring hits.
"It comes down to making the right pitches, and making good pitches," Gorzelanny said. "I thought for the most part I did a decent job of making good pitches; they might have been in the wrong situation, the wrong selection. The mistake that I made was throwing one pitch when maybe I should have thrown another pitch. Coupled with that, good at-bats [by Pirates hitters], too."
Thornburg helped Gorzelanny escape more damage in the sixth inning, but the Pirates tacked on three more runs in the seventh on Byrd's homer.
Byrd batted cleanup in his first game since a Tuesday trade from the Mets and had an eventful night. He hit the line drive snared by Gorzelanny for the first-inning double play, then engaged Gorzelanny in a 14-pitch battle in the fourth inning that finally ended in a strikeout.
"I could have done without that," Gorzelanny said.
How many of the two-strike foul balls were quality pitches?
"There were quite a few," Gorzelanny said. "He seemed to foul them off and it kept going on and on. It was like, 'I'm not giving in here. Somebody's giving in, and it's not going to be me.'"
Gorzelanny won that battle and struck out Byrd again to end the fifth inning, but Byrd salvaged his debut by jumping a first-pitch slider from Badenhop in the seventh.
"That's a good piece that [the Pirates] got," Gorzelanny said. "He's a good hitter, a smart baseball player. We played together a few years ago, and watching him play, he plays the game the right way and he plays it hard. Having a ballplayer like that, who's always a tough out, that's always good for a team."