Former top pick Bryan Bullington of Triple A Indianapolis -- passed over for a callup to the Pirates rotation in favor of fellow prospect John Van Benschoten -- confirmed the coaching staff's doubts about him in his most recent outing as he was hammered once again -- this time for six earned runs while giving up four hits and four walks in a 2.33-inning outing against Triple A Toledo.
Though the Pirates took the 6-foot-5 Bullington with the No. 1 overall pick in 2002 -- ahead of budding Tampa Bay star B.J. Upton -- he has failed to live up to expectations following shoulder surgery nearly two years ago. It seems doubtful whether the Pirates will ever realize a decent return after investing a $4 million signing bonus on Bullington, whose time for development begins to dwindle as he approaches his 27th birthday.
When pitching at nearby Ball State more than five years ago, Bullington had a lively mid-90s fastball. But these days Bullington has all he can do just to top the high 80s. He now must depend heavily on a variety of effective but often predictable off-speed pitches.