Will the real Kevin Correia please stand up?

Will the real Kevin Correia please stand up?

Correia has posted a 2-0 record thus far in the 2011 campaign. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar))

That is, the Correia whose best ERA was posted two years ago at 3.91. Or maybe the real Correia who has posted ERAs such as 6.05 (2008) and 5.40 (2010)? However you chalk it up, the Correia who is currently tossing for the Pirates — with a 1.29 ERA and a 2-0 record — just cannot be the real deal.

I’ve mentioned before in another piece that I’m refusing to get on the Pirate Playoff bandwagon. Not this year. Maybe never. But, I’m more than willing to admit when there is a shining star about to be born.

And his name isn’t James McDonald. Who, I may remind you, is spotting a “spectacular” 5.56 ERA though 11 innings pitched. McDonald, who has been deemed the most promising arm in the Pittsburgh rotation, certainly has plenty of time to turn it around and live up to the buzz that has been generated by his presence in the Steel City. However, Correia may still overshadow any resurgence on his part.

Doubters will say that Correia hasn’t had a noteworthy season in his previous eight major league seasons (six with the Giants and a two year stint with San Diego). Unfortunately, I have no real argument for that.

I will say this, though: Correia only posted his first 100-plus inning season in 2007. He finished the season with a 3.45 ERA and struck out 80 batters. Nothing to get too excited about, especially since he followed up with that God-awful 2008 season (again, a 6.05 ERA in 110-innings pitched).

But, the last two years, both with the Padres, Correia has shown steady improvement with his numbers. He posted a very respectable 3.91 ERA in 2009 and followed that up with a rather shaky 5.40 ERA, 145-inning campaign in 2010.

Despite the numbers, both respectable and questionable, Correia is finally getting the chance to go through several full seasons in a rotation without any type of sustained break. This is the type of consistency that can put a pitcher into a different zone of performance.

Will another chance at a 100-plus inning season be the trick for Correia? Who knows? For all we know, Correia could tank his next trip to the mound and the Pirates’ fans will immediately jump back onto the McDonald bandwagon.

For now though, there is a glimmer of hope that Pittsburgh may have two possible stars on the rotation. If Correia’s start is any indication of things to come, the confluence of the three rivers in western Pennsylvania may be about to see something special.

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