Dealin’ Dauri: The Rise Of The Pirates’ Impressive New Reliever


Dauri Moreta walks off the mound after a solid performance. Photo Credit: Harrison Barden

It was a warm, sunny day when the Pittsburgh Pirates were in town to take on the Cincinnati Reds for Opening Day 2023. 

Dauri Moreta stood on the mound at Great American Ballpark, the home of his former team, needing a clutch outing to keep the game tied. 

After starting pitcher Mitch Keller had held the Reds to two runs in four innings, the dam had started to break, and after Jason Volser tripled to bring in two runs and tie the game at 4-4, Pirates manager Derek Shelton decided it was time for a pitching change. 

It was Dauri Moreta’s time to shine.

With two outs and a runner on third, the 27 year old Moreta had a chance to impress the over 44,000 in attendance at Great American Ballpark, the same way he did when he stood on that mound in a Reds jersey the year before. 

Moreta had gotten himself into a jam, walking his first two batters to load the bases while the Reds were surging. But he didn’t waiver or crumble under the spotlight of the game. 

With Will Benson at the plate, Moreta simplified his game and was able to get Benson to strike out swinging. 

As custom for him after a good performance, as he walked off the mound, Moreta made a money symbol with his hands, perhaps alluding to his nickname to some, “Big Bank.” 

Catcher Jason Delay (left) and pitcher Dauri Moreta (right) meet during a game. Photo Credit: Winnipeg Free Press

As for how he got that nickname, Moreta told Pittsburgh Baseball Now it’s a funny story. 

“Oh, everyone asks me this,” he told them with a laugh. “Ya it’s a funny story. I went out with the guys and they needed change and I got like $2,000 in twenties and they said I got a lot of money, like $2,000 in twenties, and said “oh you’re big bank,” and it stuck.”

Moreta’s burst onto the scene for the Pirates has been extremely impressive, providing some stability to a Pirates bullpen that has had an extremely up and down last few weeks. 

Just a week after his first ever start as a Pirate, he was credited with his first win in the majors during Pittsburgh’s wacky 13-9 victory over the Chicago White Sox. 

In that game Moreta came in for the struggling Rich Hill, who had just given up a 2 run homer that tied the game at 7 in the top of the 5th. Moreta was able to settle things down, forcing a flyout before getting both Yoán Moncada and Jake Burger to strike out swinging

In the following inning, Moreta walked a batter before forcing three straight outs to help keep the Pirates’ new found 5-run lead intact.

But this journey to his success and popularity within the Pirates organization has been in the making for years. 

Born in the Dominican Republic, Moreta signed with the Cincinnati Reds organization as an international free agent back in 2015. He spent that season with the Dominican Summer League Reds, a DSL affiliate for Cincinnati. 

He dominated on the mound, albeit only in 21.1 innings pitched, with a 1.69 ERA, which was second lowest on the DSL Reds that year. 

He was a promising prospect, and continued to work up the ranks of the Reds organization. In 2016, he appeared in the Arizona League for the AZL Reds. He recorded a 2.05 ERA in 30.2 innings pitched for the AZL Reds, while also pitching 2.2 innings for the Billings Mustangs of the Pioneer League, a separate MLB partner league. 

Moreta continued to work his way up the prospect system, making it to single-A ball in 2017 for Cincinnati’s affiliate in the Dayton Dragons. 

After 27.1 innings pitched for the Dragons in 2017, Moreta saw that increase to 44.2 innings the following season, as he got much more time on the mound in relief. 

After another year with Dayton and Billings, Moreta appeared in A+ ball for the Daytona (not Dayton) Tortugas, where his numbers recovered from a horrid 2018. 

After the Minor League baseball season was canceled due to Covid in 2020, Moreta split the 2021 season between Cincinnati’s double-A affiliate, the Chattanooga Lookouts, and their triple-A affiliate, the Louisville Bats. 

Moreta on the mound for the Reds in 2022. Photo Credit: AP

(Just in case you’re wondering whether the Louisville Bats are named after the flying bat or the baseball bat, their logo features a flying bat sitting on top of a baseball bat, so, both?)

His numbers were phenomenal, pitching a 1.35 ERA at double-A and a 0.68 ERA at triple-A. 

His excellence in Chattanooga and Louisville allowed him to make his MLB debut that year as well, when the Reds called him up to Cincinnati at the end of the year. 

He appeared in relief in 4 games for the Reds, including a game against the Pirates. Ironically, the game against the Pirates was the only of Moreta’s 2021 campaign that saw him give up a home run, when Cole Tucker hit a grand slam deep to right field to make it a 9-1 ballgame. 

To date, it is the only grand slam Moreta has given up in the majors. 

Last year, however, is when Moreta really broke out to MLB. He pitched 38.1 innings for the Reds in 2022, but with a 5.40 ERA. His first full season in the major leagues was not the most ideal, but in fairness to Moreta, he wasn’t the only one struggling on the Reds’s roster last season. 

Cincinnati, like Pittsburgh, was a 100-loss team in 2022, and featured many young players who were trying to grow and build upon their game. 

Moreta continued to show progress throughout the season, which eventually caught the attention of the Pirates’ front office. 

In the off-season, Cincinnati traded him to the Pirates for infielder Kevin Newman. 

Newman had been a mainstay in the Pirates lineup since 2019, his sophomore season in the majors. He was a mostly decent batter in his Pirates career, but he was never much of a power hitter. He hit 20 home runs in 431 career games as a Pirate. 

With a logjam of young players at his positions, the Pirates had a choice to make. 

They decided to use his worth to help bolster their bullpen, taking a chance on the young Dauri Moreta. 

And what a payoff it has been so far. 

Moreta is sporting a 3-1 record with a 1.80 ERA in 30.0 innings pitched so far. He has shown off his ability to get out of james several times, and he has been remarkable at forcing teams to strand runners on base. Opponents are batting under .100 against him while runners are in scoring position, and just .155 in any scenario. 

Despite his walk percentage being the highest of his major league career at 12.5%, Moreta’s unique blend of pitches has been able to strike out 41 batters so far this year, the same as his 2022 total. His home run against percentage, meanwhile, is at just 1.7%, an all time low and much lower than his 6.3% with the Reds last year. 

His on base percentage is sitting at .267, but with Moreta’s focus, while a batter may make it on base, they very likely aren’t getting home. 

Moreta walks off the mound after finishing an inning during the Pirates’ home opener. Photo Credit: Christopher Horner

Aside from his solid performances, he is also an electric personality to the Pirates clubhouse, and his high-energy celebrations and his heart on his sleeve aura have also made him an up and coming fan favorite on the team. 

With the NL Central being horrifically bad this year, the Pirates, despite a historically bad May, find themselves leading the division at a record just over .500.

Make no mistake, this Pirates team has flaws, but with how close they are in the standings, it’s hard not to get excited about what could happen if this team gets hot. 

Despite the organization’s suspect stance on actually wanting or believing this team can play winning baseball in 2023, Dauri Moreta and the Pittsburgh bullpen will be massively important if this ballclub is still playing meaningful games in August and September. 

And if the Pirates can just remain afloat until August, when Oneil Cruz is slated to return from injury, then who knows what can happen? If the Brewers continue to struggle and the Pirates can remain ahead of the other teams in the NL Central, they could be looking ahead to a late-season run at the postseason.