Reds 6, Pirates 0
For all that’s been made of the starting rotation situation, GM Neal Huntington said that Ross Ohlendorf has not yet officially been given a rotation spot. Because of his spring results (and the lack thereof elsewhere), Ohlendorf would seem to be the favorite to win one of the final two rotation openings. But one thing is clear: the job is not yet his.
“Ross still needs to go out and pitch well,” Huntington said.
The hope is that Jeff Karstens and/or Virgil Vasquez also step up and seize a final rotation spot(s). Vasquez threw five scoreless innings in a Single-A Minor League game on Sunday.
“Internally, despite some tough springs, we do have some guys who we feel good about,” Huntington said, in reference to Vasquez and Karstens. “We just haven’t had them step forward maybe the way we anticipated to capture roles.”
Also, Huntington said that in terms of starting candidates, Jason Davis is “an outside shot.” Davis threw two scoreless innings on Sunday and has now not allowed a run in his last 10 innings.
On the starting pitching note, Huntington said that he continues to seek for other options externally. That search is ongoing on both the pitching and hitting front, but it’s especially true from a pitching standpoint.
Huntington said that an addition via free agency is “very unlikley,” meaning that it would likely be via a trade or waiver claim that any further pitching would be added before the start of the season.
For all those still emailing me about the possibility of Pedro Martinez, let me make this point again. Would the Pirates welcome him into the rotation? Yes. They have expressed interest. Are they willing to meet Martinez’s salary demands? No. That’s an emphatic no, actually. Martinez’s salary expectations haven’t changed, so there is no reason to believe anything will get done on this front.
Also, remember that this is the time of year when rosters start to get whittled down and players might be squeezed out of jobs and become available (i.e. Tyler Yates’ situation with the Braves last year). As a result, the Pirates will keep their eye on who is made available.
The bullpen situation was among the numerous topics that Huntington went into with the media during his weekly Sunday gathering.
You can look for a more in-depth analysis of the bullpen situation on the site on Monday since I already have plenty of content going up today. But in the meantime, the main item of consequence is this: with two weeks left in Spring Training, Matt Capps, John Grabow and Tyler Yates are still the only relievers with guaranteed jobs. No one else, Huntington said, has done enough to be placed in that category.
One important thing to note: Huntington did say that the “business side” may play a role in those decisions. i.e. Without saying so, Huntington alluded to the fact that Craig Hansen (out of options), Sean Burnett (out of options) and Donnie Veal (Rule 5 pick) may be a leg up because the Pirates could lose them if they are not placed on the Opening Day roster.
With Andy Phillips (back injury) all but out of any chance to make the Opening Day roster, it looks like that final bench spot is going to go to Luis Cruz or Brian Bixler.
(In case you missed it, there is a full injury update on Phillips, Evan Meek (tired shoulder) and Phil Dumatrait (left shoulder soreness) here).
Now the debate comes down to this: Do you take Cruz, who continues to be a strong defensive option and can play anywhere in the infield/outfield, but who has not hit at all this spring? Or do you take Bixler, who has made significant strides defensively and offensively since the end of last season, but whose development might be hurt if he doesn’t get consistent at-bats?
Huntington shed a bit of light on some of the internal discussions he’s had regarding this exact situation.
“[Bixler] may come into a situation where you don’t want a young player that’s progressing and developing to sit on the bench,” he said. “Is Brian a long-term candidate for us at either of the [middle] infield positions? And if so, do we risk stunting his development by having him start in a bench role to start the season? That’s where the short-term/long-term equation always comes in.
Huntington also addressed the situation in left field. With Nyjer Morgan hitting just .173 this spring, is there any chance that he could be knocked out of the starting left field job before the start of the season?
Instead of paraphrasing, here’s Huntington’s lengthy response:
“We talk very openly about it that it is their job to keep. None of the young players were written in stone. They have to go out and show us. Nyjer at times showed us some quality things. When he gets on base he’s an effective force. But as we’ve talked from day one, it’s getting on base enough. He’s expanded the zone too much. He hasn’t utilized the bunt enough. He does need to take some steps forward.
“It’s awfully hard to lose a job in Spring Training. Eric Hinske is a definitive option for us there. Craig Monroe has had a solid spring. You look at Jeff Salazar, Garrett Jones and Andrew McCutchen, who is a guy that we are still excited about and can’t wait to see in Pittsburgh full time once he shows us he’s ready. It’s tough to lose a job in Spring Training. But it is something that because we have options, we need to see some performance.”
Reading between the lines, it’s clear that there is doubt about Morgan’s ability to be an everyday guy. The question is, how much patience will management show?
Up Next: The Pirates will face the Rays in a 1:05 p.m. ET game on Monday, with Zach Duke making the start for Pittsburgh. He will be opposed by Tampa Bay’s Jason Hammel.
The game will be webcast on www.pirates.com.