Twins 12, Pirates 8
I’ve got no concrete evidence, but it’s quite possible that the 25 players that go to St. Louis for next Monday’s home opener may not all be in the Pirates’ camp right now. Tough roster decisions are being made all across baseball and the Pirates are keeping an eye on every one. Players are being released and out-of-option players are being offered in trades.
That may also be an explanation for why the Pirates, with four days left before breaking camp, still have nine extra players in big league camp, as they very well could be waiting to see if they can acquire anyone first.
An acquisition at this point would likely be a middle infield option or a reliever. When Brian Bixler was optioned to Triple-A on Monday, it was assumed that the follow-up announcement would be Luis Cruz getting the backup infield spot with the club. The two were in a two-player battle for the role, so that made sense right? GM Neal Huntington did say that Cruz has “the inside track,” but the fact that Huntington didn’t get any more definitive leaves room to speculate that the Pirates are looking elsewhere.
Florida’s Robert Andino and Colorado’s Jeff Baker are two names that are being floated around in the rumor mills as possibilities. Andino is out of options, and remember, the Pirates looked at him at the Winter Meetings this past December. The Rockies don’t currently have an everyday role available for Baker.
As for the bullpen, the Pirates are looking for any additional options to be had. There is a sense of nervousness in the options the Pirates are looking at for the final four bullpen spots. Yes, it’s nice to have a number of options still in camp. But the reason for that is not so positive — none of the remaining options has done anything to seize a role. You can’t help but be nervous with the prospect of taking four pitchers north who haven’t done much to consistently impress.
Last year it was Tyler Yates who the Pirates picked up in the finals days of Spring Training. Certainly something to keep your eye on over the next few days.
Bucs bits: The Pirates need one victory in their final four games to guarantee the team of finishing Grapefruit League play with a winning record for the first time in 2003. With 16 wins right now, they will be the first Pirates team since 1994 to reach the 17-win plateau with one more victory. … With two more hits on Tuesday, Ramon Vazquez now has at least one hit in six of his last eight games. …Cuts tomorrow morning? You can bet that I’ll be getting to the clubhouse early in case. Prior to home games always tend to be the most likely days for cuts and the Pirates are running out of days to make those decisions. Stay tuned.
Up Next: The Pirates face the Red Sox in a 1:05 p.m. ET game on Monday back at McKechnie Field. Paul Maholm is scheduled to start in what will be his final tuneup before making the start Opening Day on Monday. He will be opposed by right-hander Josh Beckett.
The game will be webcast on www.pirates.com.