Red Sox 4, Pirates 3

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The Pirates have officially told Craig Monroe that he is on the team — we didn’t get official word this morning, so I figured I’d update this bit of news now.

As of 5 p.m., the Pirates were in the process of contacting whoever is being removed from the team’s 40-man roster to make room for Monroe. Once that player is reached, the move will be officially announced. Check back for an update later this evening.

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One thing that GM Neal Huntington (pictured above) has tried to emphasize – and which I’ll do again here – is that the Pirates team that stands on the Busch Stadium field Monday for the National Anthem very well might not be the team that fills PNC Park midway through the month. In other words, the Pirates have options, plenty they feel, to call upon should any of the 25 players the team leaves camp with falter.

So who would be the most likely to come up soon?

There’s Andy Phillips to consider, as he was putting himself in position to be the team’s utility infielder until a back injury cost him three weeks in March. The Pirates want to still see Phillips play second, and if he can go down to Triple-A, get in some at-bats and move around the field, the Pirates could very well swap Luis Cruz for Phillips pretty soon.

Andrew McCutchen is another one to keep your eye on. The Pirates have a few more areas of development for McCutchen to meet, but as soon as he does, he should be in Pittsburgh. Whether that’s early summer or late is a point of interest. And be sure that if Nyjer Morgan or Brandon Moss struggle to be everyday contributors that the Pirates will have to look hard at McCutchen.

From a starting standpoint, Virgil Vasquez and Jason Davis would be the two likeliest candidates to be called up should a starting need arise. Jeff Karstens is going to have to continue to earn his rotation spot, and should he slip, the Pirates won’t hesitate to make a move.

Then there is the bullpen, which could very well be a revolving door all season. Actually, I’d bet on it being that way. There certainly will be some up and down movement; it’s just a question of who and when. As it stands now, Denny Bautista, Chris Bootcheck and either Evan Meek or Jesse Chavez (whoever doesn’t make the roster) would seem to be the first in line for a call-up. With so many unknowns in that bullpen, there is the potential for plenty of experimenting.

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Meek, who is battling for the final bullpen spot, threw a light side session on Wednesday despite still looking visibly ill with bronchitis. The Pirates are hopeful that he’ll be well enough to pitch in Thursday’s game against the Reds, as they’d like another look at the right-hander before making final roster decisions.

Meek last pitched on March 20. He was then shut down for a week due to a tired shoulder. Then, just as he was cleared to return to the mound, Meek came down with the stomach flu and then bronchitis. 

***

Paul Maholm has been waiting to have his “bad outing” all spring. In his mind, it came on Wednesday. Maholm’s final line wasn’t awful – 4 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 HR – but Maholm definitely wasn’t satisfied.

“Today was the first day I actually felt bad,” he said. “To go all spring and only feel bad in one start is pretty good. You could throw every pitch out but the fastball today, since that’s how things were going. [I'm] glad to get [the bad outing] out of the way.”

When Maholm surrendered a three-run homer in the fourth, it snapped a streak of 18 2/3 scoreless innings for the left-hander. He finished the spring with a 1.52 ERA. And like all of us, Maholm is just relieved finally to have finished.

“More than forever,” Maholm answered when asked how long Spring Training felt. “Eternity in Bradenton. Seven weeks in sunny Florida is way too long.”

I have to selfishly add an “amen” to that.

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Just as Maholm did on Wednesday (only pitching four innings), all the starters will back off on their pitch counts this week. Each has already reached the 90-pitch mark in an outing this spring, and this is the last time through the rotation before the season starts.

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Minor Matters: LHP Tom Gorzelanny threw five shutout innings in a Triple-A game on Wednesday. He allowed four hits, two walks and struck out six. Since being sent down to Minor League camp, Gorzelanny has allowed three earned runs, nine hits and four walks in 12 innings. He has 13 strikeouts in that span.

***

Up Next: The Pirates will have two games on Thursday. The Major League players will head over to Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota for a 1:05 p.m. ET game against the Reds. Ian Snell, assuming that he is over a bout with the stomach flu, will start for Pittsburgh against Cincinnati’s Edinson Volquez.

The Pirates will also host Manatee Community College at McKechnie Field on Thursday in the two team’s annual charity game. Vasquez, recently demoted into the Triple-A rotation, is expected to pitch for the Pirates. The rest of the team playing in the exhibition game will likely be made up of players from Minor League camp.

2 Comments

I am unable to get Google Reader to subscribe to this blog. Is there a trick?

I really like that Craig Monroe got on the team, i really like him
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