Results tagged ‘ Chris Bootcheck ’

Hansen, Bautista outrighted to Triple-A; Bootcheck elects free agency

By Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

In order to start making additional room on their 40-man roster, the Pirates outrighted right-handed pitchers Denny Bautista and Craig Hansen to Triple-A on Tuesday. Chris Bootcheck was also removed from team’s 40-man roster but informed the Pirates that he will declare free agency since his length of Minor League service time gives him the option to do so.

With those moves, the Pirates now have 38 players on the team’s 40-man roster. Hansen had been on the 60-day disabled list and therefore wasn’t counting as a player on the Pirates’ roster even before being outrighted.

With these three moves, general manager Neal Huntington has begun the process of clearing space for the Pirates to make necessary additions to the roster in advance of the Major League Rule 5 Draft in December. Too, any open space on the roster would allow the Pirates to make a selection in that Rule 5 Draft, which Huntington has done in each of his seasons as the Pirates’ GM.

The Pirates do in fact have some roster shuffling left to do. Right-handers Jose Ascanio and Evan Meek, both of whom ended the season on the 60-day DL, will need to be added in the next few weeks. Those two additions alone would fill the roster back to its maximum.

Right-hander Tyler Yates is also currently on the 60-day DL. However, the Pirates almost certainly won’t tender Yates a contract since the right-hander will not be healthy enough to pitch until midway through the 2010 season at the earliest. Yates underwent Tommy John surgery in July.

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September 25: Dodgers (92-61) @ Pirates (56-95)

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

We’ll obviously take a closer look at the dynamics of the free agent market and how the Pirates might fit into it after the season ends and all attention turns there… but… here’s something to chew on in the meantime, since I know that most of you all would probably prefer that the offseason get underway ASAP so you can just start looking to 2010.

Manager John Russell was asked by a reporter if he expected it to be hard to get free agents interested in signing with Pittsburgh because of the organization’s excessive string of losing seasons. Russell was also asked if he would sign with the Pirates if he hypothetically was a free agent player heading into this winter.

“Sure. Why not?” Russell answered.

And then he continued with this:

“When offered a job at the Major League level, most guys take jobs. There’s not too many players in the game now who can pick and choose where they go. That’s just baseball.

“We’ve had a lot of good feedback from a lot of other organizations. They like what they see. A lot of people really see where we’re going. We’ve got that from other managers, other players, coaches, scouts. They like watching the way we do things, the way we play, the effort. I think the organization has a pretty good standing out there other than wins and losses. Most people see where we’re headed. That could be attractive.

“Again, there’s not too many guys in baseball that can pick and choose that much, especially the way the economy is nowadays.”

I’m obviously not in a baseball player’s shoes, but I’d imagine you could look at the free agent market in a couple of ways. Surely money dictates a lot of the decisions made, as you typically see players sign where they can get the bigger check. The Pirates often can’t compete for these free agents when it comes down to only dollars and cents.

But playing time also comes into play, especially for a guy who isn’t an established starter but is trying to prove he should be. Pittsburgh could be an appealing place for someone in that situation. Even though it didn’t work out well for either, Craig Monroe and Eric Hinske fit in this category this year. Monroe wanted a chance to prove he could be an everyday guy again, and Hinske saw more playing opportunity here than at other places. These might be the types of guys that the only players the Pirates can realistically be competitve for until the organization proves it can be a winner.

Just food for thought.

As for today’s news, notes and randomness…

  • The G-20 Summit is wrapping up now, but its presence has been seen around PNC Park this afternoon. Yesterday, I did not see a uniformed officer during my two block walk from the parking garage to media entrance. Today, I counted eight. A protest march through the city that lasted much of the afternoon ended on the North Shore, just blocks away from the ballpark, so that was the reason for much of the increased security.
  • Also, Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama is throwing out the ceremonial first pitch tonight and so there is a large security presence inside the park for that. Fans attending the game will again be searched more thoroughly, as was the case on Thursday. Right now a group of about a dozen armored officers are in the left field bleachers. Another half a dozen are standing in right field foul ground.
  • After an abnormally small crowd of about 3,000 on Thursday, tonight’s attendance should be much improved. Surely some will still stay away from the city because of the Summit, but with this being Paul Maholm bobblehead night, that’s sure to draw a few out of the house.
  • With a Dodgers win or Colorado loss tonight, LA will clinch a postseason berth. The Dodgers’ magic number to win the NL West is four (combination of Dodger wins and Rockies losses), so that’s expected to take place here at PNC Park in the next four days. No team has ever clinched a division title here before.
  • Shortstop Ronny Cedeno is dealing with a nagging hamstring injury, which is keeping him out of Friday’s lineup. The Pirates are hopeful of getting Cedeno back on the field within a few days, Russell said.
  • The Pirates are still considering bring Anthony Claggett, who they claimed off waivers on Thursday, up to join the team before the end of the season. Claggett last pitched on Sept. 12, so the layoff is the biggest concern. He flew to Bradenton, Fla., today and was scheduled to throw a bullpen down there in front of staff. If that goes well, he’ll pitch in an instructional league game. Then the Pirates will decide if he will join the team for the final week.
  • GM Neal Huntington’s thoughts on Claggett and why the Pirates claimed him: “We’re always intrigued by guys who have options left. He had a solid year in Triple-A. He can put the ball on the ground. And until this last year, he showed the ability to get strikeouts. We like guys who can strike people out, get ground balls and throw strikes and a guy with some flexibility as we move forward.”
  • Jose Ascanio’s season ended when the Pirates moved him to the 60-day DL on Thursday. Huntington said Ascanio, who pitched a simulated game on Tuesday, didn’t feel as good as they had hoped he would so it became unrealistic to get him back before the season ended.
  • Ryan Doumit will be given the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association’s Heart & Hustle award prior to Friday’s game. The award recognizes one player from each team who demonstrates a passion for the game of baseball and best embodies the values, spirt and traditions of the game.
  • Speaking of Doumit, he is hitting .429 with four doubles, one home run and seven RBIs in 18 games this month. For his own sanity, he really needed to finish the season on a high note, and he seems to be doing just that.
  • The Pirates would be pleased if they can get four innings out of Jeff Karstens tonight. He has stretched his arm out a bit, but not to the point where he’s going to be pitch deep into the game.
  • Right-hander Chris Bootcheck has left the team to be with his wife, Jina, who gave birth to a girl, Olivia, on Thursday.

Pirates lineup:

  1. Andrew McCutchen (CF)
  2. Andy LaRoche (3B)
  3. Garrett Jones (1B)
  4. Ryan Doumit (C)
  5. Lastings Milledge (LF)
  6. Brandon Moss (RF)
  7. Delwyn Young (2B)
  8. Luis Cruz (SS)
  9. Jeff Karstens (RHP)

Dodgers lineup:

  1. Rafael Furcal (SS)
  2. Andre Ethier (RF)
  3. Manny Ramirez (LF)
  4. Matt Kemp (CF)
  5. James Loney (1B)
  6. Blake Dewitt (3B)
  7. Orlando Hudson (2B)
  8. Brad Ausmus (C)
  9. Jon Garland (RHP)

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September 5: Cardinals (80-56) @ Pirates (53-80)

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

Remember this? Well, good news. Both the man who fell onto the field and his son are back at PNC Park on Saturday, guests of president Frank Coonelly. And both seem to be doing just fine. The Pirates had said after the incident that the organization hoped to invite both fans back at a later date and obviously were able to get that done.

Oh, and yes, both the man and his son were donning their Cardinals jerseys while chilling in the Pirates’ dugout.

As for today’s news, notes and randomness…

  • Triple-A Indianapolis has announced its season awards, with the winners as followed: Daniel McCutchen (Most Valuable Player), Jose Tabata (Rookie of the Year), Erik Kratz (Defensive Player of the Year), Chris Bootcheck (Henry Smock Relief Pitcher of the Year) and Bryan Myrow (highest batting average).
  • Indianapolis also named third baseman Neil Walker, who is now with the big-league club in Pittsburgh, the team’s player of the month for August. Walker hit .339 with 29 RBIs last month for the Indians.
  • Third baseman Pedro Alvarez was named the Eastern League’s Player of the Month after the monstrous offensive month he had in August. Alvarez hit .368 with nine doubles, seven homers, 21 runs scored, 20 RBIs and 24 walks. Alvarez, who is the first Curve player to win the monthly award since Steve Pearce did in June 2007, reached base in all but one game he played in August.
  • Brad Lincoln pitched four innings and allowed one run in Team USA’s exhibition win over Canada on Friday. Lincoln walked one, struck out one and allowed three hits. In two exhibition games so far, Alvarez has gone 1-for-9 with three strikeouts for the US team.
  • The Pirates have promoted catcher Tony Sanchez (No. 4 overall pick this year) and outfielder Starling Marte from low-A West Virginia to high-A Lynchburg so that both can play for Lynchburg in the Carolina League playoffs. The playoffs begin on Wednesday.
  • The Pirates enter Saturday with an eight-game losing streak, the team’s third streak of that length this season. Pittsburgh lost eight in a row from May 3-10 and from August 2-9. The Pirates snapped out of that first streak with a 7-1 win over the Cardinals. The team broked the second such streak with a 7-3 over the Rockies, which incidentally enough was the Pirates’ last road win.
  • On a positive note, the Pirates are 9-1 on Saturdays at PNC Park this year. Their only loss came to St. Louis on August 8. And in those 10 games, Pittsburgh has scored 75 runs and given up just 32.
  • Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa has both Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday sitting out of Saturday’s game. Just a day of rest for both sluggers.

Pirates lineup:

  1. Andrew McCutchen (CF)
  2. Delwyn Young (2B)
  3. Garrett Jones (RF)
  4. Lastings Milledge (LF)
  5. Ryan Doumit (C)
  6. Steve Pearce (1B)
  7. Andy LaRoche (3B)
  8. Ronny Cedeno (SS)
  9. Ross Ohlendorf (RHP)

Cardinals lineup:

  1. Skip Schumaker (2B)
  2. Colby Rasmus (CF)
  3. Ryan Ludwick (RF)
  4. Troy Glaus (1B)
  5. Rick Ankiel (LF)
  6. Khalil Greene (3B)
  7. Julio Lugo (SS)
  8. Jason LaRue (C)
  9. Mitchell Boggs (RHP)

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August 7: Cardinals (59-51) @ Pirates (45-63)

Before we get going on baseball-related news, I’d like to revisit some items from after last night’s long game. It was reported — and accurately so, based on the information members of the media were provided after Thursday’s game — on pirates.com and by others who cover the team regularly that two Pirates players did not speak to the media Thursday night.

Kevin Hart, who made the start in his Pirates debut, left the clubhouse before we were allowed in. And we were told by a Pirates spokesperson that reliever Steven Jackson, who took the loss in the game and was sent down to Triple-A minutes after, would not speak either. That is why you did not see quotes from either of the two pitchers.

On Friday, we (the media that cover the team daily) were given some clarification on the circumstances behind last night’s events.

Hart was waiting for us when we entered the clubhouse this afternoon to apologize for not being around after the game. Because the Pirates made multiple roster moves after the game, the media was held out longer than normal and Hart, not knowing why the media wasn’t being allowed in, waited for about 15 minutes and then left thinking no one wanted to talk with him. He had not been told to wait around to speak, nor was he informed why the media was not in the clubhouse as expected.

He sincerely apologized to the media, fans and his teammates for how things happened last night and wanted everyone to know his intention was not to be disrespectful. I can tell you that in my other dealings with Hart so far, he has been nothing but extremely accomodating, respectful and pleasant to deal with. That said, chalk Thursday’s incident to pure miscommunication.

As for Jackson, Pirates media relations director Jim Trdinich took responsibility for telling Jackson that he did not have to speak with reporters after the game, hence Jackson’s decision not to. We were unaware on Thursday that Jackson had been given the option.

Wanted to get all of that out there, since I know there were some harsh words directed at both players afterward for what, at the time, appeared to be deliberate avoidance of the media.

Now on to baseball… with today’s news, notes and randomness… 

  • Right-handed relievers Chris Bootcheck and Jose Ascanio have arrived and will be two fresh arms for the Pirates’ bullpen. Bootcheck was called up when Donnie Veal went on the DL with a sprained left index finger. Ascanio takes the roster spot that belonged to Jackson. Bootcheck and Ascanio will both be used in middle relief.
  • Manager John Russell said that though Ascanio will be used as a reliever, that does not rule out returning him to a starting role later in the year. That could be by sending him down to Triple-A Indianapolis later this month, or by giving him spot starts with the Pirates in September. Basically, the Pirates were in dire need of a fresh arm and Ascanio gives them someone who can throw multiple innings.
  • The decision to put Veal back on the DL seems to be another “aggressive” one by the organization, which continues to be hesitant to use Veal in situations where the game is close. According to Russell, Veal was throwing earlier this week and said that that his finger did not feel right. He has been diagnosed with a sprained left index finger. If the Pirates want, they have the ability to keep Veal on the DL for the rest of the month and reinstate him in September when they can freely call up bullpen reinforcement.
  • Heading into Friday’s contest against the Cardinals, the Pirates have been outscored 24-4 in the seventh inning and later on this homestand. That helps to explain why the club has lost five straight.
  • As reported by MLB.com Jonathan Mayo, the Pirates’ eighth-round Draft pick, Colton Cain, is close to signing with the Pirates for a seven-figure bonus. That announcement could be made official as early as later this afternoon.
  • Brian Bixler, who is being converted to a utility player at Triple-A Indianapolis, was named the Triple-A Player of the Month for July. Bixler hit .343 with 17 runs scored, six doubles, three triples and six home runs. He drove in 20 and stole six bases.
  • Right-hander Jean Machi was promoted from Double-A Altoona to Triple-A to take Bootcheck’s spot in the Indianapolis bullpen.
  • Third base coach Tony Beasley is expected to rejoin the team on Sunday. He has been gone for about two and a half weeks due to the death of his father and aunt.
  • Lost in last night’s loss was Matt Capps brilliant relief work. While the rest of the ‘pen struggled, Capps pitched two scoreless innings, allowing one hit and striking out four. That marked Capps’ first two-inning appearance since Sept. 13, 2008. He is 4-0 with a 0.26 ERA in games where he has pitched two or more innings. Try to explain that one…
  • The Pirates have been one-hit twice this year, with one of those coming against St. Louis’ Chris Carpenter, who makes the start for the Cardinals tonight. In 12 career games against the Pirates, Carpenter is 10-1 with a 2.06 ERA.
  • With 45 wins in the team’s first 108 games, the Pirates are on pace for a 68-win season. This club has won 67 or 68 games in each of the last four seasons.

Pirates lineup:

  1. Andrew McCutchen (CF)
  2. Lastings Milledge (LF)
  3. Garrett Jones (RF)
  4. Ryan Doumit (1B)
  5. Delwyn Young (2B)
  6. Steve Pearce (1B)
  7. Andy LaRoche (3B)
  8. Ronny Cedeno (SS)
  9. Paul Maholm (LHP)

Cardinals lineup:

  1. Julio Lugo (SS) (2B)
  2. Rick Ankiel (CF)
  3. Albert Pujols (1B)
  4. Matt Holliday (LF)
  5. Ryan Ludwick (RF)
  6. Mark DeRosa (3B)
  7. Yadier Molina (C)
  8. Skip Schumaker (2B) Brendan Ryan (SS)
  9. Chris Carpenter (RHP)

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RHP Chris Bootcheck also joining Bucs; Veal to DL

As it turns out, the Pirates will be getting two fresh arms for their bullpen on Friday. The Pirates had already announced that right-hander Jose Ascanio is taking the place of Steven Jackson on the team’s 25-man roster. Now, righty Chris Bootcheck is also on his way up.

Bootcheck will take the roster spot currently belonging to lefty Donnie Veal, who is being put on the disabled list with a sprained left index finger. This will be Veal’s second time on the disabled list this summer.

Bootcheck has to be added to the Pirates’ 40-man roster, but that won’t be an issue. There are currently only 39 players on that roster.

Bootcheck has been Triple-A Indianapolis’ most reliable arm all year. Named an International League All-Star, Bootcheck has made 40 relief appearances in Triple-A this year while posting a 3.38 ERA and recording 20 saves.

He made his Major-League debut in 2003 and has pitched part of five seasons in five seasons in the big leagues with the Angels. Combined, Bootcheck is 3-7 with a 6.04 ERA in 77 Major League appearances (three starts).

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August 6: D-backs (49-59) @ Pirates (45-62)

So when the Pirates opened their series against the D-backs in Phoenix back on July 23 (no, that wasn’t that long ago), Arizona was sitting in position to pick higher in the Draft than Pittsburgh. In other words, the Pirates had the better record of the two with a 42-52 mark compared to Arizona’s 40-55. Obviously, you can see Arizona has since surpassed the Pirates in that area.

The Pirates went 1-3 in that series and have been 3-10 since the first game in Phoenix. Two of those wins came against the lowly Nationals. Arizona, on the other hand, has put together nine wins in 13 games. And as things sit now, only the Royals, Nationals and Padres have worse records than the Pirates.

So what has happened?

The pitching has slipped some, but it’s the offense that has really sunk. I’m likely not telling you anything you didn’t already know, but here are some numbers for statistical purposes.

Pitching:

  • Pre-All Star break: 4.33 ERA (17th in MLB), .265 batting average against (22nd in MLB)
  • Post-All Star break: 4.40 ERA (20th), .287 batting average against (25th)

Hitting:

  • Pre-All Star break: .261 batting average (15th), 4.25 runs per game (21st), .326 OBP (21st)
  • Post-All Star break: .235 batting average (29th), 3.5 runs per game (30th), .292 OBP (29th)

Not much more needs to be said.

As for todays other news, notes and randomness…

  • Andrew McCutchen is back in the lineup after sitting out on Wednesday. He did some light running, took batting practice and threw earlier in the afternoon before being cleared to return.
  • Lefty Phil Dumatrait makes his rehab start for Triple-A Indianapolis later this evening. More to come after he does obviously.
  • Altoona first baseman Miles Durham has a 14-game hitting streak after getting a hit in the Curve’s game earlier this afternoon. Durham’s streak is the longest by an Altoona player this season and matches his 14-game hitting streak with Single-A Hickory last season.
  • The Pirates have been outscored by opponents in five of the nine innings when combining the results from the team’s first 107 games. No bigger is that discrepency, though, than in the eighth when opponents have scored 62 times to the Pirates’ 37.
  • As mentioned in my game story last night, the Pirates are 37-6 this season when leading after seven innings. They were 50-2 in similar situations last year. That’s certainly a hit against the bullpen, and without John Grabow to anchor it the rest of the way, there likely will be a few more snags.
  • The last time the Pirates faced Max Scherzer (who will take the mound for Arizona in about two hours), Scherzer pitched seven shutout innings and struck out eight.
  • Also, going to steal some Minor League notes from Indianapolis broadcaster Scott McCauley who keeps a great blog on your Triple-A team: Reliever Chris Bootcheck has converted 15 consecutive saves in what has been his first season working as a closer… Brian Bixler, now playing as a utility guy, has a seven-game hitting streak and has hit safely in 11 of 12 games. … Over the Indians’ most recent road trip, third baseman Neil Walker went 13-for-32 with 11 RBIs.  

Pirates lineup:

  1. Andrew McCutchen (CF)
  2. Lastings Milledge (LF)
  3. Garrett Jones (1B)
  4. Ryan Doumit (C)
  5. Delwyn Young (2B)
  6. Brandon Moss (RF)
  7. Andy LaRoche (3B)
  8. Ronny Cedeno (SS)
  9. Kevin Hart (RHP)

D-backs lineup:

  1. Stephen Drew (SS)
  2. Alex Romero (RF)
  3. Gerardo Parra (CF)
  4. Mark Reynolds (3B)
  5. Miguel Montero (C)
  6. Chad Tracy (1B)
  7. Trent Oeltjen (LF)
  8. Augie Ojeda (2B)
  9. Max Scherzer (RHP)

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Thursday's Minor Matters; Cruz to be recalled

It seemed likely, and now it’s official. Luis Cruz will be recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis and join the Pirates in Philadelphia on Friday. He takes the roster spot that had belonged to Steve Pearce, who was sent down on Wednesday.

Cruz started the season on the Major League roster as a utility player, but was sent down on April 21 after the Pirates acquired Delwyn Young from the Dodgers. Cruz had only two at-bats while with Pittsburgh. With Indianapolis, Cruz hit .253 in 66 games.

And some Minor League notes to pass along…

  • Ryan Doumit caught nine inning for Triple-A Indy on Thursday. It was the first time Doumit has caught a full game since he began his rehab assignment. It also came on the heels of Wednesday’s game in which Doumit caught seven innings. Doumit finally also broke through offensively and went 2-for-4 with two singles. Those were his first hits since beginning his rehab assignment in the Gulf Coast League.
  • Triple-A Indianapolis had two players – RHP Chris Bootcheck and C Eric Kratz - selected to play in the league’s All-Star Game next week. However, only Kratz will be participating. Bootcheck’s father recently had surgery and the reliever is going to spend the All-Star break with his family as a result. The Triple-A game will be played next Wednesday. 

July 2: Mets (38-39) @ Pirates (36-42)

What became a 10-game homestand because of a makeup game, finally concludes today with a mid-day contest against the Mets. Thursday’s game is a makeup from June 3, also the day that Nate McLouth was dealt away. Interestingly enough, since that McLouth trade, the Pirates are 12-14, not starkly different than the 24-28 they were before the deal. Take that for what it’s worth.

As for your news and notes for the morning…

  • Triple-A Indianapolis will be represented by right-handed reliever Chris Bootcheck and catcher Eric Kratz in the Triple-A All-Star game on July 15.
  • Oddly enough, this is the second of just nine home games the Pirates play this month, and they won’t be home again for 15 days.
  • The Pirates will be looking to win their fifth straight game against the Mets at PNC Park. Pittsburgh has averaged 6.75 runs a game in those last four wins.
  • There’s no one the Pirates would rather have on the mound here than lefty Paul Maholm, who is 3-1 with a 1.96 ERA at home this season. That’s the fourth-lowest home ERA among all National League starters. Going back even further, Maholm has a 2.98 home ERA since the start of 2007.
  • The Mets enter Thursday’s game having won just one of their last six games.
  • Nyjer Morgan will make his debut for the Nationals on Friday after not playing in Washington’s day game against the Marlins on Wednesday. Burnett, though, has already made his first appearance. He was charged with a blown save on Wednesday after allowing a game-tying home run in the seventh. It was the only hit Burnett allowed in 1 1/3 innings.
  • Just a day off for Freddy Sanchez today. Manager John Russell had planned to sit Sanchez on Sunday until Ramon Vazquez came down with a stomach flu.
  • The fact that Sanchez is out prompted Russell to bump Wilson up into the No. 2 hole. It’s the third time the season that Wilson will hit second.

Pirates lineup:

  1. Andrew McCutchen  (CF)
  2. Jack Wilson (SS)
  3. Delwyn Young (RF)
  4. Adam LaRoche (1B)
  5. Garrett Jones (LF)
  6. Andy LaRoche (3B)
  7. Robinzon Diaz (C)
  8. Ramon Vazquez (2B)
  9. Paul Maholm (LHP)

Mets lineup:

  1. Luis Castillo (2B)
  2. Alex Cora (SS)
  3. David Wright (3B)
  4. Gary Sheffield (RF)
  5. Fernando Tatis (LF)
  6. Ryan Church (CF)
  7. Nick Evans (1B)
  8. Omir Santos (C)
  9. Tim Redding (RHP) 

Red Sox 4, Pirates 3

Thumbnail image for Huntington.jpg

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.

***

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.

***

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.

***

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.

***

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.

Day 47: Red Sox @ Pirates; Karstens, Monroe, Cruz in; Eight others out

Today held the big wave of cuts we had all been anticipating… and finally, the final 25-man roster is coming into view. Here’s the news from this morning…

  • Jeff Karstens has been named the team’s fifth starter. Virgil Vasquez was optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis where he will be in the starting rotation. Ultimately, the Pirates decided against keeping Vasquez with the big league team as a long reliever. The thought is that if the need for a long reliever presents itself, the team will dip into its Minor League options.
  • Utility infielder Luis Cruz has been told that he will be on the team, barring any unforseen acquisition. Craig Monroe has not been officially added to the roster, though GM Neal Huntington said he expects that to be done by the end of the day today. Monroe had an escape clause in his deal that would have allowed him to leave the organization today if he did not make the team. The Pirates are ready to put Monroe on the club, but have to clear a spot on the 40-man roster before officially doing so.
  • Three relievers — Jason Davis, Chris Bootcheck and Denny Bautista – were reassigned to Minor League camp. Also reassigned to Minor League camp were Andy Phillips, Garrett Jones, Eric Kratz and Jeff Salazar.
  • There are now five relievers — Craig HansenSean Burnett, Donnie Veal, Evan Meek and Jesse Chavez – competing for the final four bullpen spots. Huntington said that none of those relievers has won a job just yet. Hansen and Burnett are out of options, so they are likely to break camp with the team. Donnie Veal must make the team as a Rule 5 pick or be offered back to the Cubs, and Huntington said on Sunday that it would be hard to leave Veal off the roster at this point. That would seem to leave Meek and Chavez fighting for that final spot.
  • Meek’s health is improving, but he is still out with bronchitis. His shoulder feels fine, though. Huntington said that the team would like to give Meek another opportunity to show where he is physically and command-wise before making any final bullpen decisions. The question is whether Meek can get healthy quickly enough.
  • Though the Pirates have been scouring the waiver wire and calling teams about possible trades, Huntington said that there are no imminent acquisitions likely.

“We continue to look and we continue to explore. Some of the people that we’ve talked to have chosen other opportunities. Some of the people that we’ve talked to our looking for more than we are willing to give and that’s in trades and free agency. Nothing is imminent, nor do we feel like we have to do anything to add. We like what we have. Can we be better? We can always be better. But we feel good about the options that we have internally really at every spot. Now we just need young guys to step up and capture their opportunities.”

  • Though jobs have been handed out, Huntington made it quite clear that jobs have to be kept. He singled out left field (Nyjer Morgan), right field (Brandon Moss), third base (Andy LaRoche), the rotation and the four relievers-to-be-named-soon as having the most to prove early.
  • With Wednesday’s cuts, the Pirates have 27 players remaining in camp. Phil Dumatrait is scheduled to start the season on the 15-day DL, which means that there is only one other cut necessary before the start of the season.

And if that isn’t enough for you… here’s the starting lineup, one that looks as I’d expect it to look on Opening Day on Monday.

Pirates lineup:

  1. Nyjer Morgan (LF)
  2. Freddy Sanchez (2B)
  3. Nate McLouth (CF)
  4. Ryan Doumit (C)
  5. Adam LaRoche (1B)
  6. Brandon Moss (RF)
  7. Andy LaRoche (3B)
  8. Jack Wilson (SS)
  9. Paul Maholm (LHP)

Red Sox lineup:

  1. Jacoby Ellsbury (CF)
  2. Dustin Pedroia (2B)
  3. Chris Carter (1B)
  4. Rocco Baldelli (DH)
  5. Jed Lowrie (SS)
  6. George Kottaras (C)
  7. Chip Ambres (LF)
  8. Ryan Kalish (RF)
  9. Gil Velazquez (3B)

Pitcher: Josh Beckett 
 

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