Results tagged ‘ Sean Burnett ’
Now that I can take a breath, figured we could revisit Tuesday’s happenings here one more time. Here are links to all the stories written about the deal…
- Pirates trade Nyjer Morgan and Sean Burnett to the Nationals for Lastings Milledge and Joel Hanrahan. Here it is from the Pirates’ view and from the Nationals’ perspective.
- Pirates trade Eric Hinkse to the Yankees for two Minor League players. Here’s that deal as viewed by the Bucs and by the Yanks.
- And then of course, there is player reaction
I’ve read a lot of mixed reactions from Pirates fans — some obviously sad to see Nyjer Morgan and Sean Burnett go, others intrigued by the potential upside in Lastings Milledge and Joel Hanrahan. Natiionally, the Pirates are largely being identified as the winners in the deal, though of course that will require Milledge and/or Hanrahan reaching their upside.
The Pirates and Nationals have agreed to a deal that sends outfielder Lastings Milledge and right-hander Joel Hanrahan to Pittsburgh and outfielder Nyjer Morgan and left-hander Sean Burnett to Washington.
It appears so.
I’ve confirmed that a deal is in the works between the Pirates and the Nationals that would send Nyjer Morgan to Washington and outfielder Lastings Milledge to Pittsburgh. The deal is NOT a one-for-one exchange, I’ve been told, but it’s not clear who else (from either side) would be included.
The deal, which has not been finalized, could come down as soon as today, though as of about 1:45 p.m., Morgan said he had not been informed of anything.
Also, the rumblings out of Indianapolis are that Jeff Salazar is going to be summoned to Pittsburgh, which would only further confirm that Morgan is on his way out.
UPDATE 2:38 pm: Two baseball sources have confirmed that Washington’s Joel Hanrahan and Pittsburgh’s Sean Burnett will be a part of the deal, if it is finalized.
Nothing has officially been agreed upon yet, as final details are being worked out. Other names have been discussed by the two teams, though it doesn’t appear as if the trade will get any bigger.
UPDATE 2:47 pm: A few details on Hanrahan and Milledge…
Milledge has been working back to full health after breaking his right index finger and having surgery back in mid-May. He was expected to miss six to eight weeks, so would likely be nearing his return soon.
Though Milledge has appeared in only seven games for Washington this season, he does actually have more Major League experience than Morgan. In 897 at-bats, Milledge has a .261 average, 25 homers and 113 RBIs. Milledge was a first-round Draft pick back in 2003, but has yet to reach the hype that has followed him while with the Mets and with the Nationals.
Milledge just began his rehab work with the GCL Nats over the weekend and played his third game down there on Monday.
Hanrahan, 27, has spent the last three seasons with the Nationals. Though he was used as a starter in 2007, Hanrahan has been used exclusively out of the bullpen in the last two years. He is a combined 11-9 with 5.30 ERA in 115 appearances (11 starts).
This season has not been kind to Hanrahan, who has allowed 28 earned runs in 32 2/3 innings of relief (34 appearances).
Closer Matt Capps had to exit Monday’s game after being hit on the right elbow by a line drive. No immediate diagnosis was available postgame, as Capps was on his way to Northwestern Memorial Hospital to have X-rays done on the elbow.
Capps came into Monday’s contest, charged with trying to make the Pirates’ 10-8 lead over the Cubs hold up in the ninth. After getting the first hitter he faced to fly out, Capps was struck in the elbow on a ball off the bat of Cubs catcher Geovany Soto.
Soto laced a line drive up the middle, giving Capps time to do little else but pull his right arm in to protect himself. The ball hit Capps squarely and ricocheted all the way to the Cubs’ dugout for a single.
Capps, in obvious pain, immediately hunched down and walked off the mound toward the Pirates’ dugout. He spoke just briefly with manager John Russell and one of the Pirates’ trainer before making his way to the clubhouse, still visibly hurt.
“He had a lot of numbness and tingling right after he got hit,” Russell said afterward. “He came up and was evaluated by the doctor. The numbness and tingling subsided. The range of motion was pretty good. He got the feeling back. He’s on his way to get some X-rays and we’ll know more after that.”
Russell described the area where Capps was hit as “a little toward the tricep, but right on the elbow.” It was not believed to be the same part of the elbow that was bruised earlier in the month, causing Capps to miss a little less than a week.
Capps was already on his way to the hospital by the time media was granted access to the Pirates’ clubhouse, and so therefore unable for comment. The results of his X-rays will be known on Tuesday.
With Capps out, Russell hailed Sean Burnett from the Pirates’ heavily-worked bullpen to get the final two outs. Burnett allowed a walk, but eventually closed out the inning for his first Major League save.
Greetings from DC. I’m back on the beat, and now you’re stuck with me for 17 games in a row.
First things first, just received word from the Pirates that the club has claimed RHP Steven Jackson off waivers from the Yankees. In order to put Jackson on the 40-man roster, the Pirates gave RHP Jimmy Barthmaier, who just underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery, his unconditional release.
Jackson, who has been assigned to Triple-A Indianapolis, had a 1.88 ERA and one save in 14 1/3 innings for Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre before the Yankees designated him for assignment on May 8 to clear a roster spot. Jackson was a 10th-round pick by the D-backs in 2004. The 27-year-old has never pitched above Triple-A.
As for Barthmaier, he only made one brief (two hitters) appearance this year before being shut down with an elbow injury. The Pirates claimed the right-hander off waivers before the 2008 season. Barthmaier made three appearances for the Pirates in ’08, going 0-2 with a 10.45 ERA. He fared much better as a starter in Indy (3-1 with a 3.53 ERA in 16 starts last season).
The Pirates could have placed him on the 60-day disabled list but instead decided to grant him his release.
As for the happenings in DC…
- Nyjer Morgan, who missed both games this weekend, was in the starting lineup until he came off the field at about 4 pm and said he still felt a little discomfort in his left hamstring. Morgan did a lot of on-field sprinting this afternoon to test it and felt the slight strain only when making turns. Delwyn Young was inserted into the lineup in place of Morgan, who is expected to return to the field on Tuesday.
- Tom Gorzelanny is still with the team, though a timetable for his duration here is still undetermined. It all depends on how the bullpen is able to recover these next few days. If the starters can pitch deep and give the bullpen time to get back in one piece, Gorzelanny will likely be gone by the end of the week.
- Craig Hansen is down in Bradenton, Fla., to begin his rehab work, which will start with three side sessions. Hansen will throw the first session on Tuesday.
- Manager John Russell will try to stay away from using both Evan Meek and Sean Burnett in tonight’s game. Meek threw two innings on Sunday, while Burnett was called on for three innings in Saturday’s rain-interrupted affair.
Some interesting tidbits concerning Monday’s pitching matchup of Ross Ohlendorf and Ross Detwiler (who is making his Major League debut)…. Both were drafted by Mike Rizzo, who is currently the Nationals’ active GM….And this will be the first time in baseball history that two pitchers with the first name “Ross” start against each other.
As an aside, this is my first visit to Nationals Park (I skipped the trip last year), and I have to say, it’s a nice park they have here. The press box is quite high — almost at the top of the stadium — but there is a nice view of the top of the Capitol from the view up here.
Also, for anyone who may be out here for the series, or who is planning a trip to DC in the future, I highly recommend a stop at the Newseum — located off Pennsylvania Avenue, right near the Capitol. I spent my morning at the Newseum, a museum dedicated to journalism and the news, and thoroughly enjoyed my visit. Plenty to do, plenty to see even if you don’t have the same journalism background as I do. Oh, and for those of you who need a sports fix, yes, they have a 25-minute film dedicated to the history of sports reporting.
- Delwyn Young (RF)
- Freddy Sanchez (2B)
- Nate McLouth (CF)
- Craig Monroe (LF)
- Adam LaRoche (1B)
- Robinzon Diaz (C)
- Andy LaRoche (3B)
- Jack Wilson (SS)
- Ross Ohlendorf (RHP)
- Cristian Guzman (SS)
- Nick Johnson (1B)
- Ryan Zimmerman (3B)
- Adam Dunn (RF)
- Josh Willingham (LF)
- Willie Harris (CF)
- Anderson Hernandez (2B)
- Josh Bard (C)
- Ross Detwiler (LHP)
UPDATED 9:55 p.m. ET: Jack Wilson was a game time scratch from the lineup because of that left middle finger strain that’s been bothering him now for a week. Wilson missed games on April 15th, 17th and 18th because of the injury, which he sustained while swinging.
Ramon Vazquez took Wilson’s place in the lineup. The lineup below has been updated to indicate the changes.
UPDATED 8:20 p.m. ET: The Pirates have placed right-handed reliever Craig Hansen (pictured left) on the disabled list retroactive to April 20 with neck spasms. Taking Hansen’s place on the 25-man roster will be Evan Meek, who has arrived and can pitch on Saturday.
Hansen said the stiffness started around his right shoulder blade midway through Spring Training. He battled through it and pitched through it, but on Friday he began experiencing neck spasms, too. Hansen has been shut down from throwing for the time being, hopeful that the stiffness and spasms go away on their own.
The fact that the Pirates used five relievers in Friday’s extra-inning game exacerbated the need to put Hansen on the DL and get another reliever out here. Manager John Russell revealed on Saturday that Hansen was not available to pitch on Friday.
Meek arrived in the clubhouse shortly before batting practice after getting a 4 am ET wakeup call in Columbus, where the Indianapolis club was playing the Triple-A Clippers. He threw 16 pitches in a relief appearance on Friday night, but Russell said that Meek would be good to throw 30-35 pitches if needed on Saturday.
Meek was in line to make the Opening Day roster until he missed the last two weeks of Spring Training because of a tired shoulder, bronchitis and the stomach flu. As a result, he began the season in Indianapolis, where the righty allowed one run on three hits in 8 2/3 innings. He walked seven and struck out seven.
Also, no Nate McLouth in the lineup again on Saturday. He was scratched from Friday’s lineup after suffereing a right oblique strain during batting practice Friday afternoon. Interestingly enough, both Craig Monroe and Eric Hinske are in Saturday’s lineup.
Russell said that McLouth reported feeling better on Saturday, but the team is not going to push him back on the field too quickly. Oblique injuries are among the most lingering and a premature return could do too much damage long term. McLouth is listed as day-to-day right now, but I wouldn’t expect him to start Sunday’s game either.
There is still no talk about the injury being serious enough to land McLouth on the DL. He will not be available to pinch hit on Saturday.
Other notes: Russell said he will stay away from using Sean Burnett on Saturday, after Burnett tossed two innings (one quite stressful frame) in Friday’s affair. … Zach Duke is going for a second straight road win this season on Saturday, something he hasn’t done since 2005.
- Nyjer Morgan (CF)
- Freddy Sanchez (2B)
- Craig Monroe (LF)
- Adam LaRoche (1B)
- Eric Hinske (RF)
- Andy LaRoche (3B)
Jason Jaramillo (C) Ramon Vazquez (SS) Jack Wilson (SS)Jason Jaramillo (C)
- Zach Duke (LHP)
- Scott Hairston (CF)
- David Eckstein (2B)
- Adrian Gonzalez (1B)
- Chase Headley (LF)
- Kevin Kouzmanoff (3B)
- Nick Hundley (C)
- Chris Burke (SS)
- Jody Gerut (RF)
- Shawn Hill (RHP)
Relievers Donnie Veal, Craig Hansen and Sean Burnett were summoned into manager John Russell’s office on Thursday morning and officially told that they will begin the season on the Major League roster. The team has now officially filled 24 of its 25 roster spots, with Evan Meek and Jesse Chavez fighting for the final one.
Meek wasn’t sure on Thursday morning whether or not he’d be able to pitch in Thursday’s game in Sarasota, as he is still recovering from bronchitis. If he’s not able to, the hope is that Meek can pitch on Friday. GM Neal Huntington said that he’d like to make the final cut by the end of the day on Friday, but that the staff would like to see Meek pitch first. It looks like Meek has the upper hand, meaning that he should be on the club as long as he can show adequate arm strength and command in his next relief appearance.
Huntington admitted that the “business side” of the game came largely into play in the three decisions made official on Thursday. The Pirates would have lost Veal, a Rule 5 pick, if they hadn’t taken him north. And both Hansen and Burnett were out of options. Since no other relief candidates seized the job, these business decisions — making sure the club didn’t lose these pitchers yet — became the deciding factor.
In other news… Ian Snell will not make the start for the Pirates since he is still down with flu-like symptoms. As of this morning, Huntington said a new pitching schedule for Snell had not been devised yet. I’ll try to get that postgame. Snell was scheduled to pitch his first regular season game on Tuesday and right now, no decision has been made as to whether that schedule will be altered, too.
As a result, the Pirates will use all relievers in Thursday’s game against the Reds.
While the Major League team is playing in Sarasota, the Pirates will also be playing host to Manatee Community College in a charity game at McKechnie Field. Virgil Vasquez is scheduled to make the start.
Here are lineups for both games…
Pirates @ Reds
- Nyjer Morgan (CF)
- Ramon Vazquez (2B)
- Ryan Doumit (C)
- Eric Hinske (1B)
- Craig Monroe (LF)
- Brandon Moss (DH)
- Andy LaRoche (3B)
- Luis Cruz (SS)
- Larry Broadway (RF)
MCC @ Pirates
- Andrew McCutchen (CF)
- Brian Bixler (SS)
- Neil Walker (3B)
- Jose Tabata (RF)
- Steve Pearce (1B)
- Robinzon Diaz (C)
- Brad Corley (LF)
- Ryan Mulhern (DH)
- Jim Negrych (2B)
Pitcher: Virgil Vasquez
- Kelvin Clark (CF)
- Taylor Wrenn (SS)
- Hunter Ovens (RF)
- Jonathan Griffin (1B)
- Gus Schlosser (P/DH)
- Jonathan Rodriguez (3B)
- Tony Mitchell (LF)
- Derek Luciano (2B)
- Logan Moro (C)
Pitcher: Gus Schlosser
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 Hansen, Sean 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.
- Nyjer Morgan (LF)
- Freddy Sanchez (2B)
- Nate McLouth (CF)
- Ryan Doumit (C)
- Adam LaRoche (1B)
- Brandon Moss (RF)
- Andy LaRoche (3B)
- Jack Wilson (SS)
- Paul Maholm (LHP)
Red Sox lineup:
- Jacoby Ellsbury (CF)
- Dustin Pedroia (2B)
- Chris Carter (1B)
- Rocco Baldelli (DH)
- Jed Lowrie (SS)
- George Kottaras (C)
- Chip Ambres (LF)
- Ryan Kalish (RF)
- Gil Velazquez (3B)
Pitcher: Josh Beckett
Nyjer Morgan (pictured left) has been a popular point of discussion between the media and GM Neal Huntington as of late. And rightfully so. The Pirates named Morgan the starting left fielder before the spring started, largely based on Morgan’s impressive showing with the Pirates last August/September.
However, this spring has been a battle for Morgan. Though he finished Sunday with two hits, Morgan entered the day with just 12 in 64 at-bats. The Pirates like what Morgan has done on the bases, but he hasn’t been getting on base enough to really justify his position as a starter.
I get the impression that the Pirates aren’t going to be overly patient with Morgan once the regular season rolls around if he can’t get on base enough. But at the same time, all signs point toward Morgan still being the team’s Opening Day left fielder one week from Monday.
“Nyjer has had a tough spring, but we don’t want to make too much of good or too much of bad in Spring Training,” Huntington said. “Nyjer has done what we’ve asked of him, he just hasn’t gotten hits. Has he expanded the zone too much? Yes. He is aggressive. He is high-energy. What he showed in August and September showed that he can perform at the big league level and to take that away from him may be a little bit tough.”
Huntington followed that up by clarifying the difference between Morgan’s situation and that of former Pirates catcher Ronny Paulino last year. In other words, how can management say that Morgan can’t lose a starting job in Spring Training when Paulino did to Ryan Doumit last spring?
“Last year Ryan Doumit came in and took the job away from Ronny Paulino, but he took it away from him from the beginning of October,” Huntington said. “Nyjer has done what he needed to do from the beginning of October. He’s come in in shape. He’s come in ready to go. It’s a tough decision. We don’t want to make a short-term decision with long-term ramifications on this type of situation.”
However, while Morgan will start the season in left field, the Pirates will also carry some legitimate backup options (Eric Hinske, for one) that will supplant him if he starts out poorly. Not to mention, Andrew McCutchen, assuming he doesn’t make the Opening Day roster, will be breathing down Morgan’s neck while in Triple-A.
Huntington reiterated on Sunday how the business side could play a large role in the decisions about the four open bullpen spots.
Huntington said of Rule 5 pick Donnie Veal that it would be a “tough decision to not put him on the club.” The Pirates would obviously have to offer Veal back to the Cubs should he not be on the 25-man roster all year.
And then there are Sean Burnett and Craig Hansen who are out of options, meaning that the Pirates could potentially lose either if they don’t make the spring cut. Expect that to weigh heavily during decision-making time. I don’t get the impression that the Pirates are ready to risk losing either. They saw Burnett have success in 2008, and they still like Hansen’s power arm upside.
“The roster decisions at this point aren’t going to be made on what somebody shows us today,” Huntington said. “It’s going to be more the big picture puzzle. There are some moves that are irreversible. We take a player who is out of options out and he goes somewhere else, you can’t get that player back.”
Huntingon reiterated on Sunday that Andy Phillips looks to be out of contention for an Opening Day roster spot because of his extended absence with a back injury. Phillips did come into Sunday’s game to play first, marking his first appearance since March 7. However, the Pirates wanted more time to test Phillips’ versatility before giving him a roster spot.
That leaves Brian Bixler and Luis Cruz as the remaining infield bench options.
The line score for Zach Duke – 3 1/3 innings pitched, 9 hits, 8 earned runs, 3 walks, 1 strikeout — was obviously not very good. But let’s try to pull what positives we can out of it for a second, since that was Duke’s goal.
He was obviously OK with getting the bad outing out of the way this week as opposed to one week from now when games count. He was charged with seven earned runs in the fourth, but seemed pleased with the opportunity to have the practice of working through an extended inning.
“I think it’s definitely good to have an extended inning where I have to throw a lot of pitches,” he said. “You never want to get in that situation in the regular season and melt down. So if I can go through an experience like that right now then it’s definitely better than [if it happened] in a couple weeks.”
Duke’s fastball location was just fine through the first three innings. His curveball was decent as well. His changeup wasn’t as sharp as desired, though that’s something that Duke said he is continuing to work on.
Heading into Sunday, Duke had a 1.83 ERA in six Spring Training games. He had struck out 13, walked four and allowed only 14 hits in 19 2/3 innings.
Jason Davis, who is fighting for a long relief bullpen spot, didn’t help his case on Sunday. After seven consecutive scoreless outings, Davis took the loss, allowing one run on two hits and two walks in two innings.
Davis has crept into recent bullpen discussion because of his recent results. However, the loser of the Virgil Vasquez/Jeff Karstens battle for the No. 5 rotation spot would also be under consideration for that long reliever spot.
If he doesn’t make the Opening Day roster, Davis will start in Triple-A.
Up Next: It’s round No. 5 of 6 against the Reds this spring on Monday when the Pirates return home to face their fellow National League Central mates in a 1:05 p.m. ET contest. Ross Ohlendorf will make the start for the Pirates against Cincinnati’s Johnny Cueto.
The game will be webcast on www. pirates.com.
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.