2011 Pirates Spring Training: Bucs Cut 10 Players

The Pirates open Spring Training in Bradenton, Fla.

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Pirates Spring Training: Bucs Send 10 Prospects To Minors

The Pirates have sent ten more prospects to the minors: infielders Brian Friday and Chase D’Arnaud, outfielders Andrew Lambo, Alex Presley and Gorkys Hernandez, and pitchers Danny Moskos, Tony Watson, Ramon Aguero, Aaron Thompson and Jeff Locke. None were expected to compete for big-league job out of Spring Training.

The best prospects in that group are Lambo, D’Arnaud and Locke. Lambo and D’Arnaud both appear headed to Class AAA Indianapolis. The Pirates have assigned Locke, who was acquired in the Nate McLouth trade, to Class AA Altoona, even though he pitched very well at that level late last year. They still aren’t ruling out the possibility that he could begin the season at Indianapolis, but given that he’s being assigned to Altoona and that Indianapolis’ rotation will be really crowded, the best bet right now is that he’ll begin the season at Class AA.

There are still 44 players in camp.

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Andrew McCutchen, James McDonald Injuries Don't Look Serious

The PiratesAndrew McCutchen is back in the lineup today after leaving yesterday’s game against the Rays with a wrist injury. Fortunately, then, it appears the star center fielder’s injury wasn’t especially serious.

As for pitcher James McDonald, it sounds like we’ll have to continue to wait for news.

James McDonald is not doing any on-field work on Saturday, he said, after leaving Friday’s game with discomfort in his left side. McDonald said he isn’t entirely sure when he’d be cleared to do light work again. The Pirates sent out a statement saying he will be re-evaluated over the next few days. McDonald said he was unsure whether he’d have to miss a spring start or not. No other specifics on the injury have been given.

If McDonald isn’t even sure he’s going to miss a start, it doesn’t sound like we should worry about this too much, and injuries to a pitcher’s side aren’t particularly fearsome. It looks like the Pirates may have dodged a pair of bullets here.

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Andrew McCutchen, James McDonald Injured In Pirates' Spring Training Game Against Rays

Center fielder Andrew McCutchen and pitcher James McDonald, arguably two of the Pirates’ three best players (along with Pedro Alvarez), were both injured in the Pirates’ 8-7 win in a Spring Training game against the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday. McCutchen apparently has an injury to his left (non-throwing) wrist, while McDonald’s injury is to his left side. The exact nature of these injuries isn’t known, and it sounds like the Pirates are staying mum about them until they make some sort of announcement today.

“One thing I just want to be up front with is, I don’t talk about injuries,” [Pirates manager Clint Hurdle] said. “We usually make a statement. … I’m not a doctor. Normally, the information doesn’t get accurate until later on. So the reason being [potential] misinformation, I just say that we’ll make a comment later.”

Pirates spokesman Jim Trdinich said team president Frank Coonelly wouldn’t comment on the injuries, although Coonelly attended the game at Charlotte Sports Park.

While serious injuries to McCutchen and McDonald was be a death blow to the Pirates’ already-modest hopes of doing anything at all this season, there is reason not to panic just yet. McCutchen’s injury isn’t to his dominant hand. And in McDonald’s case, the really worrisome injuries for pitchers are ones to shoulders and elbows. Since this one is to his side, it’s easy to imagine him just being shut down for a few days.

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2011 Pirates Spring Training: Bucs Lose To Orioles, 11-8

The Pirates lost to the Orioles Thursday, 11-8, in Spring Training action. These Spring Training games don’t mean a whole lot, naturally, but it was nice to see some offense from the Bucs, who have struggled with their team batting average and offensive strikeouts. Matt Diaz had a double for the Pirates, as 11 Bucs collected one hit apiece.

Paul Maholm pitched four innings with only one earned run in a solid start, btu top relievers Joel Hanrahan and Evan Meek undid Maholm’s fine work, allowing seven runs in the fifth and sixth innings. Jeff Karstens then tacked on three more runs in the seventh for good measure. Jason Jaramillo, John Bowker, Pedro Ciriaco and Chase D’Arnaud all committed errors for the Bucs. Vladimir Guerrero and Ryan Adams homered for the Orioles.

The Bucs face Tampa Bay on the road on Friday, followed by split-squad games against the Blue Jays and Phillies on Saturday.

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2011 Pirates Spring Training: Bucs Cut Tony Sanchez, Three Others

The Pirates have cut four players, including 2009 top pick Tony Sanchez. Also cut were catcher Eric Fryer and pitchers Donnie Veal and Cesar Valdez. All four will head to the Pirates' minor-league camp.

As catchers, Sanchez and Fryer were mostly in camp in order to provide targets for pitchers during drills (although Sanchez, as a former first-round pick, might have been there anyway); neither were expected to make the team. Both will probably end up at Class AA Altoona.

Veal is recovering from Tommy John surgery.

The only mild surprise in the first round of cuts was Valdez, and that’s mostly only due to the timing – there wasn’t much chance of him making the team. He did, however, pitch a bit in the majors last year with the Diamondbacks, and the Bucs just acquired him in the Zach Duke trade this offseason, so it’s a bit surprising that he didn’t get a longer look. He’s able to start, but due to the number of good pitching prospects at Indianapolis this season, he’ll probably be in the bullpen there.

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2011 Spring Training: Pirates Lose To Phillies, 7-4

Kevin Correia racked up five strikeouts in three innings in his start for the Pirates Friday afternoon, but it wasn’t enough, as he gave up two runs and the Phillies won, 7-4. Correia got off to a poor start, allowing a bunch of baserunners in the first, before calming down. Fernando Nieve, who will probably be a reliever at Class AAA Indianapolis, allowed four runs one and a third innings pitched. Brian Burres had two scoreless innings of relief.

Andy Marte, a former top prospect who is competing for a bench role, went 2-for-3 with a double and two RBIs for the Bucs. Tony Sanchez and Pedro Ciriaco also doubled.

Ryan Howard homered for the Phillies, and Wilson Valdez went 3-for-4 with a double. Jimmy Rollins went 2-for-3 with a double.

The Pirates and Phillies play again Saturday in Clearwater.

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2011 Spring Training: Charlie Morton, Brad Lincoln, Pirates Four-Hit Jays

Charlie Morton and Brad Lincoln, both competing for the fifth starter job, combined to pitch six innings in the Pirates 4-1 win over the Blue Jays in Dunedin, Florida today.

Morton started the game and allowed one run, while Lincoln pitched three shutout innings. Morton and Scott Olsen are the frontrunners for the fifth starter job. Lincoln could conceivably win the job with a strong spring, but chances are he’ll be at Class AAA Indianapolis.

Catcher Jason Jaramillo had two doubles for the Pirates, and Pedro Alvarez had a triple. Tyler Yates, Jeff Locke and Cesar Valdez combined to pitch three scoreless innings of relief. The Jays’ Brett Cecil racked up a remarkable six strikeouts in a three-inning start, but the Pirates were able to get to reliever Scott Richmond, who allowed three runs late in the game. Rajai Davis had a double for the Jays, who only had four hits in the game.

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Twins Vs. Pirates: Ross Ohlendorf Strikes Out Four, But Pirates Lose 4-2

The Pirates lost to the Twins in Spring Training action today, 4-2. Ross Ohlendorf started the game for the Bucs, and he struck out four batters in 1.2 innings but gave up a run. He was followed by a parade of pitchers: Michael Dubee (minor-league veteran trying to make it to Class AAA this year), Tony Watson (a future lefty reliever who could be at Indianapolis), Michael Crotta (a minor-league starter), Joel Hanrahan, Tom Boleska (another minor-league reliever), Jose Veras (on a minor-league contract, but likely to be in the Pirates’ ’pen this year), Justin Thomas and Chris Leroux.

Offensively, Andrew Lambo, Pedro Alvarez and Steve Pearce all doubled for the Pirates, and Jose Tabata led off and went 3-for-3. Danny Valencia had two doubles and two RBIs for the Twins, and Luke Hughes homered off Hanrahan, who struggled throughout his outing. Brian Duensing picked up the win for the Twins after pitching two scoreless innings. Former Pirate Matt Capps pitched a scoreless third inning for the Twins.

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Pirates Spring Training: Scott Olsen Not Interested In Bullpen Role

Pirates pitcher Scott Olsen, who’s in competition with Charlie Morton and others for the Bucs’ fifth starter job, doesn’t sound happy about the possibility of being in the bullpen:

"They didn’t bring me in here to be a bullpen guy," Olsen said. "They want to do that, we are going to have to have a conversation about it, and we haven’t had one about it."

Tough luck, Scott. Ever since Olsen was signed, it has been clear that he would be competing for a starting role, not that he had already been granted one. And if he doesn’t have a starting role, then he’s a bullpen guy, and there’s not much he can do about it, because he’s signed to a major-league deal without an out clause.

If Olsen doesn’t make the rotation, that’s unfortunate for him, because due to the structure of his contract, he stands to make a ton of money if he sticks as a starter the whole year. But unless the Pirates flat-out lied to him (which seems unlikely, given that the entire city has known for some time that Olsen isn’t guaranteed a rotation job), this seems like a stupid, me-first comment.

With the recent injury to Joe Beimel, Olsen would be the only potential bullpen lefty with more than a tiny amount of major-league bullpen experience.

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Yankees Vs. Pirates: Bucs Shut Out Bombers In Spring Training Tilt

The Pirates shut out the Yankees today, 2-0, in Bradenton. James McDonald started the game for the Bucs and pitched two innings. He was followed by Aaron Thompson, Chris Resop, Daniel McCutchen, Ramon Aguero and Danny Moskos. Steve Pearce and Pedro Ciriaco doubled for the Pirates, who did most of their damage against Brian Anderson (the former outfielder, who pitched in the Royals organization last year).

Like many early spring lineups, the Yankees’ featured a bunch of major leaguers, but their starting pitcher was Phil Hughes and their lineup included Nick Swisher, Curtis Granderson (who had a triple) and Jorge Posada along with top prospect Jesus Montero.

The Pirates’ next game is tomorrow against the Twins at 1:00 in Bradenton. Ross Ohlendorf will get the start, and Joel Hanrahan and Tony Watson will also pitch. Former Pirate Matt Capps will be among the Twins’ pitchers, and Brian Duensing will start.

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Joe Beimel To Have MRI On Forearm

Colin Dunlap reports that Pirates lefty reliever Joe Beimel won’t be throwing for a while and will have an MRI on his throwing arm. Jenifer Langosch says the MRI will be today, and it sounds like it’s mostly precautionary:

Said Beimel: “Things didn’t go great today. It’s definitely getting better. I would have liked to have thrown a little more today and I started to feel it so I shut it down. They just want to go and see if there is anything in there. Just talking to the doctors and things like that, they said it shouldn’t be a big deal and that it’s more muscular than anything else. Want to get the MRI to make sure.”

We’ll see. An MRI on a pitcher’s throwing arm can be an ominous sign. The Pirates don’t have a lot of good lefty relief options if Beimel goes down, but Beimel is signed to a minor-league deal and isn’t exactly Billy Wagner himself. The Bucs will have the option of using lefty Scott Olsen, also in contention for a rotation job, in relief, or they could go with any number of minor league options, including Tony Watson, Danny Moskos, Justin Thomas and Aaron Thompson. Watson might be the best of those, but he has no major-league experience.

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Pirates Spring Training: Bucs Win One Of Two Split-Squad Games

The Pirates beat the Tampa Bay Rays and lost to the Baltimore Orioles today in split-squad Spring Training action.

The Pirates beat the Rays, 6-5. Garrett Atkins hit a three-run homer to lead the Bucs, and Matt Diaz had a double. Bryan Morris started the game and pitched two innings, allowing one run. Rudy Owens pitched two innings in relief for the win, and Sean Gallagher pitched two scoreless innings to collect the save.

The Bucs (a different group of them; both games were going on at the same time) lost to the Orioles, 6-4. Pedro Alvarez went 2-for-3, including a double, and weirdly tried to steal a base (and was caught). Lyle Overbay hit a solo home run, and organizational player Miles Durham hit a two-run jack. Paul Maholm started the game and allowed two runs on four hits in two innings, and Justin Wilson allowed three runs in relief. Jeff Karstens pitched two scoreless innings.

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Pirates Vs. Rays: Bucs Drop Spring Training Opener

Not that this is anything to fuss too much about one way or the other, but the Pirates lost their 2011 Spring Training opener against the Tampa Bay Rays Saturday afternoon, 9-5. Charlie Morton started the game and allowed a hit and a walk in two innings, but got rid of both baserunners with double plays and faced the minimum six batters. Most of the runs were allowed by relievers Dan McCutchen and Justin Thomas (and all of Thomas’ four runs were unearned, after an error by third baseman Josh Fields); neither McCutchen nor Thomas have much of a shot at making the team.

Offensively, Garrett Atkins had a double, and Alex Presley had two walks. Rays pitchers racked up nine strikeouts against the Pirates.

Again, Spring Training games mean very little, so it might be wise to suppress that “here we go again” feeling we all get when we hear the Pirates lost their spring opener. Now, if the Bucs lose their first five games in April, that’s a different story.

The Pirates face the Orioles and Rays in split-squad games tomorrow.

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Pirates 2011 Spring Training: Bucs Crush Manatees In Exhibition

The Pirates beat Manatee-Sarasota 21-1 in their annual Spring Training-opening exhibition. Garrett Atkins had a three-run homer and a double, and Brian Friday also homered. Steve Pearce had two doubles, and Corey Wimberly scored four runs. Tyler Yates was the only Bucs pitcher to allow a run, and Aaron Thompson and Mike Crotta both struck out the side in one-inning appearances. The Pirates scored at least two runs in every inning of the seven-inning game. Obviously, no one from Manatee-Sarasota had much success, but pitcher Casey Eskew did strike out the only batter he faced, so that’ll be a good one to tell the grandkids.

This is all completely meaningless, of course, but it’s worth pointing out that the Pirates actually lost to the Manatees in 2009, so it’s good that they haven’t been embarrassed by a community college team again. The Bucs will begin Spring Training games against major league teams tomorrow when they head to Port Charlotte to take on the Tampa Bay Rays.

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2011 Pirates Spring Training: Four Games To Be Broadcast On Pittsburgh TV

Four Pirates Spring Training games will be broadcast on FSN Pittsburgh: March 6 against the Blue Jays (1:00 PM), March 10 against the Orioles (7:00 PM), March 19 against the Red Sox (1:00 PM), and March 26 against the Yankees (1:00 PM).

In addition, 104.7 FM will carry 12 games, and for all those games not either on FSN Pittsburgh or 104.7 FM, live audio will be available at the Pirates’ website. The Pirates play the State College Of Florida Manatees in an exhibition today, then begin their official Spring Training schedule on the road against the Rays tomorrow at 1:05 PM.

The regular-season broadcast pattern will be familiar:

The regular season on Root Sports will begin with Pirates Opening Day against the Chicago Cubs from Wrigley Field on April 1 at 2:20 p.m. Root Sports will feature live pregame and postgame shows for all 150 regular season game broadcasts, plus weekly editions of Inside Pirates Baseball and other Pirates-related special programming throughout the season, all in HD.

In addition, all 162 regular season games can be heard on 104.7 in Pittsburgh, complete with the “Clint Hurdle Show” before every pregame show and the “Neal Huntington Show” every Sunday prior to the pregame show.

Greg Brown, Tim Neverett, Steve Blass, Bob Walk and John Wehner will call the action in 2011. Brown and Neverett will handle the play-by-play duties while Blass, Walk and Wehner serve as color analysts.

(Root Sports is a rebranded name for FOX Sports Pittsburgh.)

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Pittsburgh Pirates Spring Training: Garrett Atkins In Drills With Starters

There aren’t a lot of big competitions for jobs in the Pirates’ Spring Training this year – just the fifth starter job and a couple of bullpen spots. And the bench, which will have three open spots behind Ryan Doumit and whichever of Matt Diaz and Garrett Jones isn’t playing in right field that day.

Garrett Atkins, who posted a pathetic .562 OPS for the Orioles last year, isn’t supremely qualified for one of those jobs, but he’s running drills with the Pirates’ infield starters early in Spring Training. The pluses with Atkins are that he can sort of play third base and first base, and that he was once a solid player with the Rockies. Unfortunately, his hitting has fallen off a cliff in the last few years, and the Pirates have several guys who are on the bubble of the 25-man roster who can either hit much better (Steve Pearce, John Bowker) or are far more useful defensively (Pedro Ciriaco, Corey Wimberly) or both (Josh Rodriguez). Atkins has a history with Clint Hurdle, his former manager in Colorado, and it’s certainly possible the Pirates know something I don’t, but from where I sit, he doesn’t deserve to make the team.

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Frank Coonelly's Comments About Neal Huntington's Job Security Unlikely To Mean Huntington Will Be Fired Soon

Several sources reported yesterday that Pirates president Frank Coonelly was “evaluating” Neal Huntington, who isn’t under contract beyond this year. There’s also an article in this morning’s Post-Gazette that notes in the lede that Coonelly is “out of patience.”

I do think the Pirates will have to improve on their dismal 2010 record for Huntington to keep his job, but for now, this seems like much ado about very little. The Post-Gazette and other sources quote Coonelly saying, “Our expectations are that Neal will be here for a long time.” It sounds like Coonelly is happy with Huntington’s work, but has to sound unhappy in the press because the Pirates’ record last year was so bad. I’m not sure he’ll be able to sustain that contradiction through a 105-loss season, but if it’s merely a 95-loss season (which I think honestly seems more likely), I think he’ll try.

Huntington has gotten mixed results in a series of trades of mostly mediocre veterans, but has rebuilt the Pirates’ player-development system, which is in far better shape than it was before he arrived.

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2011 MLB Spring Training: Pirates' Scott Olsen To Miss Week With Injury

Pirates pitcher Scott Olsen will miss a week with a strained hamstring, the Post-Gazette reports:

Although Olsen said Thursday said he thought the injury was insignificant, believing it was a cramp brought on by dehydration, he was told otherwise Friday after being examined by the team’s medical staff …

“A week lost is a week lost,’’ said Manager Clint Hurdle. “We’ll see how it feels when he comes back. There are no more concerns except there will be a time when he’s not involved. You just rearrange the deck a little bit. It’s why you want everyone to stay ready.’’

The Post-Gazette notes that Olsen has had injury problems the past couple of years, but those were mostly shoulder issues, so this seems unrelated. Along with Charlie Morton, Olsen is one of the top two candidates for the fifth starter job, and he’s fairly likely to win the last spot in the bullpen if he doesn’t get that. A week is really no big deal at this point in Spring Training, but this is worth keeping an eye on.

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2011 MLB Spring Training: Jose Veras Wins Job As Pirates' Bullpen Comes Into Focus

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle now says that non-roster invitee Jose Veras is assured a job in relief, which means that most of the Pirates’ bullpen has taken shape – Joel Hanrahan will be the closer, and Evan Meek and lefty Joe Beimel will set him up. Then there’s Veras and Chris Resop. The other two spots remain open, at least theoretically, but in all probability will go to Jeff Karstens and either Scott Olsen or Charlie Morton, depending on who wins the last rotation job. (I’m betting it will be Morton in the rotation and Olsen in the ‘pen – the structure of Olsen’s contract, which gets very expensive if he stays in the rotation all years, makes clear that the Pirates would prefer not to start him for extended periods.)

The Pirates’ bullpen appeared to be in flux this offseason, but the additions of Beimel and Veras have solidified it to the point where there’s almost no competition at all. I’m not sure that’s a bad thing, but it’s a little surprising that the Pirates would be announcing all this stuff so early in camp.

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2011 Pirates Spring Training: Ryan Doumit "Unhappy" With Role

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Tim Povtak reports today that former starting catcher Ryan Doumit is not pleased with his current role as a bench player as the Pirates open Spring Training in Bradenton, Fla. this week, but he plans to continue working hard.

Doumit, who lost his starting job after Chris Snyder was acquired from the Diamondbacks at the trading deadline, is now a backup at catcher and right field, where he'll support the platoon of Matt Diaz and Garrett Jones.

"I can be an everyday player. That's my approach. No matter where they put me, though, I'll be the best I can be," Doumit said Monday. "It's not something I'm going to dwell on. I'm already tired of talking about this. I'll show up and let my play do the talking."

Doumit appeared in 124 games for Pittsburgh last season, posting a .251 batting average with 13 home runs and 45 RBIs. He's scheduled to make just over $5 million this season, a hefty salary for a bench player. That, in part, was a reason the Pirates sought a trade of Doumit over the winter but were ultimately unsuccessful.

General manager Neal Huntington says the veteran could still be moved, though.

Although Huntington declined to talk about specific trade possibilities, the likelihood of moving Doumit is good.

"We're not dying to move him. He has value to us. It has to make sense to us, and we haven't found that," Huntington said shortly after the Pirates started their workout.

"Other clubs are kicking tires around, and teams are hoping we give him away. But that's not going to happen."

Certainly a situation worth monitoring as the spring wears on.

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