Spring Training Updates: Kevin Hart, Neil Walker, Jean Machi

Going in to Spring Training, it seemed that there would only be four positions up for grabs.  Those were the starting first base position, the fifth rotation spot, the final bench spot, and one bullpen spot.  Jeff Clement has the inside track at first base, there are plenty of options for the bench spot, and the one bullpen spot turned in to two when it was discovered that Joel Hanrahan would start the season on the disabled list.  The only true competition was set to be between Kevin Hart and Daniel McCutchen for the fifth starter role.

Not anymore, it seems.  According to Rob Biertempfel, Kevin Hart is the front runner for the fifth spot in the rotation.  An important line from that article:
But yesterday, while talking in general about the pitching staff, Russell listed Hart as one of the starters and McCutchen among the bullpen crew. When asked if the job is Hart’s to lose, Russell hedged.

“There’s competition, and (Hart) knows it,” Russell said. “He’s going to show he’s ready for it.

“We’ve got other very good candidates, but he’s working awfully hard. Time will tell, but he’s in a good position right now.”

The link above also includes video of Hart from day two of Spring Training.  It’s starting to sound like the fifth rotation spot is like the first base spot.  Like Clement, Hart has the inside track for the job, but it’s his to lose during Spring Training.  More notes from Spring Training:

-Neil Walker took ground balls at second base yesterday, according to Biertempfel.  Today, Walker was working at third base, and shagging fly balls in the outfield.  Walker has been working at various positions so far, and is likely trying to convert himself in to a super utility player.

-Jean Machi was given medical clearance after further tests following his physical.  He threw a bullpen session Friday.  With two bullpen spots open, Machi is a sleeper to make the final 25-man roster out of Spring Training.

-Rob Biertempfel is providing a lot of great Spring Training updates on his Twitter account.  Follow him at @RobBiertempfel, and while you’re at it, you can also follow this at @buccofans.

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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