BRADENTON — The Pittsburgh Pirates are just several days away from seeing game action, as the Grapefruit League kicks off on Saturday. While it’s a given that right-hander Joel Hanrahan will be the team’s closer, the Pirates bullpen is crowded this spring, with plenty of options for the club to have another season with a solid ‘pen.
“As they throw their sides, we have numbers, we have volume,” Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle said. “I think we’ve a lot of men that could make that bullpen. When you look at it, Hanrahan being at the end. You’ve got six openings. Some guys have inside tracks. Some guys, it could be their position, their opportunity to lose.”
Evan Meek is looking to bounce back to his All-Star 2010 season after missing most of last year on the disabled list with shoulder injuries. Jason Grilli, Chris Resop, Daniel McCutchen all showed great versatility, coming into different innings and different situations for the Pirates.
Right-hander Jared Hughes and lefties Daniel Moskos and Tony Watson pitched well out of the ‘pen last season in their first year in the Majors. Chris Leroux, who is out of options, spent the winter starting in the Dominican and could be the Pirates long relief man. Even Brad Lincoln, who spent time both in the ‘pen and rotation with the Pirates in 2011, could be under consideration to be in the bullpen. He could also be used as a long reliever.
“We have brought people in that we’ve also created very good depth there,” Hurdle said. “We have an opening as far as the leverage situation towards the end, and what opportunities might present itself. We got to identify a long guy. We’ve got some guys in camp that have done that. We’ve got some guys that have shown great versatility as well, being able to pitch multiple innings.”
“McCutchen and Grilli last season moved around a lot of different spots. So we’re going to keep an eye on everything as we go forward. We projected the depth of the starters to add more than five, six, seven, eight, nine guys.”
Some notable non-roster guys this spring could make a push to break camp with the Pirates. Mike Crotta appeared in 15 games with the Bucs last season, making the team out of spring training. Tim Wood also appeared with the Bucs in 2011, posting a 5.63 ERA over 13 games. Ryota Igarashi, Logan Kensing and Juan Cruz — who had a 3.88 ERA over 56 relief appearances with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2011 — could make a push for a spot in the bullpen. Jo-Jo Reyes spent last season both relieving and starting and could be a pitcher to keep an eye on.
“Reyes is going to be interesting to watch in spring training just to see if where takes it, because he has started in the past,” Hurdle said.
Hurdle has plenty of time to piece together a bullpen, and plans on using Spring Training to the fullest to see who fits where best.
“We’ve got some new guys in the bullpen that one of the things that we’re going to have to do is once their arms are up and ready, stretch them out, two innings, 35 pitches, or maybe three innings, 50 pitches as we get to the towards the third week of spring training,” Hurdle said. “Also bringing guys in in the middle of innings just to create some experience for them, and back-to-back days as well. It will all come into play.”
Last season, Hurdle said he preferred having two lefties in the ‘pen, but when it comes down to it, he’s going to take the best relievers.
“You’re going to take the best seven,” Hurdle said. “We feel optimistic with the number of people that we brought in camp. We should have an opportunity to have multiple left-handers up, but we’ll see how it plays out.”