FORT MYERS, Fla. — Prior to departing to Fort Myers, Fla., for the Bucs game against the Minnesota Twins, the Pittsburgh Pirates cut 10 players from Major League camp. Highlighting the list was lefty Jeff Locke, who made his Major League debut with the Bucs in 2011, and the Pirates first round pick in 2009 catcher Tony Sanchez.
- Catcher Ramon Cabrera, right-hander Mike Crotta, outfielder Robbie Grossman, infielder Anderson Hernandez, righty Logan Kensing and Sanchez were all reassigned to minor league camp.
- Infielder Chase d’Arnaud, Locke, and southpaw Rudy Owens were optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis.
- Righty Duke Welker was optioned to Altoona.
“You always hate to send guys out,” Pirates General Manager Neal Huntington said. “The worst days are releasing guys, those are the ones that you lose sleep over. Terminating staff members, you’re impacting people’s lives. Here you’re just delaying their dream a little bit. You’re giving them feedback as what they need to do to get back here. What they need to do to help the Major League club. These [cuts] are not enjoyable. It’s a great chance to reinforce some messages in the younger guys. Some of the older guys, their sense of urgency becomes more prominent.”
d’Arnaud, who split the 2011 season with Triple-A Indianapolis and in the Majors with Pittsburgh, said he saw the move coming while cleaning out his big league locker at McKechnie Field this morning. The 25-year-old shortstop went 3-for-10 this spring with two RBI.
“Sometimes potential can be a blessing, but sometimes it can be a curse,” Huntington said. “We believe he’s got the potential to be an everyday Major League shortstop, but we’ve got some work to do to get there. Offensively this spring he’s made some great adjustments. The bat is playing better than it has in the past. Defensively, it’s just reliability. He can make any play on the field, spectacular ones, we just got to make the routine ones on a more consistent basis.”
“Chase came up last year, arguably a little bit early…If we didn’t believe he was an everyday guy, he’s probably be in a great competition to be our utility guy. He can do some things on the field that some of the other guys can’t . They can do some things they he doesn’t. Overall we’re still trying to keep him growing.”
Locke was a September call up last season and appeared in one game during the Grapefruit League this spring where he allowed three runs on five hits over two innings with two strikeouts. Owens, like Locke will benefit from getting optioned to minor league camp, where they can get stretched out and get ready for the 2012 season.
“They need to continue to grow and develop and be rotation options for us whether it’s in April, whether it’s in August, whether it’s next year,” Huntington said. “A guy like Rudy Owens, Jeff Locke, we got to keep them stretched out, building up here in spring training, working, refining, developing, so that they become viable Major League starting pitcher options for us this year and next, and beyond.”
Owens, 24, made three appearances this spring where he allowed three runs on six hits over five innings with a pair of walks. His last outing came on Monday where he was limited to just an inning due to too many arms needing work this spring. Owens is looking to bounce back from his 2011 season.
“It’s just number of innings, and that’s why those guys have got to go out,” Huntington said. “With the number of pitchers that we have in camp, the number of pitchers that we have competing for our bullpen spots, as the starters get to go four, five, six, seven innings, the reliever innings become more and more difficult to come by for the young starters. He’s thrown the ball better this spring then he did last spring. We’re looking for a good year from Rudy.”
Sanchez, a first round pick in 2009, will likely start the season in Double-A Altoona unless he has a great spring in minor league camp. Sanchez, too, is looking to bounce back from a disappointing 2011 where he hit just .241 in his first full season in Class-AA.
“As we’ve talked about it right now, likely Altoona with the idea that it’s where he finishes, not where he starts,” Huntington said on where Sanchez would start the year. “We want to do some things with him offensively…We want to make sure we get off to a good start with him, have him graduate that level. If we ultimately feel that these next two weeks he’s ready to go to Indianapolis, that’s great. But our focus is where he finishes, not where he starts. He’s taken some great steps forward.”
The Pirates active roster in Major League camp is currently at 48.