After the news this morning that the Pittsburgh Pirates cut four players, there are three roster spots remaining. The cuts this morning left Steve Pearce with a roster spot on the bench, while Garrett Olson is all but a guarantee to win a job in the bullpen. Here are the other guarantees, which can also be found on the Spring Training tracker.
Catcher – Chris Snyder
First Base – Lyle Overbay
Second Base – Neil Walker
Shortstop – Ronny Cedeno
Third Base – Pedro Alvarez
Left Field – Jose Tabata
Center Field – Andrew McCutchen
Right Field – Garrett Jones
Bench – Ryan Doumit, Matt Diaz, Steve Pearce
Rotation – Kevin Correia, Paul Maholm, Ross Ohlendorf, Charlie Morton, James McDonald
Bullpen – Joel Hanrahan, Evan Meek, Chris Resop, Jeff Karstens, Garrett Olson, Jose Veras
That leaves three spots on the 25-man roster: two bench spots and one bullpen spot. There could be an extra bullpen spot if James McDonald isn’t ready to start the season, at which point Jeff Karstens would move to the rotation. Here is a breakdown of each position battle.
Backup Middle Infielder
Pedro Ciriaco and Josh Rodriguez are battling for the backup middle infield spot. Rodriguez is a Rule 5 selection, which means that if he doesn’t make the team, he has to be offered back to the Cleveland Indians, who have said they would welcome him back. Ciriaco is actually leading the battle due to his performance this Spring. He’s stronger defensively, and is possibly the strongest defender at shortstop in the entire organization. Ciriaco has also been working in the outfield, which further improves his chances of landing a bench spot. This could be a case of performance (Ciriaco) versus roster status (Rodriguez) as the main reason Rodriguez is still in the discussion is his Rule 5 status.
The final bench spot will most likely go to John Bowker, unless the Pirates decide to carry three catchers. If that were to happen, Jason Jaramillo would make the team, which would put Bowker on the waiver wire, since he is out of options. Jaramillo could make the team, especially when you consider that Chris Snyder has an injured back, and Ryan Doumit hasn’t been the perfect picture of health during his career. There is the chance that Snyder could be placed on the disabled list, with the Pirates going for a Doumit/Jaramillo combo, although that’s only a possibility, and nothing the Pirates have talked about.
There’s no guarantee that Bowker would make the team if the Pirates only carried two catchers. They could always keep both of the middle infield options, especially with Ciriaco working in the outfield, and Clint Hurdle wanting some speed off the bench. However, Bowker’s roster status makes him the favorite.
The final three pitchers competing for a bullpen spot are Michael Crotta, Chris Leroux, and Jose Ascanio. I watched Ascanio yesterday at Pirate City, and he did not look good at all, throwing around 91 MPH, and displaying poor command. His one inning of work ended when he reached his pitch count early. I don’t see him making the team at all, which means he would have to be removed from the 40-man roster. That would clear the space needed to add Jose Veras to the 40-man roster.
Michael Crotta is the clear leader of the remaining two options, as he has yet to allow a run this Spring, and has looked good pitching in relief. If the Pirates do have two bullpen spots available, it could be possible that Chris Leroux also makes the team, although as of right now James McDonald is slated to start the season on the 25-man roster.