Lefty Tony Watson will make the Pirates Opening Day roster for the first time in his professional career. After the club decided to option fellow southpaw Daniel Moskos to Triple-A Indianapolis on Tuesday, Watson will be the club’s only lefty in the ‘pen.
Moskos, 24, had a solid spring with the Pirates. He allowed one earned run on six hits over 9.0 innings with five walks and nine strikeouts over nine appearances. He will pitch out of the ‘pen in Indianapolis, where he posted a 3.43 ERA over 24.1 innings last year.
Watson, 26, allowed seven earned runs on 12 hits over 11.0 innings this spring. He has walked one and struck out four over nine appearances.
The lefty reliever said his main focus over the offseason was to improve on his consistency this year. After making his Major League debut with the Pirates on June 8 against Arizona last season, Watson finished with a 3.95 ERA over 43 appearances (41.0 innings). But his ERA jumped up and down over his four months in Pittsburgh.
“If the delivery is consistent, everything’s consistent. Then the pitches will be consistent,” Watson said. “That was a big thing for me. Just continuing to be consistent with everything.”
Despite a 5.73 ERA this spring training, stats for pitchers are hard to read into. Watson said himself that he worked on some new things on the mound, including some new pitches.
“I’ve made progress every time out. The ball is coming out of my hand a little better now. The breaking pitch is getting better and better. Just trying to build on every outing and head into the season strong,” Watson said. “Now it’s just going out there and competing. Once you cross the lines, it’s go-time. It’s game time. Don’t worry about fundamentals, or what you’re working on, stuff like that. Just go out there and pitch and try to get outs.”
With the roster currently at 26, Pirates still have a few moves remaining. With right-handed starter Charlie Morton to start the season on the disabled list, General Manager Neal Huntington said the decision to carry an extra bench player, or an extra arm, is still in discussion. Instead of carrying 12 pitchers, the Pirates could decide to use 11 arms (four starters and seven relievers) and 14 position players to help the club during their tough month of April.
“That is an option,” Huntington said last week in Florida. “That is something we are talking about. The best use of the bench for Clint to win those early games. Eight bullpen guys allows us the protection early as your starters are getting built up, getting into the cold weather. We’re still working through that.”
“We’ve talked about both scenarios,” Manager Clint Hurdle said. “We’ve talked about the difference in personnel. We need to factor in the off days involved and how much the extra pitching you think you’d need or could use, or if the bat would play better. That’s where we are in the discussions right now. Would the extra arm be the benefit, or would the bat be a benefit? It could open up a position for all three of the utility men to make the club, or it could open up an opportunity for another long man to make the club.”
With Watson being the lone lefty in the ‘pen, relievers Juan Cruz, Jason Grilli, Joel Hanrahan, Evan Meek and Chris Resop look to be locks. Right-handers Jared Hughes and Chris Leroux (who is out of options) remain for the final one or two spots left in the bullpen.
If the club decided to go with the extra arm, one of the final three battling for the utility jobs – Matt Hague, Josh Harrison and Yamaico Navarro – would be optioned to Triple-A.
The club will still need to make a 40-man roster move in order to place righty Juan Cruz on the roster. The 33-year-old veteran signed a minor league deal over the offseason. It will be his second straight season making a club as a non-roster player (Also the Tampa Bay Rays in 2011).
Presley Looking to Get on Base More
Alex Presley will be batting leadoff for the Pirates this season. The speedy outfielder hit .298 with 12 doubles, six triples, four home runs and 20 RBI over 52 games with Pittsburgh last season.
“It’s really important [to get on base] because you want set the tone for the team off the bat,” Presley said. “I did a pretty good job last year with that in the first inning. It kick starts the team and sets the tone for the whole day so it’s an important spot.”
Presley swiped 16 bags while in Pittsburgh, 22 with Triple-A Indianapolis in 2011. Over the offseason, Presley spent time worked on improving his base running at the Fall Instructional League. Although Presley has only stolen four bases this spring (over five chances), he said he feels good with where he’s at.
“I haven’t taken a ton of chances this spring, but with what I’ve done, I feel good with where I’m at,” Presley said. “I feel fast, so that’s definitely good.”
If there is one thing that Presley said he wants to improve for the 2012 season is simple: just to get on base more.
“Last year I got my hits, but I didn’t walk that much,” Presley said. “Not that I really tried to walk, but I just need to be a little more selective at the plate and get on base. Not really try and worry having to get a hit, just find any way to get on base.”
Pirates Workout Open to Public
The Pittsburgh Pirates announced that the Pirates April 4 workout, the day prior to Opening Day at PNC Park, will be open to the public to watch free of charge.
The workout starts at 3:00 p.m., and fans can enter through the Legacy Square Gates (located in left field off General Robinson Street). It will be open to the general public beginning at 2:30.
Weather permitting, the Pirates will be on the fields from 3 to 5:00. Sections one to 138 will be accessible for fans to view the home team’s batting practice and fielding drills.
“There is a lot of excitement from our fans for the Pirates baseball season to begin,” said Frank Coonelly, Pirates President. “We wanted to give them a unique opportunity to welcome the team back to Pittsburgh one full day before Opening Day.”