In December, the Pittsburgh Pirates lost left-handed pitcher Wei-Chung Wang in the Rule V draft to the Milwaukee Brewers. At the time, it seemed unlikely he would stick. He had one season of minor league experience and that was in the Gulf Coast League. Wang needed Tommy John surgery and the Pirates realized that after he signed, voided his contract and resigned him to a second deal. When they did that, it meant that Wang would be eligible for the Rule V draft after just one season.
Wang has made it to the end of the Brewers camp and two former Pittsburgh Pirates pitchers might be the reason he doesn’t stick with the Brewers. We might know by Tuesday at noon whether Wang will stick with the Brewers for Opening Day. Zach Duke has pitched well during Spring Training and he has an option in his contract that calls for him to be told whether he makes the team by noon on Tuesday.
Duke has options if he doesn’t make the team. He can ask for his release, or he can accept a minor league assignment, which has an opt out clause on June 1st if he isn’t in the majors by then. The one thing attached to the latter, is that they have to give him a $100,000 bonus to send him to the minors. If they decided to do that and keep Wang, then it actually costs them $125,000, because they will lose all $50,000 it costs for a Rule V draft pick. If they put Wang on waivers(and another team picks him up) or they return him to the Pirates, then the Brewers get half of the Rule V cost back.
Keeping Duke and Wang would give them three lefties in the bullpen, to go along with Will Smith, who the Brewers traded outfielder Norichika Aoki to get in December. Right now the Brewers have four guys battling for the last three spots, with right-handers Tyler Thornburg and Rob Wooten competing for spots as well.
The other former Pirates pitcher that might factor into the Brewers decision is Tom Gorzelanny, who had shoulder surgery and isn’t due back for a couple weeks. When Gorzelanny comes back from the disabled list, he will take one of the lefty spots in the bullpen. He is signed for $2,950,000 this year and pitched well as a reliever/starter for the Brewers last year, so his spot is safe once he returns.
The Brewers have an interesting decision if they want to keep the 21-year-old Wei-Chung Wang, who has pitched well in Spring Training this year, not allowing any runs until his last game. Wang went 2.2 innings on Thursday, allowing three runs on five hits. He has not walked a batter in 11 innings. Besides keeping him and putting him on waivers, the Brewers could also work out a trade with the Pirates to keep Wang. There are still a lot of options, but we should have a better idea of what is going on very soon.
John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.
When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.