The Pittsburgh Pirates made their latest round of cuts today, sending 12 players to minor league camp. None of the moves were that surprising, as every single player sent down was expected to be cut from big league camp at some point this Spring. The one notable name was Jose Tabata. He wasn’t notable because he had a strong chance to make the team, but he was notable because of the contract.
Tabata had very little chance of making this team, with one factor being the left/right makeup of the team. If Tabata got the final spot, the Pirates would have had a bench featuring all right-handers.
“It factored a decent amount into it,” Pirates’ General Manager Neal Huntington said on the makeup of the bench with today’s moves. “Jose’s swing change, we think, is playing up. We wanted to get him out and get him consistent at-bats, and try to get him off to a good start at Triple-A, and build some value to come up and help us.”
Huntington noted that today’s cuts were about getting these guys playing time to get them ready for their seasons, since the starting pitchers are going deeper into games, the relievers need the additional innings, and the guys competing for the bench will need the at-bats in the final week of Spring Training. Tabata wouldn’t have seen many at-bats going forward if he stuck around.
“Our job is to get him back to the big leagues and provide him with an opportunity,” Huntington said. “[We were] very open with him that opportunity may come with someone else, but if he goes out and plays hard, plays well, he’ll be in the big leagues with somebody.”
I don’t see anyone trading for Tabata and taking on his contract unless he displays some big changes. He will go to Triple-A, and will likely get plenty of playing time. One playing time situation to watch in the Indianapolis outfield will be with Gorkys Hernandez. He put up good numbers this Spring, and Huntington indicated that the Pirates want to give him a closer look going forward.
“Gorkys has had a great camp. It’s amazing that it’s his 27-year-old season,” Huntington said. “He can still play defense with just about anybody. The swing looks shorter. Now is the time to go out and get him consistent at-bats, and see if this swing change is going to translate into the quality that we saw so far this Spring Training.”
The final bench spot is now a battle between Andrew Lambo and Jaff Decker. Both are left-handed hitting outfielders. Justin Sellers is still on the roster, but has soreness in his Achilles tendon, and is unlikely to factor into the mix. The wild card could be Pedro Florimon. Huntington said he is still in the mix, mentioning that his defense, base running, and versatility could have more value than just a left-hander off the bench.
No Decision For the Rotation
The Pirates haven’t made a decision on the fifth spot in the rotation yet, with the decision still being between Jeff Locke and Vance Worley. Locke pitches today, while Worley threw yesterday. But those outings will only play part of the decision.
“We pride ourselves on being process driven and not outcome driven,” Huntington said. “We’ve still got a couple more outcomes to work through. Our challenge is that we’re in a really good spot, whether it’s Jeff Locke or Vance Worley. Both of those guys deserve to be in Major League rotations. Both of those guys are going to make quality starts for us this year. It’s just a matter of who gets in the rotation to start the season.”
Huntington confirmed that the loser will go to the bullpen, before adding that history shows that pitcher will likely be back in the rotation at some point.
“There’s no question we’re going to need both of these guys to make quality Major League starts for us this year,” Huntington said. “We’re absolutely going to need more than five starters. Hopefully we won’t need 12 like we did a few years ago, or nine like we did last year.”
One situation that could factor in the mix is the rehab of Charlie Morton. The right-hander seems to be in line to begin the season in Pittsburgh from a health and innings standpoint, but has had some issues with his stuff while working on a tweak in his delivery.
“Much like when a pitcher has surgery, [that pitcher is] getting used to the arm again. In Charlie’s case, he’s getting used to his hips again, and how his body functions,” Huntington said. “We’ve seen some really good things from him and we’ve seen some challenges from him.”
Huntington said that the Pirates are focusing on having Morton in the rotation, with the loser of the Worley/Locke battle serving as depth for the rotation. However, a lot will be determined by the next start for Morton.
“Our expectation is he’ll be ready to go, but we want to see how this next outing goes, and make sure that he’s ready to go out and compete and get hitters out on a consistent basis,” Huntington said.
Jung-ho Kang to Start the Year in Pittsburgh
Don’t expect Jung-ho Kang to go down to Indianapolis due to his struggles in Spring Training.
“We have every intent in the world of him helping us winning games at the Major League level beginning Opening Day,” Huntington said, before listing off the things they like about Kang. “We like the bat speed. We love the power. We like what he’s been able to do defensively at short, at third, at second. The ability to make the blind turn was very intriguing. At the same time we also know that we’ve got some reps that are needed to have him feel comfortable there overall.”
**Huntington talked about the opt out clause for Clayton Richard, and the situation involving stretching him out, which I talked about yesterday: “Our goal is to get Clayton Richard back to the big leagues. We hope it is with us. We believe it is going to be with us…We’re working to get Clayton ready to go, and hopefully that is with us, whether it’s in Pittsburgh or in [Indianapolis].”
**Chris Stewart is still expected to start the year on the disabled list, as Huntington said they don’t want to turn a 2-4 week layoff into 6-8 weeks. “Chris is working hard, he’s begun baseball activities. I think we’re both in a good spot in that there’s no need to rush him back. There’s no need to push this.”