BRADENTON, Fla. – The Pirates answered a few questions about their Opening Day roster today. Matt Joyce was named to the team, Jeff Locke was named to the rotation, and Jared Hughes will likely start the season on the disabled list. They also cut seven players, narrowing the field.
The Pirates also created more questions about their Opening Day roster today. Joyce will require that they remove someone from the 40-man roster. Locke being named to the rotation means the final spot comes down to Ryan Vogelsong and Juan Nicasio. Hughes to the disabled list means there could be two bullpen spots available. And nothing was finalized with Cory Luebke.
The Matt Joyce corresponding move seems simple. There’s no reason to keep Pedro Florimon around on this team. They could get by with a backup shortstop like Sean Rodriguez or Cole Figueroa playing once every week or every other week. If Mercer goes down, they could switch to a strong defensive backup like Gift Ngoepe.
But beyond that, there aren’t many guys who can come off the roster. I said this last night when there were fewer roster spots up for grabs. The addition of an extra bullpen spot makes this scenario even more difficult to predict.
First, you’ve got the final bench spot. The Pirates now have Chris Stewart, Sean Rodriguez, Michael Morse, and Matt Joyce. The final two guys legitimately competing for a spot are Jason Rogers and Cole Figueroa. With Morse and Joyce on the team, Figueroa fills more of a need than Rogers. The only thing Rogers has going for him right now is the fact that he’s on the 40-man. The Pirates seem to be trusting him more at third base, but leaving someone like Figueroa off the roster means you have just one backup middle infielder.
If Figueroa is added, that’s one potential roster spot that would be needed.
Then you’ve got the bullpen. The Pirates sent down Rob Scahill and Trey Haley today, optioning out two of the remaining guys on the 40-man roster. The rest of the guys competing for the two spots (assuming Hughes goes to the DL) are Kyle Lobstein, Cory Luebke, Jim Fuller, Jorge Rondon, and A.J. Schugel. Of that group, only Lobstein is on the 40-man roster.
So it’s a guarantee that the bullpen will need at least one guy who isn’t on the 40-man roster, at least at the start of the season. It’s also possible that the Pirates could have three lefties in their bullpen, if Lobstein and Luebke make the roster.
The rotation decision doesn’t really impact the 40-man roster, although now that Locke is a starter, we know there won’t be a risk of another lefty moving to the bullpen.
The Pirates will need anywhere from 1-3 spots cleared on the 40-man roster this weekend, and that’s not including the spot for Joyce, which I have projected with Florimon going off the roster.
The next best candidate for removal would be John Holdzkom. He was injured all last year, appears to be injured this year, and his stuff hasn’t been above 91 MPH in camp, with no good break on the palmball. In a perfect world, he recovers quickly and helps the team. But in reality, he looks like more of a long shot to help this year, as the arm and control issues continue.
That would clear the spot for one of the bullpen guys. But what if you want another spot cleared for Cole Figueroa? Technically you could designate one of Scahill or Haley for assignment. Both are hard throwers with some command problems, but let’s look at the facts here. The Pirates knew they’d need two bullpen guys with Hughes likely going to the disabled list. They knew they’d need a roster spot for Joyce, and probably a spot for Figueroa. And then they sent down two of the final guys on the 40-man, leaving only one guy remaining in camp from the 40-man, with two spots.
They essentially picked their second reliever (assuming Lobstein is the first) over Scahill and/or Haley. They could have avoided the need for a 40-man roster spot to be cleared for the bullpen if they would have rolled the dice with one of those two relievers who were cut today.
Today was the start of a busy and interesting week. There are still a few decisions to be made, and the most difficult ones will involve who they decide to remove from the 40-man roster.
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