BRADENTON, Fl. – The Pirates have cut eight players from MLB camp today. They optioned Tyler Glasnow and Jameson Taillon to Indianapolis, and Harold Ramirez to Altoona. They also reassigned Trevor Williams, Chad Kuhl, Steven Brault, Reese McGuire, and Kelvin Marte to minor league camp.
These moves are all expected, as none of these guys were starting in the Majors out of Spring Training. The highlight of this group is the Indianapolis starting rotation. Glasnow, Taillon, Kuhl, Brault, and Williams will all be starting at some point for the Triple-A squad this year. I asked Huntington if this was the strongest group of pitching prospects he’s seen in Triple-A since he’s been here.
“Yeah, I would,” Huntington answered. “I haven’t put a ton of thought into it, but you run Taillon, Glasnow, Kuhl, Brault and Williams out in one setting — that’s a very exciting group. Need to be clear, they’re not going out because they’re not equipped to compete here right now. It’s just we’ve only got so many innings we can give to guys who are ready to help us right now.”
Not all of these guys will start off in Triple-A though. Huntington mentioned that all of these guys deserve to be in Indianapolis, but the need for immediate MLB starting depth might push one of them down. It’s likely that Kyle Lobstein will eventually go down and pitch out of the Indianapolis rotation, keeping him fresh as early season starting depth.
“We’ll probably have our sixth starter in the bullpen at the major league level,” Huntington said. “But where’s seven, where’s eight? Who can help us on April 5, if need be? Who can help us on April 15 or April 25? While we’re excited about each one of those, not ready to say they’re ready to help us on April 25. Not ready to say they’re not [ready] — we have to see how some things will play out here in major league camp with those other guys we’ve brought in as more advanced starters. But, again, just really excited about where they can go and what they can be.”
Don’t expect any of these prospects to arrive earlier than June. All of them have legitimate things to work on in Triple-A, but when asked if they could arrive during the first two months of the season, Huntington said they didn’t just want to bring guys up the moment they were ready.
“We want to be patient,” Huntington said. “We want to put them in positions to be successful. We also don’t want to close doors. In an ideal world, no. That means we’re healthy. That means guys we’ve anticipated coming in help our major league club are able to help. In a perfect world we wait until these guys are not only on the front edge of the readiness curve but are deep into the readiness curve. They are a ready to help us win games at the major league level.”
One of the common trends today when talking with the pitchers who were sent out was that they were surprised at how open the big league guys were in giving them advice. Huntington discussed how the players were the most important part of building a good clubhouse.
“Again, we can try to set a parameter and a bar, and our staff does a terrific job of impacting what they can impact, but it’s ultimately the players that drive your culture,” Huntington said. “We’ve got a good group. We’ve got a group that wants to help these young guys learn. We’ve got a group that understands those guys will help us win, and the more they can help them develop, the better off we’ll be.”
I’ll have the pitcher quotes at the bottom of the article, grouped by question, since all of the questions today were largely the same.
Harold Ramirez and Reese McGuire Going to Altoona
Harold Ramirez left for Panama today, to play in the World Baseball Classic qualifiers for Colombia. So it was no surprise that he was also cut today from big league camp. Ramirez will return to minor league camp and will go to Altoona this year. Huntington reflected on the great spring performance he had while he was in big league camp.
“Swings the bat very, very well,” Huntington said. “He has the physical abilities to go be a good outfielder and baserunner, some things sped up on him here in camp. That happens with young guys. Really pleased with what he’s done. Looking forward him playing for team Columbia and hopefully helping them qualify for the World Baseball Classic. Then we’ll get him back here and get him ready to go in Double-A.”
McGuire will also go to Altoona, which is a bit of an aggressive push for him, considering his lack of offensive numbers last year in Bradenton.
“We understand it’s a push with the bat, but his defensive abilities, his maturation, his ability to help pitchers, we felt that was good assignment,” Huntington said. “We feel like he will grow into the bat.”
McGuire did improve his numbers in the Arizona Fall League, hitting for a .294/.379/.412 line. Huntington said that contributed a small amount to the decision.
“It made us a little more comfortable,” Huntington said. “We are very cognizant of small sample. And where we feel a guy can do, what a guy can handle.”
While he was in big league camp, McGuire had the chance to learn from Chris Stewart and Francisco Cervelli, along with the MLB pitching staff. He was never an option to begin the year in the majors, and this camp was mostly about getting him that experience with the MLB guys.
“He talked about that as we were letting him know we were reassigning him to minor league camp, the value of watching our pitchers work and catching those good arms,” Huntington said. “The value of being around Chris Stewart and Francisco Cervelli and how they prepare. It’s great. Our young starters talked about it as well, watching Gerrit Cole and Francisco Liriano work, being around our major league staff and the environment and this clubhouse and the leadership shown by our position player group and our pitchers. It’s a good culture. It’s a good environment for those guys to learn and grow in.”
Pitchers Answering Cut Day Questions
Cut day isn’t usually reserved for long interviews. It’s usually a quick recap of a player’s time in camp. And in the case of prospects who didn’t have a shot at the majors, the questions tend to be the same. Today, most of the questions were the same, with a few random ones at the end. Jameson Taillon wasn’t available for an interview today, since he was one of the first players notified, and was already gone for Pirate City when the announcement was made. I’ll try to catch up with him later today or this week. Here are the responses to each question.
What did you take from your time in big league camp?
Tyler Glasnow: “It was nice coming back. Second year kind of came in more comfortable, got a feel for things. Meeting the guys again, all the new guys. Refining the mechanics and getting the feel for things again. I’m excited to just go back and be able to get on that routine and be back to pitching every five days, knowing a schedule more. I’m just excited to get the season started.”
Chad Kuhl: “Just a nice learning experience, to learn from a lot of the starting pitchers. They were really open. A lot more open than I expected them to be. An amazing atmosphere here. It was nice to be able to go to them with any questions, anything like that. It was nice to learn from the starting pitchers for sure.”
Stephen Brault: “I got a lot out of it. I got to meet all the guys that I hope to play with eventually. I got to learn a lot of things about the Major League side of how everything operates. Got to be part of this really cool winning atmosphere that the Pirates really cultivate. I learned a lot while I was here.”
Trevor Williams: “There’s a lot of guys you can gravitate towards. There’s a lot of guys you can learn a lot from. Just really thankful I had the opportunity to be here and do that. I learned a lot of stuff and kind of was a sponge for a lot of it. It was fun.”
What do you need to work on?
Tyler Glasnow: “I’ve just got to get in more reps of games. I’m usually a bit of a slow starter. It happens usually every year for me. I’ve just got to kind of get into the feel of things and get out there and just compete more. You get into more competition mode and things start to kind of fall into place. Like I said, I’m just excited to get back.”
Chad Kuhl: “It’s always about improvement. My pitches especially. It’s nice to see Gerrit [Cole]. Gerrit was watching my bullpen. Just talking a little bit about the slider, and stuff like that. It’s all about improvement in all facets of the game, obviously, but having an effective out pitch that I need to work on a little bit more has been big.”
Stephen Brault: “Being better…[Joking, while starting to count a list of items for improvement.] That’s about it. Just continue growing. There’s nothing specifically where there was like a glaring issue. It was just keep getting better, more consistency and all this kind of stuff.”
Trevor Williams: “Right now, it’s inning count, getting built up for the year. Another is just command overall and kind of getting into that routine.”
What advice did you get or who did you learn from?
Tyler Glasnow: “It’s just getting back into the mental part of competing. I’m so into the mechanical mindset, especially coming from the offseason working on stuff. I’m already starting to feel better, doing more bullpens and seeing more batters, throwing stuff. Everything just becomes more sharp. It’s just get-back-into-baseball mode.”
Chad Kuhl: “Obviously, Gerrit. Right-handed guy, he’s been there. He’s been around, seen some stuff. Just talking about his workout routine. Just little things, not anything groundbreaking. It’s just nice to hear what they have to say. They’ve been around so long. It’s nice to hear their routine, and just pick their brain a little bit.”
Stephen Brault: “I talked to everybody as much as I could. I talked to Jeff [Locke] a decent amount. One person I talked to a lot about pitching would be Jared Hughes. Talked to him about attacking hitters and stuff like that. Mostly it was working with Ray and learning just how to pitch to big league hitters basically by doing it and getting the ball hit very far off me. Learning, trial by fire kind of thing, that’s how I felt about it.”
Trevor Williams: “I understand the big-league guys have to get their innings up and we have to get ready for our season as well. I have a bullpen today just to get me into a routine, so it’s that kind of day-by-day thing up here… Collectively, as a staff, a lot of the guys were good, really. No one was really shut out to the younger guys. A lot of open ears. A lot of open minds. So, it was really everyone.”
Bonus Round! Random Questions:
Tyler Glasnow on his first inning issues in camp: “Like I said, just keep going out and pitching. The first inning doesn’t feel any different for me than the second. Especially pitching more now, I’m more comfortable going out in games. Nervousness isn’t as bad for me. I’m enjoying that feeling more, that adrenaline feeling. Just go out and get more reps and everything becomes more comfortable.”
Chad Kuhl on Cole’s advice for his slider: “It’s just about keeping your body the same way, not trying to do too much, letting the pitch and the grip do the work.”
Stephen Brault on his work with Searage: “Being able to sequence hitters and make them uncomfortable in a way I have yet to fully understand. Being able to see what a hitter’s doing and be able to exploit that. Just learning, that’s all.”
Trevor Williams on the Triple-A rotation battle: “I’m not sure. They didn’t say much. I know it’s going to be a battle. It’s going to be a competition. You know, I just want to be on a team that will win. I think at every level, the Pirates will win.”