BRADENTON, Fla. – The Pirates will have a very interesting decision to make with Cory Luebke next week. According to Ken Rosenthal, Luebke has an opt-out of his deal on Tuesday, allowing him to be a free agent if the Pirates don’t add him to their roster.

I’m not sure of the specifics of Luebke’s deal, but I think he would just need to be added to the 40-man roster, rather than the active roster. He would have options remaining if he was on the 40-man roster, meaning the Pirates wouldn’t have to put him on the Opening Day roster if he just has to be added to the 40-man. Either way, Luebke is looking like a guy the Pirates need to protect, based off of Jon Heyman’s tweet last night.

Luebke clarified me today that the 87 MPH pitch was the slider, which has gotten up to 89 MPH in the past. His fastball used to sit around 90-91 MPH as a starter, but would touch 95, and obviously there was a chance it could play up in a relief role. But the special thing about these numbers is that they come after three years off from the left-hander.

At the start of camp, I wrote about how Luebke was trying to make a comeback, after spending three years out with elbow injuries — two Tommy John surgeries, and a minor procedure that put him out most of 2015. Prior to that, he had some impressive numbers pitching out of the San Diego rotation. The fact that he’s showing his old velocity again is a very encouraging sign. For Luebke, it’s also a great feeling after everything he’s gone through.

“I feel good. I guess just happy,” Luebke said with a laugh. “I has been a long time to get it to feel this way. I had a pretty good feeling coming into camp, how it was going to feel. And then the hamstring was frustrating, having to wait for that to heal, to be able to [pitch] again. Just excited, happy to be here, and just having fun again.”

Luebke entered camp ready to compete for an opening in the Pirates’ bullpen, with Tony Watson as the lone lefty reliever on the team. Early in camp, he went down with a hamstring injury in his right leg, and it initially looked like his chances of making the Opening Day roster were shot. But the injury healed, and he was able to work his way back into games, with enough time to work his way into the roster mix.

“Coming into camp, I was excited,” Luebke said. “Five or six weeks for the team to get to know me, the way I pitch, and how I go about things. For that to get kind of cut short, that had me a little nervous. It healed up pretty quick, and to be out there throwing again has been just fun for me.”

For a guy that saw setback after setback for the last three years, after looking like a very promising young pitcher in 2012, this was very disappointing news. But for a guy who had gotten used to setbacks, Luebke didn’t let it get him down.

“I think if I’ve learned anything the last three years, it’s to always find that silver lining,” Luebke said. “I think with the amount of time I’ve had off, I try to look at it [as] just saving bullets now for November. There’s a lot of ways you can look at it. I’m just glad it’s feeling good and we’re back on track.”

Luebke said that his stuff is feeling good, and that the ball is coming out a little easier and better than before. He said that’s a good sign that the elbow is doing well, and now he needs to focus on knocking off some rust and pitching. As for his command, and the action of the pitches, Luebke likes what he’s seen, but hasn’t started showing great results yet.

“I gave up some runs the last two, but those were more mental mistakes than anything,” Luebke said. “That’s part of getting back into it. My body feels good, and I need to make sure I’m thinking out there.”

The roster decision that the Pirates have to make is a tough one. If all it takes is adding Luebke to the 40-man roster, then it’s a bit easier, as they don’t have to commit their final bullpen spot to a guy who might need some additional time to get back in the swing of pitching. But they don’t have many options to knock off the 40-man roster, and several options who could be added, like Cole Figueroa, Matt Joyce, and fellow lefty reliever Eric O’Flaherty. But with his history, and the stuff being back, it would be difficult to pass on Luebke and let him get away.

We’ll see how it plays out on Tuesday. As for Luebke and his preference, right now he’s just happy to finally be healthy and pitching well again, after so many setbacks along the way.

“I knew coming in, if I would pitch the way I knew I could pitch, things would take care of themselves,” Luebke said. “I’m just glad to be throwing. The business side is something we have to address sometimes, but whatever happens here, I’m just going to be happy I’m throwing again and feeling good.”

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88 COMMENTS

        • Because one play in a meaningless spring training game is all the proof we need. They should just enshrine him now. 29 teams didn’t bid high enough to get this guy. We’ll see over time how this pans out. I’m of the belief that more time is needed. You on the other hand, prefer knee jerk reactions to every single negative occurrence that happens. I don’t understand why you continue to be a fan. It must be miserable. I would have found something else by now.

          • Nope – not just one play – he has 3HRs and is batting .300 and playing good defense.

            I am a fan of the Pirates – not the management – I grew up with Joe Garagiolo as our catcher and the O’brien twins. And staying tuned to games through the 8th or 9th inning even when they were way behind to see if Ralph Kiner would get one more at bat ant a chance for RR to ask Aunt Minnie to open the window.

            I have rooted for the TEAM for over 60 years.

            I am critical of the BMTIBB because they have yet to deliver a flag of any kind and they continue to try and blow smoke up our butts.

  1. With those velocity issues, I put Holtzkom on the 60-day DL and open a spot on the 40 man roster.

  2. The current tracker shows 39 guys on the 40-man. Is someone missing?

    At what point can Kingham go on the 60-day DL?

    Aside from that, are they really scared of losing Florimon & Goebbert?

    Re: Florimon, he cleared waivers in August, and I don’t see what he’s really done to change things since then. But even if he gets claimed, he’s redundant anyway, they have Ngoepe, who by reports has a glove that’s ready for MLB. And if somehow none of Mercer, Kang, Rodriguez, Harrison, or Ngoepe are available to play short, they can call up Hanson or Frazier. Heck, they could probably trade cash to whoever claims Florimon and get him back then. Seems silly to spend a spot on someone so far down on the depth chart, and so utterly replaceable.

    Re: Goebbert, back in November John wrote about Goebbert: “The decision to add him to the 40-man roster seems like an odd one, especially since he was a minor league free agent.” Has much changed since then? And again, there are so many people ahead of him on the depth chart, it would take a total disaster for him to play at all. After the main 3, they have Harrison, Morse, Freese, Figueroa, Rodriguez just on the big league team. Frazier also played the OF, and I can’t remember but maybe Moroff did too. In the event that SEVEN OF GET INJURED and they are somehow still in the race, there’s still Ramirez and Garcia at AAA who could fill a spot in a pinch.

    Lastly, John Holdzkom has pretty much stopped showing any of the ability that made him good. Either he’s injured or he’s just not good any more. If the former and they find out what it is, he could go on the 60-day. If the latter, then he probably won’t get claimed either. Even if he does, maybe it’s time to let that story end and start again with someone else. The point is, they don’t have to hang onto him just because he was a great story in 2014.

    • Yeah can we get a comparison of the two pitchers and who’d you think would be a better fit for the opening day roster?

    • He hasn’t been anything like his good years with the Braves in camp. Maybe they see something they can fix, but his spring work hasn’t been anything to write home about, and neither has Trey Haley’s.

  3. Whatever the rules say, Luebke is probably better off starting the season getting hitters out in Indianapolis for a spell. He’s so far removed from competition. He needs some game experience.

    • I agree. If his pitching up to the claims, I think he’d be best served in AAA. However, if the Pirates have to carry him or lose him and he’s throwing this well, I think he can be stashed in BP.

      Again, this is all prefaced on Heyman’s claims…I haven’t read enough elsewhere to know if this is legit or hype.

      • Well lets not jump too far with this.

        You likely wouldnt have said that, since you didnt, before one tweet suddenly reminded half the fans that he’s still on the team.

        He’s a lefty, and none of the options for last man in the pen have wowed anyone. Beyond that, no one has really earned much beyond “who did the least crappy”.

  4. Vogelsong had electric stuff tonight…now will NH do the right thing and cut him? My guess is he won’t. The Pirates may have had the worst off season of any other NL team. We’re a lot weaker today compared to last October.

    • Do you ever get tired of saying the same thing over and over and over and over?

      Its the same point said slightly different once per day. Congrats, its easy to get mad and act like the team is crap every March-April.

      Then they win 90 games and you complain about how they should have been good enough to win 95.

      Change the record this ones been broken for a few years.

      Edit: Which isnt to say you can find very valid complaints about parts of this offseason, but the constant all or nothing, black and white attitude has to be tiring on a team that isnt bad.

      • Hurdle was pretty critical of the performance in his post-game comments, which is a bit unusual for him. He can’t be pleased with the cards he has been dealt as starting pitchers.

  5. The current rotation is a total train wreck…with Locke and Vogelsong in it…along with Niese…..

    • Locke is a good first half pitcher – a past all star – and you bashers just don’t seem to understand NOBODY trots out a 3+ WAR pitcher in the 4/5 slot….

      Voglesong was a STUPID signing – made no seanse at the time.

      And if the purse strings had not been so tight the rotation going into this season COULD HAVE BEEN – Cole, Liriano, Volguez, Happ, Locke…

      With a payroll not much different than the current one…

    • Too far BFSMD. You’re taking Cole Liriano and tossing total train wreck on it? No my friend and also lets wait to see if we get some value out of those guys for almost no cost compared to ave SP $/start in the league.

    • I think Figeroa will be added to take Florimon’s spot.

      A Hughes DL stint is a possibility, as well, at least in the short term.

      • Cole getting the shot over Florimon wouldn’t be a shocker. I mean, really, how much could they lose? 40 ABs and no hits instead of 40 ABs and three meaningless singles?

        The team seems married to him, but I kinda think Pedro is the kind of guy who every other team would pass on. Sort of like the way the Pirates always wanted to keep Wehner around.

        • Thing is, they can waive Florimon and he’ll probably clear waivers and they’ll get to keep him anyway. If not, they do have another glove first SS in Ngoepe. No reason to keep Florimon, despite his almost-really-cool last name.

          • He would NOT clear waivers. He’s a cheap guaranteed top class fielder with speed. He is better than a lot of 25th men… And teams can stash him until the 8th inning when they want a replacement to field, or increase their depth.

          • Not sure if Florimon would clear waivers. We know that the Yankees as well as the Blue Jays were in on Rubin Tejada for utility/defensive reasons. Cole or Florimon might fit that need for them.

      • Boot Scahill from the 40.

        29 year old righty relief pitcher with decent but not great stuff. Far from something you fear replacing.

    • Goebbert is still on the 40 man….come on, he’s a AAAA player at best…drop him….if someone signs, consider yourself lucky

        • Correct…but he kept him on the 40 over Biddle which was stupid…so he could very well make the mistake again.

          • Bah, not overly worried about Biddle. He was fringy when the Pirates grabbed him, he was the same when they cut him loose. Best case, he’s ready to put his toe in the ML waters in 2018…and that’s if he can overcome the 5 BB/9.

            It took a team like the Braves…one of the worst in baseball…to be able to stash him on their roster.

            • And you would keep a 28 year old career minor leaguer who plays first base over a 24 year old former first round pick at top prospect? If so, why?

              • Because he has no chance to help us this year. We’re maybe 2-3 injuries away from needing Goebbert to help in some way.

                • If we need Goebbert to play first base, that means the season is over…because there are 4 or 5 guys ahead of him.

                    • If Goebbert ever sees the field in Pittsburgh, that will be a clear indication that the season is not going well…

                    • You’d think that would be the case, until you realize that this is the same team that gave Travis Snider nearly three years of employment, all but two months of which were very Jake Goebbertian, not to mention more than a handful of at bats to Alex Presley, Felix Pie, Travis Ishikawa, Corey Hart, Andrew Lambo, Gaby Sanchez (2014 vintage), Ike Davis, Jaff Decker, etc etc and STILL made three straight playoff appearances. And that’s not even counting the futility infielders.

                      If Goebbert plays in Pittsburgh, it would indicate at least two misfortunes, but the team has sustained a lot worse than that and the lights stayed on.

              • Danny Moskos was drafted in the first round. I don’t take the draft position too seriously.

                Biddle had his issues…it’s not as if he lit up the minors and fell into the Pirates lap. He pretty much flamed out and a team as bad as the Phillies didn’t think he was good enough to keep.

                I look at him and I think of another former first rounder the Pirates grabbed…who wasn’t injured…Tim Alderson.

                • You just don’t get the point….Biddle had the potential to pay future dividends, even if the odds are not good. Goebbert has near zero chance of being anything…so given the choice, why would you keep the career minor league first baseman? It makes zero sense…

                  • No, I get the point. There is a minute upside to Biddle. It’s small, slight, tiny…infinitesimal.

                    Of course, there’s nothing he’s done in the minors to justify the belief that it will happen. The last two seasons he’s put up an ERA around 5.00 in AA and AAA with 5 BB/9…now he’s out for a season with TJS.

                    Really, aside from the fact he was taken in the first round 6 years ago, there’s nothing special about the guy. Honestly, if he put up the same minor league numbers and had been drafted in the 10th round, no one would care about this guy.

                  • Moskos was rated by BA as the 9th best player in the draft. Maybe the Pirates were the only team … though I doubt that is even true but they definitely weren’t the only people.

                  • Ack! Newman still painful… Kills me when I see him rated as a top prospect in our system. Sooner we trade him the more we’ll have a chance to get actual value in the system before anyone sees just how over rated he is.

  6. Get rid of Vogelsong or Rodriguez to make room for Luebke. But the Pirates will hang on to those two, and allow a promising LH reliever walk..

    • And we will be thrilled we kept the all important Rob Scahill on the 40 because…..reasons.

      Of all the false equivalences this offseason, this one is a doozy.

        • Fair point, but at least with Holzkom i get why they’d kick the tires on keeping him. There is upside there, its just really risky.

          I dont really see the upside for Scahill. Never had useful periphs in the majors, not high quality “stuff”, righty, not young. He’s like Hughes lite (assuming he can keep that GB rate up).

          I like the guy as depth but im not crying over some team claiming him if we roster Luebke as a result. Fungible righty relief arms i can live with losing.

          • Agreed. Let’s not forget, Trey Haley is still holding down a spot. I mean, he did put up a 1.81 WHIP at AAA last season and only walked 21 in 21 innings, couple that with the 3 HRs in 6.2 innings this spring and I can see why he’s untouchable…

            🙂

            Point being, if Luebke really is impressing, there are quite a few guys the Pirates can shed to hold him.

            • You guys are good…if Luebke really is back, Hughes to the DL, and dropping from among Goebbert, Holdzkom, Scahill, Haley, and Florimon all seem better moves than losing him. Make room for Joyce and Figeroa too.

              • I actually dont think Hughes goes to the DL. Id go Joyce for Goebbert, Luebke for Scahill, Figs for Florimon.

                • There’s nothing about that that makes me say ‘yikes’.

                  I’m not high on Joyce…but…even if he absolutely stinks…what’s the difference between the worst him and the best Goebbert?

                  They’re all pretty much frozen yoghurt, you just want to get the one that tastes the least like kale 🙂

                  • I really only want Hughes on the DL if he is unable to throw for the entire first week.

                    Even if he were 95% for the first few days, you can live through that. He’s better than the alternative would be for that specific role, and the initial report seemed more day to day than “we’ll see where he’s at in a week”.

                    • I don’t know man…he has to be right to make that sinker work. Rib muscle and cartilage injuries don’t allow you to be right I’ll bet he can’t sneeze without pain.

                    • i think hughes has been off for awhile, his sinker isn’t biting at all. He probably could use a week to heal on the DL then a week in extended Spring training to get some more work. You don’t want him in the game the way he is pitching right now honestly

                    • Right, i want him to sit another 5 days and then go. Once healthy, he’s fine.

                      I dont see any value in DL for him in favor of a guy like Scahill though, unless Hughes is so hurt he needs to miss a full 15 days. If Hughes is really more day to day than longterm hurt, the depth options for that role suck. We dont have a great backup plan for the “put out the fire” role.

                      I trust the team doctors to determine how hurt he is at this point.

                    • I don’t want Hughes sitting for almost two weeks and then pitching in a major league game, i think you need to actually pitch and pitch well in front of people and we are out of time there unless you DL him.

                    • For a SP i would agree.

                      I see no value in a rehab stint for a relief pitcher. Get healthy, get your bullpen work in to get the command where you want it, and get on the mound. Considering Hughes isnt a 7th, 8th, or 9th inning go to man, just get healthy and put him on the roster.

                    • I disagree, he only appears in high leverage situations, with runners on, where we need a ground ball. I don’t see any cost in having him get his control correct against actual competition before putting him out there in a major league game.

                    • Well, the cost would be in the immense time it takes to replicate that exact scenario. Unless the have him in games against A ball kids, he’s sitting in AAA waiting for the 6th or 7th inning with runners on and less than 2 outs.

                      All while he’s fully capable of being healthy and able to work on his command in a side session or bullpen session. As a relief arm, i see inherently less need to see live action after missing 1-2 weeks since your entire game is already predicated on controlling your stuff void of the opposition talent level.

                    • We don’t need him to duplicate his setting in minor league games, we need to get his sinker sinking. I’m not worried about his issues in high leverage situations, I’m just saying I don’t want him in high leverage situations in a major league game until his stuff is right. And all spring, before his injury, his stuff was NOT right.

              • There are a few guys who can be ditched. Sure, it might sting a little if they catch on in a utility role somewhere and are doing well while the Pirates are carrying S-Rod…but it’s not like any of these guys are going to turn into the next Kershaw or Trout.

              • Add Vogelsong to that list…he has done nothing to have earned a spot on the 25 or 40 man.

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