PITTSBURGH – The Pittsburgh Pirates have finalized their Opening Day roster with a flurry of moves on Sunday morning.
As noted here last night, Cole Figueroa made the roster. The Pirates also announced earlier that Cory Luebke and Matt Joyce made the Opening Day roster, so to clear three roster spots, they designated Pedro Florimon, John Holdzkom and Jake Goebbert for assignment.
Jung-ho Kang, Jared Hughes and Elias Diaz were all placed on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 25.
Jason Rogers has been assigned to Indianapolis.
The final 25-man roster
Starting Pitchers: Gerrit Cole, Francisco Liriano, Juan Nicasio, Jon Niese, Jeff Locke
Bullpen: Mark Melancon, Tony Watson, Neftali Feliz, Arquimedes Caminero, Ryan Vogelsong, Kyle Lobstein, Cory Luebke
Catchers: Francisco Cervelli, Chris Stewart
Infielders: John Jaso, Michael Morse, Josh Harrison, Jordy Mercer, David Freese, Cole Figueroa, Sean Rodriguez
Outfielders: Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte, Gregory Polanco, Matt Joyce
UPDATE at 11:00 AM by Sean McCool
Clint Hurdle met with the media before today’s Opening Day game against the Cardinals, and he addressed a number of the roster moves made as the Pirates approach the beginning of the 2016 season.
The battle to be named the 25th man of the Opening Day roster came down to the likes of Cole Figueroa, Jason Rogers, and Pedro Florimon. As Figueroa tweeted last night, Hurdle and the staff chose his versatility over Rogers and Florimon.
“Cole adds more experience with versatility and his left-handed bat,” Hurdle said. “Pedro [Florimon] has been a good man for us. He’s been a good player. Actually, Florimon didn’t break with the club last year. He got called up when Mercer went down. This year, I think there’s more to the overall package from an offensive and defensive versatility standpoint with Cole.”
Florimon joins Jake Goebbert and John Holdzkom as players who were DFA’d this morning, and the hope is that they would accept assignments to Triple-A Indianapolis. Hurdle, however, doesn’t want to hold those players back if they would happen to get picked up by another Major League club.
“I’m not into hoarding them,” Hurdle said. “If guys get claimed, they get to go to another Major League club, and I’m all for it. If they don’t, and we have an opportunity to put them back in play here to create better depth, I’m all for that, as well. I just want the next best opportunity for them. If somebody has interest in them, and they are willing to make that move, that’s great.”
As for Figueroa, his immediate future is in Pittsburgh. He understood that his worth came from his ability to play multiple positions this spring and the fact that he is a left-handed bat.
“Obviously, I’m going to be coming off the bench,” Figueroa said. “I think it was my versatility – playing a lot of positions – and Clint said he’s going to play me pretty much everywhere I played in Spring Training. I may get a spot start here or there against a righty to give a guy a day off.”
Figueroa has yet to play outfield in the majors when he got some time up with Tampa Bay and the Yankees, however, he is ready for the challenge this season.
“I feel really good about [playing outfield],” Figueroa said. “It’s obviously a transition. Anytime you are trying to get comfortable with positions, and I think that’s the biggest thing for utility guys, you have to make sure you put in double the effort. It’s almost like a switch hitter. You’ve got to put more work in everyday, just so you feel that comfort level.”
As for Jason Rogers, whom the Pirates traded Keon Broxton and Trey Supak to get over the winter, Hurdle hopes he can go to Indianapolis and stayed prepared, as the Pirates will more than likely need him to contribute at some point this season.
“We gave him an extremely good sample size this spring,” Hurdle said on Rogers. “I like the man. I like the players. We encouraged him to go down and play. I think he developed some traction offensively towards the end. At third base, I thought he did some really good significant work there. That versatility is going to help him, as he’s a guy that we anticipate is going to help this club at some point during the season.”
There were no surprises about the players beginning the year on the disabled list, as Jung-ho Kang, Elias Diaz, and Jared Hughes were all put on the disabled list, retroactive to March 25th. Kang and Diaz will be rehabbing in Bradenton, but Jared Hughes made the trip to Indianapolis, and consequently to Pittsburgh, with the team.
I spoke with Hughes this morning, who has been out with a lat strain since his last Spring Training appearance. He said that “it won’t be long” until he is ready to get back into game action.
“I felt it my last outing in Spring, and I was real worried about it, but it started feeling better very quickly,” said Hughes. “It’s healing and progressing quickly.”
Hughes made note that it has been feeling good while throwing, and that you can expect him back much sooner than later.
Clint Hurdle gave a very nice synopsis of the Opening Day 25-man roster in his media session before the game.
“I think this winter, we went to look for men that could come in and add different skill sets to our bullpen and to our rotation,” said Hurdle. “The addition of Niese, a left-handed pitcher who has had some success in our park as a ground ball guy plays out well. We added two left-handers in the bullpen – in addition to Watson – in Luebke and Lobstein, and both are multi-inning guys. In Kyle [Lobstein]’s opportunity, he’s got a good arm. We feel like he’s finding his way back, and he should be a nice addition. Vogelsong is another multi-inning reliever out there.
“The addition of Nicasio – his spring was not one we could overlook. We wanted to leverage an opportunity with the young man pitching as well as I’ve ever seen him pitch, and as well as he’s ever seen himself pitch, I believe. He has a downhill angle with some sink and spin to the ball.
“I think we’ve added some depth and some creativity to the bench with the additions of Joyce and Figueroa. Of course, Morse is back to help us there. Rodriguez is a go-anywhere guy. I just feel like at the end of spring, we were able to pull the best 25 to form a team that we could have hoped to, and we’re ready to go.”