The Pittsburgh Pirates have cut three more players from Major League camp, trimming the active Spring Training roster to 53 players. On Friday morning, they optioned pitcher Dovydas Neverauskas to Indianapolis and reassigned catcher Christian Kelley and outfielder Barrett Barnes to minor league camp. The Pirates sent down six players earlier in the week, including Nick Kingham, Clay Holmes and Kevin Newman.
Of the three players cut today, only Neverauskas had an outside chance of making the Opening Day roster and he would have needed some combination of injuries or trades for a spot to open up. He finished last year in Indianapolis, and along with Edgar Santana, he’s at the top of the Pirates prospect list for relief pitchers. Neverauskas allowed two runs over four innings in five appearances this spring. The 24-year-old from Lithuania had a 3.60 ERA, 1.57 WHIP and 24 strikeouts in 30 innings over 25 appearances with Indianapolis last season. Combining a high-90’s fastball with two versions of a slider that have different breaks and velocities, Neverauskas put up a strong first half at Altoona last year. That led to him to being placed on the 40-man roster this off-season, keeping him from reaching minor league free agency.
Barnes also had a breakout season in Altoona, though unlike Neverauskas, his was in the second half of the season. He was named our Player of the Month in both July and August, becoming the first player to win in back-to-back months. Barnes wasn’t on the 40-man roster, though the Pirates will have an interesting decision to make with him this season. He should either begin the year at Altoona and move up once a spot opens, or he could start in Indianapolis. One recent monkey wrench in his plans could be a hamstring injury he suffered Thursday night. Barnes ran out an infield single against the Red Sox during the second inning and grabbed the back on his right leg after crossing the bag. After a slight delay, he walked off the field with the trainer. The Pirates said that he is day-to-day, but they will likely be very cautious with Barnes, because he has a history of hamstring injuries.
Christian Kelley was a non-roster invite, brought along to help with the catching duties. He is scheduled to play with Bradenton this year. He emerged last year as a prospect, showing solid defense behind the plate and improvements at the plate, driving the ball better than he did in his rookie season with Morgantown in 2015. While Major League camp is a great experience for a young catcher, Kelley was seeing very limited playing time (six games and seven plate appearances), so he needs to get back to minor league camp to get some at-bats against live pitching.