BRADENTON, Fla. – Clint Hurdle met with the media today after practice for about 20 minutes. There were a lot of questions about the trades of Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole, and how the Pirates will go on without them on the roster. Hurdle said the team would move forward, and that “It’s an opportunity for a new era of Pirates baseball.”
Hurdle also said that he doesn’t expect any backlash from Josh Harrison over the trades when Harrison reports to camp next week, and that the focus for the team is going to be on the opportunities in the outfield, rotation, and other Spring Training battles.
I’m not going to go into the breakdown of the trades, or the expectations for the team. Instead, let’s look at those position battles, and how they’re shaping up, based on what Hurdle said.
Hurdle said that the outfield battle for left field looked to be between Adam Frazier, Jordan Luplow, and Sean Rodriguez. He said that Daniel Nava could also work into the mix as a guy off the bench, although they’d find a way to get starts for anyone coming off the bench.
“Right now as we stand today, those would be the three top guys to look at, and maybe Nava finds his way to a corner position from time to time if he works his way onto the club,” Hurdle said.
When Nava was signed, there was talk that he could participate in a platoon. The interesting thing is that he struggled against lefties last year, which means that his best role in a platoon would theoretically be as the primary starter, and not the guy mostly coming off the bench. The Pirates could go with split playing time, rather than a platoon based on splits, which would accomplish what Hurdle is talking about.
Jose Osuna, looking slim this year, was taking grounders at third base today. Hurdle noted that Osuna played better as a starter last year, but there might not be many opportunities for him on this team, based on the comments.
“Osuna showed what he could do as a starter. He played better as a starter than he did as a pinch hitter,” Hurdle said. “You’re still talking about a big outfield. That’s not Jose’s strength.”
Hurdle said that Osuna could play in some smaller outfields on the road, much like he did last year when playing left field at Citizen’s Bank Park. However, most of his time will come at third base.
The problem here is that third base appears to be Colin Moran’s spot.
“We want to give him that opportunity to come in and take hold of it,” Hurdle said of Moran and third base. He also noted that they got some good information from Alex Cora in Houston from Pirates’ infield coach and Alex’s brother Joey Cora.
There’s also David Freese on the roster to play third base, so it’s unlikely that Osuna would get much time there, even if Moran doesn’t make every start.
The Pirates don’t see Osuna as an option for left field at PNC Park due to a lack of range, and he’s third on the depth chart for third base, as well as behind Josh Bell and likely David Freese at first base. Outside of any starts on the road in a smaller outfield, that doesn’t leave many opportunities for Osuna.
My guess is that he makes a good depth option out of Triple-A, but probably won’t fit on the team on Opening Day.
The Pirates were one of the worst teams in the majors last year in terms of power. Hurdle mentioned that some of this was due to the internal struggles and roster situations they had.
“That was a big handicap for us,” Hurdle said of the power. “You miss Marte for 80 [games], Kang never comes back, Cervelli’s out. There’s a lot of home runs or power that are absent from that equation.”
Hurdle also said that the team would look at increasing the power on the team, and looking at specific coaching methods for specific players. They’re also going to let Colin Moran share some tips from the changes he made last year in Houston.
“He’s going to have a conversation and share how he embraced it, how he went about it,” Hurdle said of the changes Moran made.
If anything, Moran should help boost the power, along with Marte returning, and the potential for more power from Polanco. But it wouldn’t hurt if someone else increases their power, and perhaps someone can pull a Moran this year in overhauling their swing.
Musgrove Might Be In and Glasnow Might Be Out
From the sound of things, Joe Musgrove might get the final remaining rotation spot, and Tyler Glasnow might go to the bullpen. I had that thought today when Musgrove was throwing with mostly starting pitchers, and Glasnow was throwing with mostly relief pitchers. But then Hurdle hinted at this when talking about Musgrove after practice.
“We’d like to plug him in the rotation and let him run with it,” Hurdle said. “We believe he’s got the tools to do it. … Off the bat, we envision him in that rotation moving into the season.”
If that happens, what will happen with Glasnow? Would the Pirates send him to Triple-A, or keep him in the majors as a reliever?
“It’s going to be an opportunity where he’s still going to get to pitch,” Hurdle said. “There’s so many intangibles in Spring Training. Tyler is going to have an opportunity to go and pitch, show us the consistency and ability to get outs in the Spring Training vacuum, whether it’s finding a way in the rotation somehow, some way, or whether it’s an opportunity to be a multiple inning reliever in the bullpen.”
My guess right now is that Musgrove joins the rotation and Glasnow starts in the bullpen at the beginning of the year, barring any injuries.