BRADENTON, Fla. – David Freese arrived at Pirate City today, a few days ahead of the report date for position players. He also brought the fire, giving some brutally honest comments about the Pirates over the last two years. For a recap of those comments, check out Alan Saunders’ article from earlier.
Clint Hurdle said he wasn’t going to comment on what Freese said, but did comment on Freese and his perception.
“David and I had conversations at the end of the season, and I love his perception,” Hurdle said. “I love all the players’ perceptions. I think one of the best lessons I’ve learned over time is you can’t argue with somebody about their perception, and I think when you accumulate all the information from a lot of different people — especially guys with experience and David would fall into that category — you listen, you find truth and then you talk about opportunities to improve, areas to improve, methods to improve.”
Hurdle said that he’s not going to argue with the way Freese sees things, saying that he sees them differently, and that the goal was sharing thoughts and ideas and coming up with a plan for everyone. He also noted that he’s not in the clubhouse everyday, after removing himself from the mix after his first two years. So he “honors what the men have to say.”
Since the trades of Gerrit Cole and Andrew McCutchen, the Pirates have seen two of their veteran players speaking out, with Josh Harrison saying he wanted to be traded if the Pirates weren’t going to compete, and now Freese making his comments. Some of Freese’s comments today brought up the topic of leadership on the team, which Hurdle addressed by first bringing up the two players who have spoken out about the team.
“Freese is as good as I’ve come across in all of Major League Baseball in preparing to play a game,” Hurdle said. “Josh Harrison is as good as anybody I’ve ever come across. He’s a CEO, but it’s a Chief Energy Officer. [Jameson] Taillon is a guy who is quiet, not a lot of words, however, he’s very cerebral. Nova is more comfortable in sharing now than he’s ever been. Rodriguez, there’s a man that everybody in that clubhouse respects, based on preparation, effort, intensity, edge, overcoming adversity. There’s a handful of guys who can provide leadership.”
Ultimately, Hurdle said everyone was on the same page when it comes to wanting to win.
“David and I want the same thing. Josh and I want the same thing,” Hurdle said. “How we navigate it together is always fun and can be challenging in sports.”
Expect Brault and Glasnow in the Bullpen
I made some changes to the Spring Training tracker, moving Joe Musgrove to the rotation and Michael Feliz to the bullpen, rather than having them competing for roster spots. This is based on Clint Hurdle’s comments the last few days, including directly saying that Musgrove is in the rotation.
I might have to take the same approach with Steven Brault and Tyler Glasnow for the bullpen. Hurdle was discussing all of the options in the bullpen today, and was asked about Brault for the lefty spot. He said that Brault would be an option. He also said that Glasnow would be an option for the overall bullpen, which he’s said almost every day.
Then he delivered the following comment that was very telling:
“It’s tough to look at those guys and say ‘One more year of Triple-A would be good for you,'” Hurdle said.
The Pirates have long carried an approach in development where they want guys either moving up, or moving out. They will challenge guys by pushing them to Double-A after spending multiple years in Bradenton, rather than giving a third year in Bradenton. It seems they’re set on doing the same thing with Brault and Glasnow, getting them ready for the MLB bullpen, rather than sending them back to Indianapolis.
Where Would That Leave the Bullpen?
If that happened, it would leave Kyle Crick, A.J. Schugel, Jordan Milbrath, Josh Smoker, Jack Leathersich, Edgar Santana, and Dovydas Neverauskas as the prime contenders for the final two bullpen spots. And Hurdle’s comments on Crick make it sound like he’s got an inside track for one of the spots, saying that Crick was trending up last season after some previous struggles that declined his stock.
“I think we’ve got a guy who is in a really good place,” Hurdle said. “He’s experienced a lot. He’s probably got the most confidence he’s ever had. Seems to have found his niche with his pitches. We like him, and we’re looking forward to giving him the ball so we can put our eyes on him now.”
I wouldn’t say that Crick is a guarantee to make the roster, nor would I say Brault and Glasnow are guarantees. But if I’m making a guess right now on the bullpen, I’d have those three in the mix, along with Feliz, George Kontos, and one spot remaining. That last spot could go to Jordan Milbrath if he looks like a guy that needs additional views. Otherwise, it’s really up in the air, with no one having the inside track right now.
More Players Reporting
Other than David Freese, there were more position players who reported today. Austin Meadows arrived at camp. Starling Marte participated in his first workouts. They join other early arrivals like Jordy Mercer, Max Moroff, Cole Tucker, Kevin Newman, and Jordan Luplow. Alan Saunders posted some videos of those players hitting over on our Instagram page.