Neal Huntington Discusses the Final Roster Decisions as the Pirates’ 25-Man Appears to Take Shape

BRADENTON, Fla. — With two days remaining before the end of Spring Training, the Pirates have a 25-man roster.

The Pirates optioned infielder Jose Osuna and right-handed relief pitcher Kyle Crick to Triple-A Indianapolis and reassigned left-handed reliever Kevin Siegrist on Monday. Pirates’ General Manager Neal Huntington also confirmed that non-roster catcher Ryan Lavarnway will not make the team. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that right-handed reliever and Rule 5 pick Jordan Milbrath is on waivers.

Assuming that non-roster reliever Bo Schultz, who is still working back into form from Tommy John surgery, starts the season on the minor-league disabled list, that means the Pirates have a 25-man roster in place.

OSUNA, BUT LATER

Outside of perhaps Francisco Cervelli, it’s been tough to find a player having a better Spring Training than Jose Osuna, but he’ll nonetheless find himself in an Indianapolis jersey to start 2018.

“We had a handful of hard decisions as we neared the end of camp,” Huntington said. “Jose was one, especially with what he did last year, basically the whole year with us except for a few short days early in the season. He’s a good man. He’s gotten better. He’s worked hard.”

The biggest issue for Osuna seemed to be the lack of a niche that made it easy to see him contributing. Josh Bell is going to dominate the reps at first base. He’d have been the third option as a hitter at third base behind Colin Moran and David Freese from an offensive perspective and his relative newness to the position mostly eliminated him from contention in being a defensive threat at the hot corner. That’s something the Pirates hope to change with some time in Indianapolis.

“We do have the opportunity now to get him some significant work at third base in Triple-A and see if we can speed up that development process,” Huntington said.

13 IT IS

The move to option Osuna solidified Huntington’s decision to start the season with 13 pitchers and 12 position players on the major-league roster. While the Pirates start the season playing under American League rules for three games in Detroit, look for 13 pitchers to be the norm at least for a little while.

“We’re going to go with an eight-man bullpen and just feel that it’s the best way to get us off to a good start from a pitching standpoint,” Huntington said. “The three games in Detroit with the DH help, but especially with the 10 days that a player has to be down on option, then we’ll be at an eight-man bullpen longer than that.”

VET LEFTY TO INDY

Siegrist will have the option to see if he can land on another team’s 25-man roster before he reports to Indianapolis.

“It’s an upward mobility clause,” Huntington said. “Like Clayton Richard a handful of years ago. You send out an e-mail and every other club has an opportunity by the end of that window of time, to come in and say ‘We’ll put him on our major-league roster.’ In Clayton’s case and in Kevin’s case, we have the ability to say we’ll do that instead or we can, as we did in Clayton’s case, we can choose to let him go because we felt what we had was the right group to keep at that point in time.”

As far as the reason he was cut, Huntington noted that Siegrist’s velocity has been down all spring and on Sunday, Searage said he lacked the kind of control they’d seen in the past.

“As we reviewed our notes from spring training, the last five-plus years, when Kevin’s had his best major league seasons, there has been more there in spring training,” Huntington said. “We don’t want this to be just about velocity. But he’s had more velocity when he’s had his better seasons. There has been a trend downward in the average velocity and that has continued this spring. … Our thought in this process is to let him continue to build arm strength and get back to that guy who was effective in 2016 and before that.”

ODD MAN OUT

Huntington said that after the decision was made that Siegrist needed more time, it came down to three players for four spots in Crick, Dovydas Neverauskas, Edgar Santana and Josh Smoker. Huntington said it was a tough decision and that he feels Crick is ready to make an impact in the majors.

“Kyle had a really good second half of the season in San Francisco last year,” Huntington said. “It was more that just we felt this was the right group to take north. We’re going to need Kyle at some point.”

Huntington added that he didn’t want the fact that Crick was part of the return for Andrew McCutchen factor into his decision-making process.

“We took the players that we felt put us in the best position to win games early in the season,” Huntington said. “Kyle is going to help us and our belief is still that he’s going to be a really good major-league reliever for years to come. Bryan Reynolds is a young prospect that we think the world of. This decision, was about a longer-term view with the attempt to keep our short-term in a similar area.”

MUSGROVE MAKES IT

The Pirates could have put Joe Musgrove on the disabled list to start the season, but Huntington confirmed that Musgrove will go north on the 25-man roster in order to pitch in the Pirates’ third series against the Cincinnati Reds. Musgrove is line up to pitch the first game of that series on April 5.

MAKING ROOM?

The Pirates waiving Milbrath, along with Jack Leathersich, and Bryce Brentz, who was placed on waivers on Sunday, will open three spots on the 40-man roster. The Pirates could use that flexibility to add some pieces to the roster as teams try to get players through waivers this week.

“That is a possibility,” Huntington said. “Sometimes guys that are out of options, their clubs try to sneak them through. It’s actually one of the better times to sneak a guy through that’s out of options. We’ve got a little bit of flexibility. At the same time, we like this group. We’ll take something that we feel makes us a better 25-man roster or makes us better organizationally to do that, but having a roster spot available makes it easier to claim a guy on waivers.”

So with that being said, the Pirates have a 25-man roster. But it might not be the 25 men on Opening Day in Detroit on Thursday. Stay tuned.

Analysis

  • Some roster thoughts…
    1. Marté looks out of place in Center. He’s a left fielder and maybe Dickerson would play center?
    2. Osuna will be up as soon as Freese moves on – see Stewey/Díaz.
    3. I like Mercer but I thought Newman looked better this spring.
    4. Moran looks solid and reminds me a bit of Wade Boggs. Expect a .290+ BA and lots of doubles and about 10 long balls. I’ll take that.
    5. I’ll take Glasnow over every other bullpen arm not named Rivero.
    6. I think Polanco will in fact break out this year however that will not be a huge success. .280 with 30 long balls.
    7. Cervelli will not hit 20 hrs, but he does look great this spring.
    8. Dickerson may be the best player on this team not named Bell.
    9. SP group underwhelmed this spring. I bet they underwhelm this year by being generally average and not being better than 4 ERA.
    10. SRod is one of my favorite guys on the team, and he’s going to play way more than he should this year. Frazier should get 50% of the ab’s that Sean will get. He’s by far the better player.

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