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Pittsburgh Pirates: Spring Training Information
[ April 5, 2009 at 1:26 PM ] [ Comments (2) ] [ Full Story ]  [ Filed under: Pirates | Top ]
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By Pat Lackey
Location: McKechnie Field - Bradenton, FL
Pitchers and Catchers Report: Feb 13th
First Game: Feb. 25th
Schedule

Starting lineup

1.) Nyjer Morgan, LF
2.) Freddy Sanchez, 2B
3.) Nate McLouth, CF
4.) Ryan Doumit, C
5.) Adam LaRoche, 1B
6.) Brandon Moss, RF
7.) Andy LaRoche, 3B
8.) Jack Wilson, SS

Rotation

1.) Paul Maholm
2.) Ian Snell
3.) Tom Gorzelanny
4.) Ross Ohlendorf
5.) Jeff Karstens

Bullpen

Long - Zach Duke
Situational - Donnie Veal, Sean Burnett, Craig Hansen
7th inning - Tyler Yates
8th inning - John Grabow
Closer - Matt Capps
In the mix: Phil Dumatrait (LHP), Evan Meek (RHP), Jesse Chavez (RHP), Denny Bautista (RHP), Romulo Sanchez (RHP)
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Key battles: The Pirates have said that every rotation spot will have to be earned this spring and only Paul Maholm is really assured of a spot in Pittsburgh. Ian Snell figures to be close behind Maholm after his strong finish to 2008, even though he was terrible until about August Beyond that, your guess is as good as mine. Tom Gorzelanny has lost 15 pounds and says his arm feels better after he struggled with elbow pain last year. If that's true, he'll probably make the rotation. The team seems high on Ross Ohlendorf, who was acquired from the Yankees in the Xavier Nady trade, but he's struggled in his few big league performances thus far. Likely the last spot will come down to a battle between Zach Duke, the most hittable pitcher in the National League over the last three years, and Jeff Karstens, who doesn't have great stuff but showed some good control in a short stint with the Pirates last year.

In the field, the biggest spring battle will likely be for the final outfield spot between Nyjer Morgan and Steve Pearce. Morgan has a ton of speed, but very little ability to get on base and even less power. He's also a surprisingly poor base runner for such a fast guy. Still, the team is making it sound like the left field job is his to lose, mostly because they just aren't impressed with Steve Pearce. Pearce hit for a ton of power across several minor league levels in 2007, but he's shown very little ability to hit anything but mistake pitches in the big leagues. I may be reading too much into things, but it seems like the Pirates aren't impressed with some aspect of his approach because they seem to almost be trying to send him a message by using Morgan over him.

Matt Capps, John Grabow, and Tyler Yates are all assured of spots in the bullpen, but beyond that most of the 'pen is up in the air. Sean Burnett, Craig Hansen, and Phil Dumatrait are flawed pitchers that are out of options and Donnie Veal is a Rule 5 pick that the Pirates' likely want to keep around. If the Pirates can only take three from that group, I'd expect them to send Dumatrait through waivers to AAA, hoping his injuries can keep him from being picked up. Of course, this all keeps Jesse Chavez and Evan Meek, who might both be better than Burnett, Dumatrait, Hansen, or Veal, in AAA.

What to expect: In the end, very little of this matters to the Pirates. They won't be very good this year with Nyjer Morgan or Steve Pearce in left field and neither one is vital to the team's long-term development. The same goes for the bullpen and even Karsten's and Duke. The one thing to really keep an eye on this spring is Andrew McCutchen. I didn't put him under key battles because I think he's headed to AAA to start the year no matter what, but McCutchen is the first blue chip prospect of the Pirates' with a real shot to make the majors in years. As hard as it is for Pirate fans to swallow, 2009 is going to be much like 2008 and the most important thing to keep an eye on right now are the young guys that could make the future different.

Pat covers the Pirates at Where Have You Gone Andy Van Slyke?.

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