Opening Day payroll: $46 million


CHICAGO — Using figures provided by The Associated Press, the total payroll for the Pirates’ 25-man active roster, plus five players who’ll begin the season on the disabled list, is $46.047 million. Last year, the AP pegged the Pirates’ Opening Day payroll at $34.943 million.

moneyTheir highest-paid players are Paul Maholm and Chris Snyder, who’ll each get $6.25 million. The two guys at the bottom are rookie Mike Crotta and Rule 5 pickup Josh Rodriguez who will each receive $414,000, the major league minimum.

The Pirates have 12 players who’ll earn at least $1 million. One of them is Pedro Alvarez, who gets $2.05 million — $500,000 in base pay, plus $1.55 million of his $6 million signing bonus, which is spread over four years.

»»» Of the other “zero-to-three” guys on the roster, the highest-paid is Evan Meek. The 2010 All-Star reliever will make $461,500, a raise of $48,000.

»»» Andrew McCutchen, who’s also a zero-to-three, will make $452,500 this season. That’s a $30,000 raise from last year and just $38,000 more than the major league minimum.

Over 262 career games, McCutchen has a .286 batting average, 28 homers, 110 RBI and 55 stolen bases. Just for giggles, let’s play “Who Gets the Bigger Paycheck?”

Matt Wieters or McCutchen? Answer: McCutchen, by a mere $250.

Gordon Beckham (234 games, .260, 23 HR, 112 RBI, 11 SB) or McCutchen? Answer: Beckham, who’ll make $485,000.

Jay Bruce (12th overall pick in 2005) or McCutchen (11th pick)? Answer: Bruce, who’ll pocket $2.79 million after signing a multi-year deal last offseason.

Cameron Maybin (10th pick in 2005) or McCutchen? Answer: McCutchen, by $23,400.

… Royals outfielder Mitch Maier (283 games, .256, 8 HR, 79 RBI, 12 SB) or McCutchen? Answer: Maier will earn $459,000 this year.

Nyjer Morgan or McCutchen? Answer: Nyjmo, who recently was traded to the Brewers, will make $471, 500.

Jason Heyward or McCutchen. Answer: A big rookie season landed Heyward $496,500 this year.

… Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus (293 games, .266, 6 HR, 75 RBI, 65 SB) or McCutchen? Answer: McCutchen will make $320 more.

Drew Stubbs (192 games, .258, 30 HR, 94 RBI, 40 SB) or McCutchen? McCutchen, by $2,500.

Fun facts: Only two players on the Red Sox’s active roster — Jed Lowrie ($450,000) and Felix Doubrant ($417,000) — make less than McCutchen this year. … The New York Yankees have seven players who’ll make a salary comparable to McCutchen’s. The one who’s closest is catcher Gustavo Molina ($455,000), who’s played in 23 games over three seasons and has a .122 career batting average.


Post-game…a question about questions


Manager Clint Hurdle said he still has money out on the question he’s been waiting to hear from a reporter all spring. That revelation stemmed from an inquiry as to what momentum Charlie Morton might be able to carry into the regular season after a strong spring training, if that helps with any guesses as to just what that question might be. I know I’m intrigued.

So what do you think it is?

For the record, another reporter threw out the guess that the question was about spring training record, and Hurdle said no, but that probably would have been second.

Anyway…here’s the answer Hurdle nonetheless gave on the Charlie Morton momentum question:

“He’s pitched well all spring. He’s done a good job all spring. Today he was just efficient. The sinker’s there, the breaking ball was there, the change-up was there at times. But he’s kept the ball down as well as anybody. Pitched to contact as well as anybody. The thing I’m probably most impressed with Charlie is the fact that even though it’s spring, you add the walks and you add the hits and it’s still less than the innings that he’s pitched this spring, which gets your attention.”

True enough. Morton pitched 24 innings this spring, allowed just 15 hits and gave up six walks.

Pirates are now en route to Chicago, where they’ll work out at Wrigley Field at 3 p.m. Central time tomorrow.


Pre-game: Leroux optioned to Triple-A; 25-man roster complete


The Pirates optioned right-hander Chris Leroux to Triple-A Indianapolis this afternoon, so barring some last-minute waiver claim or trade, right-hander Mike Crotta and left-hander Garrett Olson will be members of the Pirates’ bullpen for Opening Day.

The three were vying for two remaining spots in the bullpen, which already included Jose Veras, Chris Resop, Jeff Kartens, Joel Hanrahan and Evan Meek, all right-handers.

The Pirates now have 30 players left in major league camp, but that includes catcher Chris Snyder and pitchers Jose Ascanio and Scott Olsen, who are expected to go on the disabled list. It also includes Joe Beimel, a non-roster player who will throw more innings in extended spring training, and Brad Lincoln, who is expected to either go to extended spring training or Triple-A Indianapolis.

The move also means that James McDonald should be able to make his scheduled start on Tuesday in St. Louis instead of starting on the disabled list.

So, again, barring some last-minute trade or waiver claim, the 25-man roster is this:
Pitchers: Kevin Correia, Paul Maholm, Ross Ohlendorf, Charlie Morton, James McDonald, Jeff Karstens, Chris Resop, Jose Veras, Garrett Olson, Mike Crotta, Evan Meek, Joel Hanrahan.
Catchers: Ryan Doumit, Jason Jaramillo.
Infielders: Lyle Overbay, Neil Walker, Pedro Alvarez, Ronny Cedeno, Josh Rodriguez, Steve Pearce.
Outfielders: Jose Tabata, Andrew McCutchen, Matt Diaz, Garrett Jones, John Bowker.

Lineup for today’s final spring training game against the Phillies:
Tabata LF
Walker 2B
McCutchen CF
Overbay 1B
Diaz RF
Alvarez 3B
Jaramillo C
Cedeno SS
Morton P

And, finally, in a minor-league move, the Pirates traded infield prospect Jim Negrych to the Marlins for catcher Carlos Paulino.


Post-game: Hurdle on Ohlendorf


Ross Ohlendorf said he thought he threw the ball better and was moving in the right direction after his start tonight, despite taking the loss and numbers that looked just about as bad as his previous outings.

When told about his pitcher’s evaluation, manager Clint Hurdle said that’s good, because that’s what Ohlendorf’s been saying all spring.

“The gloves will come off his next start and we’ll see where he takes it,” Hurdle said with a smile.

But like Ohlendorf, Hurdle said he isn’t concerned about the right-hander. He’s seen guys go through springs without getting anybody out then start the season and roll right through it. But the manager also said Ohlendorf knows what he needs to work on.

“He does have to get the ball down, with more consistency. His breaking stuff has got to be sharper. There’ve been sequences, but he hasn’t been able to string together a consistent span of time. It’s been a little hit or miss and he’s been in situations where’s sprayed it. We didn’t help him a couple times on defense, which compounded it, and he didn’t help himself. I just keep encouraging him to trust his stuff and throw it lower.”

When Hurdle said they didn’t help Ohlendorf on defense, he was referring to a throwing error by Ryan Doumit trying to catch Jimmy Rollins stealing second base in the first inning and fielding errors by Neil Walker and Ronny Cedeno that resulted in three unearned runs for the Phillies.

On that topic, Hurdle said you never want to see errors.

“You can’t keep making them,” he said. “Doesn’t help the game. You play 27 outs, you’ve got a chance. You play 30 outs, things get ugly. We spiked some pitch counts for everybody out there. (Evan) Meek shouldn’t have had to throw 26 pitches in the eighth inning. Ohlendorf should have had less. The guys are aware of it. We’ve worked extremely hard. But at the end of the day, the ball to Cedeno ate him up. He was ready but it ate him up. The other ones, a throwing error and a fielding error. It’s never pretty when you make three. When the last column’s got three, it’s never good.”

— The game started more than 30 minutes late because of a parade of scouts walking the warning track before the game. It lasted 3:09, and it was 48 degrees at the start. By comparison, the temperature was 81 degrees at first pitch against the Twins the day before in Florida.


In-game: J-Rod, Snyder, Doumit


BRADENTON, Fla. — A few minutes ago, GM Neal Huntington indicated he has decided whether or not to keep Rule 5 pitck Josh Rodriguez. “We want to talk to the people involved first (before announcing it),” Huntington said. That could happen as soon as after today’s game.

»»» The final roster likely will not be set until Tuesday or Wednesday. “We’ve got a couple decisions to make,” Huntington said. “It’s a less-than-ideal (situation), but we’ve got some things in motion we need to work through.”

»»» Catcher Chris Snyder said his sore lower back has improved and he expects to be on the roster for Opening Day. “I could play today if I had to,” Snyder said. “I’ve been through way worse with my back in 2009.” Snyder, who had back surgery in 2009, has played in just one of the past 16 games. “If he’s not ready to catch back-to-back games, we’re either going to carry a third catcher as protection or we’re going to look at the (disabled list),” Huntington said.

»»» Left-hander Joe Beimel (elbow) threw 30 pitches off a mound and was pain-free. He is expected to rejoin the team sometime in April.

»»» Ryan Doumit did not play first base or right field this spring. He injured his oblique about the time when he was supposed to get some playing time in the outfield. “As we go forward, I would think he’s an option in right field,” Huntington said. “There may be a scenario where he ends up at first base late in a game. As we sit here today, if he makes he club it’s going to be in a catcher’s role.”

Huntington declined to comment when I asked if any teams had showed renewed interest in trading for Doumit.


Pregame: “Humbled” Pearce makes cut


BRADENTON, Fla. — Steve Pearce has been a feel-good story in spring training camp.

Remember his wild, rapid rise from A ball to the majors in 2007? All those homers? Back then, it seemed Pearce would be a fixture on the Opening Day roster, perhaps even the starting lineup. But, it never happened.

pearce“I’ve been humbled,” Pearce said. “In ’08, I really struggled. I tried to repeat that (previous) year. When things weren’t going my way, it was very frustrating. I’ve been humbled and it’s made me work a lot harder. Even though my numbers haven’t been as (good) as they were in ’07, I think I’ve developed as a baseball player. I feel like I’m a better hitter. I’ve learned how to drive the ball the other way. I’m taking pitches, walking and improving my on-base percentage.”

It looks like it’s paid off for Pearce, who’s the last man standing in what was a four-player battle for the backup corner infielder job. The Pirates haven’t yet made it official — there’s always a chance of a last-minute waiver claim or trade — but it seems Pearce has made the team.

If it indeed happens, this will be Pearce’s first Opening Day in the majors. He’s willing to be a bench player — for now, at least — if it means a major league job.

“For right now, if that’s where I’ve got to start, I’ll do it,” Pearce said. “Hopefully, the end of the year will bring more playing time. Or there’s always trades that can happen. I want to be ready, every single at-bat.”

I’ll have a bit more about Pearce’s journey the past four seasons in Monday’s Trib.

»»» Members of the Pirates’ 2010 Venezuelan Winter League team will receive their championship rings at McKechnie Field before today’s game against the Rays.

»»» The Pirates will break their 2009 spring training home attendance record (87,206). They need to draw 5,787 today to set the mark.

»»» Juuuuust in case right-hander James McDonald isn’t fully healed … righty Jeff Karstens is scheduled to pitch the first five innings tomorrow in the Grapefruit League finale against the Twins.

Lineups for this afternoon’s game:

Rays – 1. B.J. Upton cf, 2. Johnny Damon lf, 3. Evan Longoria 3b, 4. Kelly Shoppach c, 5. Ben Zobrist rf, 6. Sean Rodriguez 2b, 7. Dan Johnson 1b, 8. Elliot Johnson dh, 9. Reid Brignac ss. David Price, lhp

Pirates – 1. Jose Tabata lf, 2. Neil Walker 2b, 3. Andrew McCutchen, 4. Lyle Overbay 1b, 5. Matt Diaz rf, 6. Pedro Alvarez 3b, 7. Ryan Doumit c, 8. Ronny Cedeno ss, 9. Paul Maholm, lhp.


Postgame: Correia ready to go


TAMPA — Opening Day starter Kevin Correia said he feels ready for the season after turning in a solid performance today in a 4-2 loss against the Yankees. The right-hander worked six innings and allowed three runs on five hits, walked two and struck out five. He threw 92 pitches (59 strikes).

“That was definitely my best outing of the spring,” Correia said. “I felt strong the whole time. I gave up a two-run homer to a pretty good hitter (Alex Rodriguez), but besides that it was pretty good.”

With two outs in the first inning, Correia just missed with a 3-2 slider and walked Mark Teixeira. A-Rod sent the next pitch over the center field wall. In the fourth, Nick Swisher singled, went to second when Jorge Posada walked and scored on Chris Dickerson’s single.

The Yankees acquired Dickerson a couple of days ago from Milwaukee. “Dickerson always hits me pretty well,” Correia said, smiling. “He got two more hits off me today.”

Three of Correia’s strikeouts came against some pretty good hitters — Swisher, Posada and Derek Jeter. The Yankees used most of what should be their regular lineup.

“You want your last spring training outing to be good,” Correia said. “You don’t want to go into the season thinking about how you didn’t pitch well the time before. I feel good about this one, all in all.”

Mike Crotta (left) and Chris Leroux get loose before the game.
Mike Crotta (left) and Chris Leroux get loose before the game.

»»» Righty Mike Crotta gave up his first earned run of the spring, snapping his string of 10 1/3 innings. Ramiro Pena singled, moved up on sacrifice bunt and scored on Austin Krum’s two-out single to right. Crotta got out of the inning by freezing Posada with a fastball for a strikeout. I believe Crotta has a good chance to grab that last bullpen job.

“He’s pitching out of the bullpen now and that’s not something he did last year,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “He’s a big guy (6-feet-6, 235 pounds), he repeats his delivery pretty well, he’s got good downhill plane. It’s hard sink, mid-90s mph sink and he’s added a complementary breaking ball. And he’s pounded the strike zone. Those things are always going to work. We’ll see how he finishes it off, but he has done everything he could possibly do to build his confidence and let us know that maybe we should give him an opportunity, and possibly sooner than later.”

»»» Right-hander Jameson Taillon pitched today against the Yanks’ Class A team. He tossed three scoreless innings and gave up three hits.

»»» The Pirates have lost five games in a row. Hurdle was asked if it’s important to get a win or two in the final few days of spring training, if for no other reason than to generate some momentum for the regular season.

“We play every game to win,” Hurdle said. “But if we don’t, we don’t. When we start the season, we’re not going to have any. We just haven’t played complete games for the last 10-11 games. You’ve got to throw a complete package out there. I’ll be more concerned when we’re running our regular team out there. We’ve been trying to take a very good inventory of all our players this spring and challenging guys in different situations. Winning’s always the intent, but the focus will shift to a higher degree of that once the season starts.”


Pregame: Cutch 3rd, Snyder out, Pearce in

Andrew McCutchen signs autographs for Yankees fans this morning in the vistors' dugout at George M. (as in Money) Steinbrenner Field
Andrew McCutchen signs autographs for Yankees fans this morning in the vistors' dugout at George M. (as in Money) Steinbrenner Field

TAMPA — Get used to the lineup the Pirates are using today against the Yanks, ’cause you’ll be seeing a lot this season. Manager Clint Hurdle is eager to see how Andrew McCutchen responds in the No. 3 spot in the batting order.

“I want to see it play out in the season,” Hurdle said. “There are some things in spring training, I’ve watched enough of them, that never translate. I’ve watched guys hit, then not hit. I’ve watched guys pitch, then not pitch. And I’ve seen the opposite of it. I want to see it in the season, when we’re doing things that count and when at-bats have more importance.”

When asked about hitting third, McCutchen shrugged.

“Yeah, sure. I embrace it,” McCutchen said. “There’s really no difference. The only thing that changes is the situation; my approach doesn’t change. I’ll have more of an opportunity to drive in runs, of course. That’s all that changes.”

»»» Catcher Chris Snyder was scratched from the lineup due to a cranky lower back. Snyder missed two weeks due to the injury, then caught Thursday night against the Orioles. Yesterday, he was sore again.

There’s no word from the Pirates about the severity of this injury. Originally, it seemed like no big deal, but then it lingered and flared up again. In 2009, Snyder missed three months to a back injury and had surgery after the season.

“Maybe I did a little too much, too soon,” Snyder said. “We’re going to have to see (about the severity), come next week. I couldn’t tell you right now.”

Time’s running out on spring training. After today, the Pirates play two games in Florida and two in Philly.

“It could have an impact on our catching situation,” Hurdle said. “We need to re-evaluate and revisit what the issues are. For it to happen again after just catching a night game … we’ll see. It definitely could jeopardize what we do with the roster and who goes with us.”

The injury could force Snyder onto the DL, or at least nudge the Pirates toward breaking camp with three catchers. If Jason Jaramillo (who’s catching today in Snyder’s place) makes the club, there likely will not be room for outfielder John Bowker, who’s out of minor league options.

»»» This morning, four players — lefty Brian Burres, infielder Andy Marte, catcher Dusty Brown and utilityman Corey Wimberly — were reassigned to minor league camp. Marte’s departure practically clinches a roster spot for Steve Pearce.

Lineups for this afternoon’s game:

Pirates – 1. Jose Tabata lf, 2. Neil Walker 2b, 3. Andrew McCutchen, 4. Lyle Overbay 1b, 5. Pedro Alvarez 3b, 6. Garrett Jones rf, 7. Ronny Cedeno ss, 8. Jason Jaramillo c, 9. Kevin Correia, rhp.

Yankees – 1. Brett Gardner cf, 2. Derek Jeter ss, 3. Mark Teixeira 1b, 4. Alex Rodriguez 3b, 5. Nick Swisher rf, 6. Jorge Posada dh, 7. Chris Dickerson lf, 8. Eduardo Nunez 2b, 9. Austin Romine c. Manny Bauelos, lhp.


Postgame: Morton’s progress


PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — Charlie Morton today had his first ho-hum outing of the spring, allowing five runs in five innings in an 8-5 loss against the Rays. The right-hander yielded five hits, walked three, hit two and struck out two.

“Walks and hit batters,” Morton said with a frown.

Morton gave up two game-tying runs in the fifth inning. He made a bad decision to try for an out at third on a bunt, putting runners on the corners and none out.

“There was a call for three (third base),” Morton said. “I can’t see the play. But, really, I should know the situation and know it’s going to take a heck of a play to make that and should have just gotten the out (at first base).”

With the bases loaded, he hit Evan Longoria with a first-pitch curveball. It was a dumb mistake, easily avoidable and it especially irked Morton.

“I’ve demonstrated I can throw a curveball and not hit the guy,” Morton said. “If I make the pitch there, we’re not talking about it.”

Manny Ramirez drew a full-count walk, though the last two balls were close to the zone. Morton then got out of the jam with a shallow fly ball, a force out and a fly out.

“What’s troubling about today is I kept missing with my sinker in and wasn’t making adjustments,” Morton said. “I just couldn’t get a good feel for it. Instead of concentrating between the knees, trying to get it down there over the plate, I was trying to pick with it in, trying to get him to ground out to third.”

Morton came to camp without a guaranteed job in the rotation. Today was his least effective outing, but it’s also the kind of game that a year ago would have blown up into a two-inning, 10-run fiasco. So, progress?

“I’m really excited about the adjustments we made here in spring training,” Morton said. “I can see the hitters are taking different swings off me than they were last year — way different. It’s not even close. They’re (taking) later swings. They’re swinging through fastballs, belt-high. It didn’t happen last year. I’d make decent pitches last year and get hammered to the wall. Even today, it felt like I was behind in every count, but I didn’t get lit up. My command wasn’t sharp. But I have no questions in my mind about my effectiveness when I’m down in the zone. That’s a huge step forward for me.”

»»» Actor/director Robert Redford will throw out the ceremonial first pitch at Pirates-Cubs game Opening Day at Wrigley Field. Redford has no ties to either team, but he did portray Roy Hobbs, a fictitious Brooklyn Knights slugger who hit a game-winning homer off Pittsburgh in the movie, “The Natural.”

»»» The Cubs will wear a patch this season in honor of Ron Santo, who died in December. In August, the team also will dedicate a statue to Santo outside Wrigley. The Pirates have still not announced how they plan to honor former manager Chuck Tanner, who died in February.

»»» Right-hander James McDonald (side injury) will pitch Saturday in Tampa against the Yankees’ Triple-A team.

»»» Righty Jose Ascanio threw 24 pitches today in one inning of work in a minor league game.


Pregame: Beimel out until April


PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — Five players were sent out of major league camp this morning, but the big news was that lefty reliever Joe Beimel will not open the regular season with the Bucs.

Beimel battled injuries to his forearm and elbow for much of camp. He says he 100 percent healthy now, but needs more time to get into game shape.

“I started looking at the calendar and realized it was going to be pretty hard to do,” Beimel said. “I’m not going to go out there if all my stuff isn’t working. I don’t want to have to rush to get ready for a date that doesn’t really mean anything. It is Opening Day, but I’m looking to be healthy for the entire season. I think this will work out to be best for myself and for the team.”

Beimel will throw a bullpen session Sunday. After that, the team must determine whether he needs to throw another round or two of batting practice, or if he’s good to pitch in a game. Then, it’s a matter of how many games will it take before he’s ready to go – the focus is the number of outings, not so much the level of competition.

“He might be ready by the time the minor league season begins (the second week of April),” GM Neal Huntington said. “If not, then we decide to either send him to Indy or to Altoona or keep him here in Bradenton (for extended spring). It will be a day-by-day process.”

»»» Pitchers Sean Gallagher and Tyler Yates, catcher Wyatt Toregas and infielder Josh Fields were re-assigned to minor league camp. Right-hander Daniel McCutchen was optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis. All five will end up at Indy. The Pirates have 36 players left in camp.

Fields, 28, likely won’t get much playing time at Indy, so might ask the Pirates to release him. “I have an option, so I can go either way,” Fields told me. “I’ll think about it. We’ll see.”

Yates, 33, had elbow surgery in July 2009, but his health has not been an issue this spring. “The best thing we can talk about with Tyler Yates is we’re talking about command, we’re talking about stuff,” Huntington said. “It’s not, ‘How does the elbow feel? Is the velocity coming back?’ He hit 98 in his last outing (Thursday against the Astros). Unfortunately for Tyler, it was up. He recognizes that. Our focus is to get him to Triple-A and get him as many innings as we can and make an evaluation as to where he’s going and can he come and help us.”

»»» With Beimel out, there’s an opening in the bullpen. The only stone-cold locks are closer Joel Hanrahan, setup man Evan Meek and swingman Jeff Karstens. Jose Veras, Chris Resop and Garrett Olson also are all-but-certainly in. That leaves three pitchers — rookie Mike Crotta, lefty Brian Burres and righty Chris Leroux — vying for one spot.

»»» Huntington was asked if it’s possible both Andy Marte and Steve Pearce make the team: “Most likely, one or the other.”

»»» Huntington said there should be a decision within the next couple of days about whether the Pirates will carry two or three catchers. “It will come down to … how do we best give Clint weapons to win games off the bench. How do we give our club the opportunity to rest players appropriately. We’re working toward that decision and we’ll make it sooner than later. But we won’t be forced into that decision.”

Lineups for this afternoon’s game:

Pirates – 1. Pedro Ciriaco cf, 2. Josh Rodriguez ss, 3. John Bowker lf, 4. Ryan Doumit c, 5. Steve Pearce 3b, 6. Matt Diaz rf, 9. Charlie Morton, rhp.

Rays – 1. Ben Zobrist rf, 2. Elliot Johnson 2b, 3. Evan Longoria 3b, 4. Manny Ramirez dh, 5 Dan Johnson 1b, 6. B.J. Upton cf, 7. Kelly Shoppach c, 8. Reid Brignac ss, 9. Sam Fuld lf. Jeff Niemann, rhp