Before Friday’s deadline, the Pirates must decide which of their 46 eligible minor leaguers to put on the 40-man roster in order to protect them from the Rule 5 draft. As of Thursday morning, there were five open spots on the roster. Keep in mind that GM Neal Huntington surely wants to head to the MLB winter meetings next month with an open roster spot or two to fill via the Rule 5 draft or a free-agent signing. More spots could be cleared by cutting arbitration-eligible players who would be non-tendered anyway — Jose Veras, Ross Ohlendorf, Brandon Wood and Garrett Jones are possibilities.
I consider these five prospects to be practically no-brainers for the 40-man: Starling Marte, Jordy Mercer, Rudy Owens, Justin Wilson and Matt Hague. A good argument could be made for protecting Aaron Pribanic, too. Tim Wood, Mike Crotta and Michael Colla also are candidates, but no team can afford to waste precious roster spots on minor league relievers
Two notable players who I expect won’t be protected are Andrew Lambo and Tim Alderson. A year ago, management hoped Lambo would play himself in position for a spot on the MLB roster in 2012; instead, he was demoted to Double-A last summer. Alderson, who was acquired for Freddy Sanchez, is an even more spectacular bust. Quincy Lattimore, Diego Moreno, Cole White, Hunter Strickland, Michael Dubee and Duke Welker also will be passed over.
»»» Yesterday was an off day for me, so I didn’t have a chance to blog about the game times and promotions in the 2012 season. Two pretty good bands, Lifehouse and Daughtry, will play postgame concerts and there is the usual slate of fireworks nights and giveaways — all of which is good news for folks who aren’t drawn to PNC Park to, you know, actually watch baseball.
More intriguing (at least to me) is the handful of unusual starting times. Five games — June 23 vs. the Tigers, July 7 vs. the Giants, Aug. 9 vs. the D’backs, Aug. 16 vs. the Dodgers and Sept. 20 vs. the Brewers — will start at 4:05 p.m., a change that some folks in the front office have lobbied for in the past couple of years.
The home games May 26 vs. the Cubs and June 9 vs. the Royals will begin at 7:15 and will be televised by Fox Sports. This past season, the national networks scrambled to get the Pirates on their schedules after the team got off to a hot start. By the time the Bucs were on national TV, they had fallen out of the race. Next year, Fox is hedging its bets with two early-season appearances.