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Day 3: GM speaks

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NASHVILLE — On the third day of the winter meetings, the Pirates gave to me (and you, too) … a trade for a minor league lefty. A rather busy Day 3 at the Gaylord Death Star Opryland — lunch (smoked pork chop, which was yummy) with Clint Hurdle, followed by a Q&A session; a media scrum with superagent Scott Boras; and another late-afternoon session with Neal Huntington. The first two events, you’ve already read about in this blog. Here are some highlights of the GM’s chat:

»»» How likely are the Pirates to make a Rule 5 draft pick? “Our expectation is, the guys we like will be off the board before we pick. There are some upside guys in the pool, maybe more this year than in the last couple of Rule 5s. This year, there are some guys who have some ceiling, in our (scouts’) minds. Those guys are a bit more challenging to carry (on the roster). We’re in a different state as an organization than we were in 2008 or ’09, where we worked hard to try to carry a guy. Now, we need somebody who can contribute for us, and that will be a factor. We don’t want to try to compete with a 24-man roster. So even if the ceiling is really high, it could handcuff us.”

»»» When will it be time to pull Starling Marte out of winter ball so he doesn’t burn out? “Sooner than later. He’s doing very good there. One of the comments we’ve heard is that he’s a man among prospects. He loves the game. He loves to play. He wants to keep playing in his homeland; he feels an obligation. But we’ve got to protect him from himself a little bit and also make sure we protect him for us.”

»»» Do you approach J-Mac’s offseason routine after his second-half collapse last season? “As we did last year, we’ve stayed in contact with him. We’ve tried to work with him on what does he really believe in and what do we believe in, what changes would help. But we didn’t overhaul his offseason program, as far as, he isn’t throwing earlier or later.” Is he still learning how to mentally pace himself to pitch deep into a season? “Yeah. As guys gain more experience, they understand when to step on the throttle, when to cruise a little bit, when to tweak, when to stay with what’s worked. Sometimes, guys change what’s worked when they didn’t mean to. It’s a never-ending balance, working with guys in individualized programs.”

»»» On the trade which sent C Ramon Cabrera to the Tigers for LHP Andrew Oliver: “We see him starting over relieving. He’ll come to camp competing to be a starter. If not, we’ll look into the (Pirates) bullpen. And if not, we’ll have the conversation about Triple-A. We like the arm, the fastball, the breaking ball. We like how he does things. As tough as it is to give up a young, switch-hitting catcher who we like a lot, we felt like Andrew is a good addition.”

»»» Did the Russ Martin signing lead to Oliver trade? “Catching is always a position you need. With Russ, Michael (McKenry), Tony (Sanchez) and (Roman) Solis, we feel like we’ve got some upper-level catching depth. Russ allowed this move to be a little bit easier.”

»»» What type of offseason routine is Pedro Alvarez using this winter? “Pedro is in a good spot. He’s worked hard already this offseason, which is a great start. Our (trainers) are tracking him. We’ve had some individual visits with him, so we know he’s in a good spot.”

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