Late this morning, the Pirates announced they’d signed 1B/OF Brad Hawpe and C Lucas May to minor league deals with non-roster invites to spring training. Also, RHPs Jameson Taillon and Gerrit Cole got non-roster invitations. Since then, I’ve gotten more than a few queries via email and Twitter that essentially consist of some version of these two questions: 1. Does Cole have a chance to break camp with the big league club? 2. OMG, does Hawpe really have a chance to make the team?
First, Cole. And the answer is … NO. Cole, the top pick in 2011, threw a grand total of six innings last summer at Triple-A Indy. Every scout agrees Cole is close to being major league-ready, but he’s not that close. He’ll start the season at Indy and probably stay there until at least July. The hole in the rotation created by Francisco Liriano’s injury probably will be filled by Jeff Karstens (assuming he makes it though his physical and signs the contract). At the winter meetings last month, I asked GM Neal Huntington if Cole had even an outside short of wearing black and gold on Opening Day. Huntington’s response: “Gerrit just finished his first full professional season and we couldn’t be more pleased with his growth and his development. We’re going to do everything in our power to put him in a position to be successful. There are some guys who are flying through systems and being successful. There’s a lot of guys who have flown through systems and you wonder whatever happened to them. Gerrit’s an important piece of our future, so we’ve got to make sure we coordinate his development … not just because we’re a little bit uneasy about who’s in our rotation on Opening Day.”
Now, Hawpe. And the answer is … NO. Hawpe hasn’t worn a major league uniform since 2011. Last year, he appeared in 35 games for Double-A Frisco, then was released. He hasn’t played in more than 100 games in a season at any level since 2010. Hawpe and manager Clint Hurdle know each other from their days together with the Rockies. Signing Hawpe to a minor league deal is a low-cost, low-risk move by the Pirates — it gives Hawpe a chance to stay in shape, show what he’s got (or what he’s lost) and stay in the game a while longer. But the Pirates already have plenty of (perhaps even too many) 1B/RF candidates: Garret Jones, Travis Snider, Gaby Sanchez, Jerry Sands, Felix Pie, Darren Ford … yadda yadda.
»»» I think I should note that this will be Taillon’s first time in big league training camp. And before you ask … NO, he will not be with the Pirates on Opening Day. During minicamp, Taillon told me he’ll start the season at Double-A Altoona. But the fact he’s been asked to work out with the big boys shows he’s made great progress and should be in the majors sooner than later. As Tony Sanchez tweeted: “First one of many @JTallion19 Congrats my man #ST2013″
»»» Friday morning, the Pirate Parrot and some front office folk will visit East Catholic School in Forest Hills to gather donations of school uniforms and athletic clothing. Pirates Charities will transport the material to the Dominican Republic, where it will be given to needy school kids. When the Pirates opened a new, 46-acre baseball academy a couple of years ago in El Toro, D.R., the club began a relationship with several nearby schools.