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Monday Mop-Up Duty: Pirate-ology bubble watch

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BRADENTON, Fla. – Selection Sunday is always a lot of fun … unless you or your team is on the chopping block. Selection committee members always have tough decisions to make and the Pirates’ brass will soon face their own Selection Sunday-type drama.

While the majority of the Pirates’ 25-man roster is expected to contain few surprises, there is an intriguing bullpen battle this spring.

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said Sunday the team will likely carry 12 pitchers “for 98 percent” of the season. He noted the Pirates are unlikely to have the luxury of beginning the year with just four starters because of  the way the schedule shakes out. So the Pirates are highly like to have five starting pitches and seven relievers on the roster on March 31, which means there will be a significant, out-of-options bullpen arm from last season that will not make the roster.

With two weeks until Opening Day, and in the spirit of March roster Madness, here is my first crack at the Pirates’ 25-man roster.

LAST FOUR IN: Jeanmar Gomez, Josh Harrison, Andrew Lambo, Stolmy Pimentel

LAST FOUR OUT: Jeff Decker (has options remaining), Chris Dickerson, Vin Mazzaro (out of options), Jeff Locke (Locke has an option remaining or could begin year on DL)

Notice who is not in the last-four-in line?

Bryan Morris.

Morris has done more than any player over the last two weeks to improve his stock and I know believe he’s solidly across the “safe” line. Against the Rays last week and against the Phillies on Sunday, Morris touched 97 mph with his fastball. His two-seamer sat in the mid 90s and showed excellent movement. His cutter has played like a  90-mph slider. He’s had scouts buzzing. I know because I sat with the scouts during Morris’ outing on Sunday.

So I think Morris is either in, or is used as a trade chip. I also think Gomez gets in because he can start or relieve and I think Pimentel gets in because he has an electric arm. I sense the odd man out is Mazzaro.

PROJECTED 25-MAN ROSTER:

OUTFIELD (4)

Starling Marte

Andrew McCutchen

Travis Snider

Jose Tabata

INFIELD (7)

Pedro Alvarez

Clint Barmes

Josh Harrison

Andrew Lambo

Jordy Mercer

Gaby Sanchez

Neil Walker

CATCHER (2)

Russell Marin

Chris Stewart

PITCHERS (12)

1 – Francisco Liriano

2 – Gerrit Cole

3 – Charlie Morton

4 – Wandy Rodriguez

5-Edinson Volquez

LNG – Pimentel

LNG – Gomez

RST – Morris

RST – Mark Melancon

LST – Tony Watson

LST – Justin Wilson

CL – Jason Grilli

 

Who you got? (Sorry, no billion-dollar prize offer here).

 

STARTING NINE THOUGHTS … 

9. Boston Globe reports the Pirate are interested in Mike Carp. 6. I wonder if Carp can be had for a Pirates’ reliever.

Here’s a question: scouts were buzzing that Morris is throwing like an eighth-inning guy. Do you sell high on Melancon for bat?

 

8. I think sometimes we forget that while analytics are a big part of the game, a big part of the Pirates’ approach, old-school scouting still is really, really important. It’s still the lifeblood at the amateur levels. That’s what I tried to convey in Sunday’s story on Gregory Polanco which is linked here.

Said my man John Hart:

“I’ve talked to a lot of friends of mine who saw him down in the Dominican this winter and thought, head and shoulders, he was the most improved player they had seen over the course of the year. … Exceptional talent. Believe me, when this kid arrives, he’s going to be pretty special.”

 

7. What is Ray Searage‘s most important skill? Empathy.

Read about it here

 

6. Lambo is batting .065. Sure spring stats don’t mean anything … but still.

I’m a platoon guy. Heck, I’m Mr. Platoon. But I’m starting to think Sanchez should be the everyday first baseman. (More on this Tuesday)

 

5. Walker homered right-handed on Sunday. He didn’t do that last regular season. In fact he hasn’t done it since June 6, 2011 against Wandy Rodriguez.

 

4. Hurdle mentioned last week that usually at this point in the spring he’s  covering for Alvarez and deflecting away questions about Alvarez’s struggles while Alvarez gets work in on the backfields. Not this spring. Alvarez’s approach and contact has been much better.

This could be a big deal. A Chris Davis-style harbinger.

 

3. It continues to be a healthy spring for Wandy Rodriguez. That’s a big deal. If the Pirates’ front four of the rotation is in good health there’s no reason they shouldn’t be competitive.

 

2. Walker told the Trib last week that he believes Snider is a breakout candidate. I’m in agreement with this. Snider hit well before he injured his foot last year and those minor league numbers mean something. Snider posted elite milb numbers over 510 games. That means something. Snider is in better shape this year and he has a blend of patience and power that Tabata does not. I still think Snider opens with lion’s share of RF reps.

 

1. Are too many over-reacting on Volquez? Or is he already a lost cause? He’s trying to work out some mechanical issues, but he’s got electric off-speed stuff, his xFIP suggests there’s something there. But then again he hasn’t really had a quality season since 2008. He might very well fail. But he’s worth a role of the dice because there is some  Liriano lurking if he can throw strike one. Obviously that’s a huge if.

 

HE SAID IT

Huntington on Volquez: “Barring injury, we see Edinson in our rotation to start the season. We believe in the stuff. We believe we can help him.”

HE SAID IT II

Rene Gayo on Polanco: “I thought he’d get better. But I never thought he’d run like he does. Guys that big don’t move that fast. I thought he’d be an average runner. You’re basically looking at a guy the size of Jim Thome running around. It’s ridiculous.”

HE TWEETED IT

STAT OF THE WEEK:  6628.5

The percentage difference in free-agent spending between the Yankees ($471 million( and Pirate ($7 million) this offseason. Just a small divide.

NON-BASEBALL RECOMMENDATION OF THE WEEK

Siesta Beach Florida. The sand is as white as Pittsburgh snow.

-TS

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