Pirates A.M. — Busiest time of year for catchers


By Rob Biertempfel

BRADENTON, Fla. — During the season, a catcher has to worry about handling a dozen or pitchers. He has to know each guy’s strengths and weaknesses and must be able to quickly decipher whether that pitcher is in a groove or out of sync.

During spring training, the challenge is greater. The Pirates have 32 pitchers in camp — big leaguers and prospects, veterans and kids — and each catcher will work with most, if not all, of them. There’s a lot to learn.

PTR-Stallings03-032816“We need to get to know the pitchers,” catcher Jacob Stallings said. “For me, I need to get to know big league guys and Triple-A guys. The (coaching) staff does a good job of making sure we catch each guy at least one time in bullpen sessions.”

There’s a catcher’s meeting with pitching coach Ray Searage scheduled for today, where each pitcher’s traits and arsenal will be discussed.

“We do a lot of stuff to make sure the transition is as easy as possible.,” Stallings said.

>>> Andrew McCutchen is among the position players who will be in camp today. He and Josh Harrison are among the group scheduled for noon physicals.

>>> Tony Watson’s arbitration case was heard Wednesday and the outcome is expected to be announced today. Watson filed for $6 million and the Pirates offered $5.6 million. The board must choose one figure or the other.

>>> The A and B groups will throw bullpens today. Group B (which includes Tyler Glasnow, Chad Kuhl and Steven Brault) will go at 11 a.m. Group A (which includes Gerrit Cole, Ivan Nova and Jameson Taillon) will go at 11:20 a.m.

UPDATE 10:30 a.m.Josh Bell picked up a bat, looked at catcher Elias Diaz and smiled. “Time for me to go make that noise,” Bell said.

That noise was the sound of Bell making contact with baseballs in the indoor batting cages. He was cleared to begin taking swings with a tee, another step forward in his recovery from offseason knee surgery.

WatsonUPDATE 11:30 a.m. — Relief pitcher Tony Watson lost his arbitration case and will make $5.6 million this season. Watson had filed for $6 million.

That’s still a 62 percent raise for Watson, who last year made $3.45 million and inherited the closer’s role in late July when Mark Melancon was traded.

Watson was the only Pirate to go to a hearing this year. The case was heard on Wednesday by arbitrators Gil Vernon, Jeanne Wood and Steven Wolf.

Watson, 31, last season converted 15 of 20 save chances and posted a 3.06 ERA over 70 outings. The left-hander will be a free agent after this season.

Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.