By Chris Adamski
BRADENTON, Fla. — Three-quarters of the Pirates’ regular lineup aren’t with the team right now. Two of their three established starting pitchers (Ivan Nova and Jameson Taillon) are throwing simulated games on their own this week.
In short, there’s even less star power right now during the Pirates’ Grapefruit League games than there even usually is for spring training.
With one notable exception: the bullpen.
Friday, Tony Watson, Juan Nicasio and Daniel Hudson pitched against the Rays at LECOM Park. Saturday, Jared Hughes and Antonio Bastardo are scheduled to throw in Sarasota against the Orioles. Add in Felipe Rivero on Thursday, and that’s not only, essentially, the entire Pirates’ bullpen (with an unnamed long man added to that mix – unless the team decides to carry eight relievers early on) – it has the look of what *potentially* could be a very strong major-league bullpen, too.
“The bullpen has been tremendous,” pitching coach Ray Searage said. “We’ve got a real good plethora of guys down there – we also have depth, too, which we never really had before. But there’s a lot of influence with Watson and Hudson with everybody else. The two anchors.”
Hudson is a nine-year veteran brought on via a two-year, $11 million contract. Watson, of course, is the closer; he’s also (unless the eight-months-older Wade LeBlanc joins the group) the oldest and longest-tenured “Shark” with the Pirates.
“The bullpen runs through (Watson),” Rivero said. “He’s like the boss in this bullpen. Everything that he says, we’ve got to pay attention and always execute it, because he’s the guy in the bullpen. The closer is the owner of the bullpen for us.”
>>> Of note from today’s lineup are the players attempting to show further position flexibility (to borrow a football term from another North Shore-based leader): Gift Ngoepe is at third base (three career professional regular-season games there). Phil Gosselin is at first base (six career professional regular-season games there).
>>> You want links? I’ve got links:
“He wants to get some things done, wants to re-establish himself at the
major league level.” Hutchison making strong case to be the No. 5 starter
>>> Saturday’s game: Pirates (11-3) at Orioles (7-6), 1:05 p.m., Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota. Radio: 93.7 The Fan.
Orioles: Lineup TBA. RHP Mike Wright
Also pitching for Orioles: RH Gabriel Ynoa, RH Darren O’Day, LH Donnie Hart, RH Oliver Drake
Pirates: Adam Frazier 4, Alen Hanson 6, Phil Gosselin 3, Josh Bell DH, Elias Diaz 2, Austin Meadows 8, Danny Ortiz 7, Eury Perez 9, Gift Ngoepe 5. RHP Clay Holmes.
Also pitching for Pirates: RH Nick Kingham, RH Jared Hughes, LH Antonio Bastardo, RH Josh Lindblom.
Also Saturday, RH Ivan Nova (60-65 pitches) and RH Angel Sanchez (20 pitches) are scheduled to pitch in a minor-league game at Pirate City.
>>> Sunday’s game: Twins (7-4 heading into Saturday’s games) at Pirates, 1:05 p.m., LECOM Park, Bradenton. TV: ROOT Sports, Radio: 93.7 The Fan
Twins: Lineup TBA. RHP Ryan Vogelsong
Also pitching for Twins: LH Taylor Rogers, RH Nick Tepsch, RH Michael Tonkin
Pirates: Lineup TBA. RHP Trevor Williams
Also pitching for Pirates: LH Steven Brault, LH Felipe Rivero, LH Tyler Webb, RH Casey Sadler.
Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.