Jose Osuna, leading Pirates in HRs, RBIs this spring, sent to Triple-A as club finalizes roster
The Pirates should have no shortage of arms early in the season. Yet if they run out of pinch-hitters in an extra-inning game, blame it on the eight-man bullpen.
With one game remaining in spring training Tuesday against the Philadelphia Phillies in Dunedin, Fla., the Pirates’ 25-man roster appears to be set for the start of the regular season Thursday at the Detroit Tigers.
Of course, additions and deletions could occur as players pass through waivers, but the Pirates will open with 13 pitchers and 12 position players, general manager Neal Huntington said Monday on the AT&T SportsNet telecast of the final exhibition game at LECOM Park.
To make that happen, the Pirates made three roster moves, optioning relief pitcher Kyle Crick and infielder/corner outfielder Jose Osuna to Class AAA Indianapolis and reassigning veteran reliever Kevin Siegrist. Also, Rule 5 pitcher Jordan Milbrath was waived.
That led to Edgar Santana, Dovydus Neverauskas and Josh Smoker, a left-hander who pitched for the New York Mets last season, winning the final three spots in the bullpen. They probably will enter games before back-end relievers Felipe Rivero, George Kontos and Michael Feliz.
“We felt Neverauskas, Santana and Smoker were better fits for us to get outs in April,” Huntington said. “That is going to change. Kyle Crick is going to come up and help us win major league games. There’s no doubt in our minds.”
Huntington said the toughest decision was optioning Osuna to Class AAA. He’s leading the team in home runs (five) and RBIs (16) this spring, but he was a victim of the decision to keep 13 pitchers and the earlier trade for left fielder Corey Dickerson. Those moves also impacted outfielders Jordan Luplow (optioned last week) and Bryce Brentz (waived and picked up by the Mets).
“Jose Osuna has done everything a young man can do to make a club,” Huntington said. “He deserves to be on a club. The hard part is we only have 25 spots.”
Huntington indicated he might want to keep 13 pitchers beyond the opening three-game series in Detroit.
“We may be little while,” he said.
The Pirates feel comfortable with bench players Adam Frazier, Sean Rodriguez and David Freese, all of whom can play multiple positions, and backup catcher Elias Diaz.
At the moment, a 13th pitcher is a more suitable option than an extra hitter, Huntington said.
“While there’s a lot of potential in the (starting) rotation, it’s had its bumps so far this spring. “Our relievers, especially the young ones, as we asked them to go two innings, that’s where they’ve hit some bumps in the road.
“We have two young relievers that we want to protect out of the bullpen in (Steven) Brault and (Tyler) Glasnow that have been starters their entire careers.
“They’ll get some big outs, but they’re not guys who are going to go back-to-back (games) a whole lot. We’re going to need more than 14, 15, 16 pitchers.”
Optioning Crick leaves no one on the major league club from the trade of Andrew McCutchen to the San Francisco Giants. Outfielder Bryan Reynolds was reassigned March 12.
“We realize we moved some pretty good players, but we added some pretty good players,” Huntington said. “Kyle had a fine spring. He showed quality stuff. He showed the reasons why we traded for him.
“That trade was made to improve our organization, to improve our major league club over the long haul, to acquire a young prospect outfielder (Reynolds) who we like a lot.
“To acquire a reliever who can be a meaningful reliever for us, potentially pitch in the back end for years to come, without sacrificing too much for the present. We still hold that belief.”
Note: Catcher Ryan Lavarnway, outfielder Daniel Nava and pitcher Bo Schultz were reassigned to minor league camp.