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Pirates cut ties with Davis, clearing path for Alvarez to play first base

With an eye toward making Pedro Alvarez their everyday first baseman, the Pirates on Thursday cut ties with Ike Davis as they revamped their 40-man roster.

Newly acquired shortstop Pedro Florimon and prospects Jameson Taillon, Nick Kingham, Willy Garcia and Elias Diaz were placed on the roster in order to protect them from next month’s Rule 5 draft.

To clear space, Davis and minor league catcher Ramon Cabrera were designated for assignment, and infielder Brent Morel was outrighted to Triple-A Indianapolis. The 40-man roster is full.

“It comes down to spots,” Davis said by phone from Los Angeles. “There’s only one first baseman on a team. When you’ve got three, someone’s got to be the odd man out. It was me.”

General manager Neal Huntington said Alvarez, whose defensive problems last season cost him the starting job at third base, will have a new role in 2015.

“If we started the season tomorrow, Pedro would be our starting first baseman,” Huntington said.

Gaby Sanchez remains the backup, but there remains a possibility he will not be tendered a contract at the Dec. 2 deadline for arbitration-eligible players.

Although Alvarez struggles against left-handed pitchers, Huntington indicated the Pirates would prefer to avoid a platoon.

“When Pedro is swinging the bat (well), it doesn’t matter what side the pitcher’s throwing from,” Huntington said. “We’ll see how it goes.”

Alvarez missed the last month of the season with a foot injury, but he had no recent setbacks. Although the Pirates would like him to make up some lost at-bats in winter ball, Alvarez seems unwilling to do that.

The Pirates swapped minor leaguers Zack Thornton and Blake Taylor to the New York Mets for Davis on April 18. Davis played in 131 games and batted .235 with 10 home runs and a .721 OPS.

“I had a blast in Pittsburgh,” Davis said. “I got a decent amount of at-bats and did some good things. I also did some not-so-good things. At least they gave me an opportunity, and I thank them for that.”

Davis, 27, made $3.5 million this past season and was projected to crack $4 million in his second year of arbitration. While training recently in Arizona, Davis did some work in the outfield to add versatility that could lure a new team.

Florimon, 27, was claimed off waivers from the Washington Nationals — the third utility infielder the Pirates have acquired since late October. They traded cash to the Cleveland Indians for Justin Sellers and plucked Jake Elmore off waivers from the Cincinnati Reds.

Florimon was the Minnesota Twins’ starting shortstop in 2013, when he batted .221 with 18 errors in 134 games. Over four seasons in the majors with the Twins and Baltimore Orioles, he batted .204 with a .565 OPS.

Pirates in on Liz

The website of Estrellas Orientals, a team in the Dominican Winter League, reported the Pirates have signed pitcher Radhames Liz to a two-year, $3 million contract. Huntington said no deal has been finalized.

Liz has not pitched in the majors since 2009. He was in the Toronto Blue Jays’ farm system this past season but a sore knee limited him to just 12 starts.

Liz pitched in Korea from 2011-13. He appeared in 28 games (21 starts) with the Baltimore Orioles from 2007-09.

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at [email protected] or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.


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