Projecting the Pirates' 2016 opening-day roster, two weeks early

By Stephen J. Nesbitt / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 2 years ago

LF Starling Marte (Peter Diana/Post-Gazette)

BRADENTON, Fla. — With two weeks remaining before opening day, it’s high time for a roster projection sure to be proven wrong. This try at the 25-man roster is a fool’s game, really, a house of cards ready to come crashing down once the Pirates swing a trade or somebody gets hurt. 

But, hey, let’s do this anyway.


C Francisco Cervelli
C Chris Stewart

So far, we’re batting 1.000.


1B John Jaso
1B Michael Morse
2B Josh Harrison
3B David Freese
SS Jordy Mercer
1B/3B Jason Rogers
UTIL Sean Rodriguez
UTIL Cole Figueroa

This is madness. No time to explain now. Keep reading.


RF Gregory Polanco
CF Andrew McCutchen
LF Starling Marte

First, what are the ramifications of picking these 13 position players? Pedro Florimon is DFA’d, as he was twice last season and not claimed on waivers — but he is 7 for 24 this spring with a team-leading 10 RBIs. Jake Goebbert has an option and is sent to the minors.

And then there’s the fourth outfielder thing. The Pirates brought Matt Joyce on a minor-league deal to potentially be an extra outfielder and a left-handed bat on the bench — the bench, as it is constructed here, is Stewart, Rodriguez, Rogers (all RHH, though Rogers is good vs. RHP) and lefty Figueroa to go along with the first baseman not starting that day, either Morse (RHH) or Jaso (LHH).

But in this world, the Pirates pay Joyce the $100,000 retention bonus to start in the minors, then use a combination of Morse, Rodriguez and Figueroa as their fourth outfielder. Remember, McCutchen, Marte and Polanco don’t need many days off. Last season, they appeared in 157, 153 and 153 games, respectively.

Where this goes haywire is if, say, Morse is moved in the next month as the Pirates prepare for Jung Ho Kang’s return and Freese’s move from third to first to join Jaso in the first-base platoon. If that were to happen before opening day, Joyce is added to the 40-man roster and stays on as the fourth outfielder.


RHP Gerrit Cole
LHP Francisco Liriano
LHP Jon Niese
RHP Ryan Vogelsong
LHP Jeff Locke

When the Pirates signed Vogelsong to a one-year deal in mid-December, there I was, standing in the produce section at Wegman’s in Rochester, N.Y. Right then and there, I knew it, and you did too: the Pirates opening day-rotation was set.

Granted, given that in his most recent outing Juan Nicasio struck out 10 of the 14 Baltimore Orioles hitters that dared step into the batter’s box to oppose him, there’s still a real chance he could unseat somebody by opening day. But, for now, these still are the five.


RHP Mark Melancon
LHP Tony Watson
RHP Arquimedes Caminero
RHP Juan Nicasio
RHP Neftali Feliz
RHP Jared Hughes
LHP Kyle Lobstein

The back end of the bullpen is as strong as ever, with Melancon and Watson. Caminero and Hughes have had ugly springs but, assuming they’re healthy, they will get the benefit of the doubt. Free-agent signings Nicasio and Feliz look strong so far.

Which leaves us with one spot, and the chief candidates are left-handers, since Watson is the only other southpaw in the bullpen. If we’re looking at lefties, it’s either Lobstein, Eric O’Flaherty or Cory Luebke. O’Flaherty and Luebke signed minor-league contracts right before spring training and could contribute eventually, but considering that the rotation could have its bad days early on, my bet is the Pirates keep Lobstein as a second long reliever, rather than keep a one-inning lefty. Lobstein already is on the 40-man roster, plus, with Vance Worley gone the Pirates have been looking for a goggle guy in the ‘pen.

All that said, manager Clint Hurdle could decide he doesn’t need a second lefty in the bullpen and instead add a sixth right-hander — Rob Scahill or Trey Haley are optionable but could be added without a change in the 40-man roster.

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Grapefruit Game 19: Pirates at Blue Jays

By Stephen J. Nesbitt / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 2 years ago

RHP A.J. Schugel (Peter Diana/Post-Gazette)

Game: Pirates (5-11-1) at Blue Jays (11-4-1)

Time: 1:05 p.m.

Site: Florida Auto Exchange Stadium

TV, Radio: KDKA-FM 93.7

Weather: 75 and cloudy

BRADENTON, Fla. — Here are the lineups for today’s game ...


1. John Jaso 1B
2. Andrew McCutchen CF
3. David Freese 3B
4. Starling Marte LF
5. Gregory Polanco RF
6. Josh Harrison 2B
7. Michael Morse DH
8. Jordy Mercer SS
9. Chris Stewart C

Scheduled to pitch: RHP A.J. Schugel, LHP Cory Luebke, RHP Arquimedes Caminero, RHP Rob Scahill, RHP Curtis Partch, RHP Guido Knudson.

Blue Jays

1. Kevin Pillar CF
2. Josh Donaldson 3B
3. Jose Bautista RF
4. Troy Tulowitzki SS
5. Chris Colabello 1B
6. Michael Saunders LF
7. Russell Martin C
8. Justin Smoak DH
9. Ryan Goins 2B

Marco Estrada RHP

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Grapefruit Game 18: Rained out

By Stephen J. Nesbitt / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 2 years ago

BRADENTON, Fla. — There was no ballgame today. The Pirates and Minnesota Twins were rained out.

“Our pitching plans will stay right in line,” manager Clint Hurdle said. He said Jon Niese and Eric O’Flaherty would throw in the cages.

Righty A.J. Schugel will start tomorrow on the road against the Toronto Blue Jays, as the Pirates elected to keep Ryan Vogelsong back at Pirate City to throw in a minor league game, a controlled environment, as he ramps up to 75 pitches. This is normal, Hurdle said.


Outfielder Matt Joyce was 2 for 3 with a home run and a double Friday against the Philadelphia Phillies. He is a candidate to be the Pirates’ fourth outfielder to start the season. With last cuts about two weeks away, Hurdle said there tough calls to make with final roster spots.

"They're always hard decisions, because people are attached to them,” Hurdle said. “You hear people talking about them as pieces. They're never pieces to me; they're players. I've been that player."

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Grapefruit Game 18: Twins at Pirates

By Stephen J. Nesbitt / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 2 years ago

LHP Jon Niese (Peter Diana/Post-Gazette)

Game: Twins (9-7-1) at Pirates (5-11-1)

Time: 1:05 p.m.

Site: McKechnie Field

TV, Radio: KDKA-FM 93.7

Weather: 80 and partly cloudy

BRADENTON, Fla. — Here are the lineups for today’s game ...



Tommy Milone LHP


1. Jordy Mercer SS

2. Andrew McCutchen CF

3. Josh Harrison 2B

4. Starling Marte LF

5. Michael Morse 1B

6. Sean Rodriguez 3B

7. Gregory Polanco RF

8. Chris Stewart C

9. Jon Niese LHP

Scheduled to pitch: RHP Mark Melancon, LHP Tony Watson, LHP Eric O’Flaherty, RHP Neftali Feliz.

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Grapefruit Game 16: Phillies 15, Pirates 12

By Stephen J. Nesbitt / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 3 years ago

Records: Phillies (12-5-2), Pirates (5-11-1).

Starter: Kyle Lobstein — 3 IP, 1 H, 2 K.

Hitter: Matt Joyce — 2 for 3, 1 HR, 2 RBI.


Rehabbing infielder Jung Ho Kang took four plate appearances in a minor-league game against the New York Yankees. He singled once but did not run the bases. After the game, he did a modified running program that included him jogging around the base paths.

“It’s exciting,” manager Clint Hurdle said of hearing Kang’s progress.


Lobstein found out at 8 a.m. Friday that he, and not Gerrit Cole, would start in Clearwater, Fla. Lobstein, a candidate for the final spot in the Pirates bullpen, tossed three scoreless innings, keeping his Grapefruit League ERA at 0.00 through seven frames.

“He’s been a quiet guy that is trying to get things done,” Hurdle said of Lobstein. “It’s been fun to watch him.”

Here’s Lobstein on being patient as rosters sort themselves out: "It takes a lot of practice. I've had a chance to do it for a few years now. There's a lot of uncertainty in this game. It does take a lot of practice to have the mindset of trusting the process, going out there and worrying about what you're doing and bettering yourself."

Pirates pitchers imploded once Lobstein left the game. Wilfredo Boscan gave up seven hits and eight runs in 1/3 of an innings. Guido Knduson gave up a homer to Maikel Franco. Trey Haley gave up homers to Peter Bourjos, Ryan Howard (grand slam) and Cameron Rupp (back to back).

The Phillies scored nine runs in the fourth, and six in the fifth.

“The poor guy behind me drank two beers in the fourth inning,” Hurdle said. “Spent $20 on beer in the fourth inning. Then the rest of the game you heard him.”

At Pirate City, Cole gave up a run in three innings against Yankees minor-leaguers. Cole said he expects to be ready to make a start in the first week of the regular season.

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