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Breaking Down the Final Pirates Roster Battles After Today’s Cuts

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With less than a week remaining in camp, the Pittsburgh Pirates made their latest round of cuts this morning, sending three relievers to minor league camp, including John Holdzkom. Rob Scahill and Blake Wood were also sent down, trimming the number of candidates down for the final two bullpen spots.

“We had a handful of guys that deserve to be on a Major League club,” Huntington said. “We had a limited number of spots. Caminero threw the ball great during Spring Training. Liz, we really like in that multi-inning reliever role. John did some good things, and will do some good things for us, as will Rob, and we believe Blake Wood will as well.”

At this point, it looks like Arquimedes Caminero has locked down a spot on the team. However, Huntington didn’t confirm anyone had made the team today, noting that they’re still working through the decisions.

“With the three moves today, we’re working through it,” Huntington said. “Pimentel is in the mix, and will remain in the mix until we finalize the roster on Sunday, or until something changes before then…Caminero has thrown the ball great. Liz has thrown the ball very well. Stolmy threw it as well as he’s thrown it [in] his last outing. We still have some challenging decisions to make, and still have some moves to make, obviously.”

The final three players battling for a bullpen spot are Caminero, Jared Hughes, and Stolmy Pimentel. If Caminero or Pimentel don’t make the team, they would need to be designated for assignment and put through waivers. Right now it appears that Caminero and Hughes are the favorites for the final two spots.

No Decision on Richard

Today is the deadline for Clayton Richard to make a decision on his opt out clause. Richard has until midnight tonight to opt out of his deal if the Pirates don’t add him to the 40-man roster. The Pirates could add him to the 40-man roster, but they’d still need his permission to send him to Triple-A in that scenario, since he has more than five years of service time.

“It’s not our decision,” Huntington said on whether Richard would be added today. “We’re working through it with Clayton and his agent. Our goal, as we stated from day one, is to get him back to the big leagues. We hope it’s here with us, but it is a process we’re working through.”

Huntington said that they feel the situation will be “amicable.” I have a hard time seeing Richard opting out of the deal. He came to the Pirates so that they could fix his mechanics, much like they did with his former teammate Edinson Volquez last year. The Pirates believe in him enough to make him a starter, and to name him as an early season depth option. If he stays, he knows that he’s high on the depth chart here, with a group of pitching coaches that have had a lot of success getting pitchers back to their best performances. It would be hard to imagine he would leave that situation.

Stronger Pitching Depth This Year

Yesterday the Pirates made a decision on their final rotation spot, selecting Jeff Locke over Vance Worley. Locke will start in the fourth rotation spot at the beginning of the year, while Worley will go to the bullpen as a long reliever.

“It was incredibly challenging, and one of the harder decisions we had,” Huntington said. “If we get caught up in the fact that it’s only April 6th…the reality is that they’re both going to make important starts for us this year. If we get through the season with five starters it will be the first time I have ever been with an organization that got through a season with five starters.”

I would argue that Worley was the better candidate for the rotation. He had better results than Locke last year, and looks like the pitcher that he was when he came up with the Phillies. The consolation is that Worley will give the Pirates some strong early season depth if a starter goes down or struggles.

“To take one of the 95 or so guys that had an ERA under 4.00 last year, and threw 100 or more innings, and put him in our bullpen, that shows there’s depth there,” Huntington said. “And then you look beyond that at our young guys who are on the horizon.”

Huntington talked about the bullpen as well, noting that the three guys sent out today will give them good depth out of Triple-A. That’s something they didn’t have last year.

“So much is made of Opening Day, when the reality is that we need more than five [starting pitchers], we need more than seven [relievers], and we need more than 13 position players to be the club that we believe we are going to be,” Huntington said.

The Final Two For the Bench

The bench battle looks to be shaping up as a battle between Andrew Lambo and Pedro Florimon. Jaff Decker is technically in the mix, but it sounds like he’s going on the disabled list to start the year.

“Jeff’s battling. He wants to do everything he can to put himself in position to make this club,” Huntington said. “Unfortunately, the calf injury may not allow him to do that, and we’d much rather have him start the year a little bit behind, than to get re-injured and miss multiple weeks because of it.”

With Justin Sellers dealing with an injury of his own, that would leave Lambo and Florimon for the final spot. There are a few factors that work in Lambo’s favor. He would be the only left-handed bat off the bench, and would give the Pirates an additional outfielder, although they seem comfortable using Corey Hart and Sean Rodriguez in the role. Florimon has a few things working in his favor, particularly his defense, and the fact that he’d be the only speed option off the bench.

“That’s probably the biggest positive Pedro has, is he would give us the run tool off the bench, as well as tremendous defensive ability,” Huntington said. He also mentioned that they’ve always loved the defense, but the bat has been the biggest challenge for him.

“He’s still in our mix right now,” Huntington said. “As we’ve said kind of from the outset, it really depends on what they do, and there are some things beyond their control. It’s the makeup of the club, the makeup of the bench.”

One other advantage for Florimon is that he is out of options. Similar to the situation with Holdzkom, the Pirates could opt to send Lambo to Triple-A for the sole purpose of preserving as much depth as possible and keeping a guy they like in Florimon.

Other Notes

**Yesterday there was a rumor that the Pirates were talking with Gregory Polanco about an extension. Huntington didn’t comment on the rumor. “When there is something to talk about, we’ll be the first ones to talk about it publicly.”

**Huntington on Chris Stewart: “Chris is very likely to start the year on the disabled list.” This isn’t new information, and will result in Tony Sanchez making the Opening Day roster.

**On whether Corey Hart’s knees can handle the outfield: “[It’s] not something that we want to do on a regular basis, but certainly something he can run out there and take a day here or there. The other part that really works out well for us is Sean Rodriguez is very comfortable in left or right.”

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Tim Williams
Tim Williams
Tim is the owner, producer, editor, and lead writer of PiratesProspects.com. He has been running Pirates Prospects since 2009, becoming the first new media reporter and outlet covering the Pirates at the MLB level in 2011 and 2012. His work can also be found in Baseball America, where he has been a contributor since 2014 and the Pirates' correspondent since 2019.

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