49.7 F
Saturday, December 3, 2022

Huntington Notes on the Bench Battle, Final Rotation Spot, Kang, Richard, and Stewart

The Pittsburgh Pirates made their latest round of cuts today, sending 12 players to minor league camp. None of the moves were that surprising, as every single player sent down was expected to be cut from big league camp at some point this Spring. The one notable name was Jose Tabata. He wasn’t notable because he had a strong chance to make the team, but he was notable because of the contract.

Tabata had very little chance of making this team, with one factor being the left/right makeup of the team. If Tabata got the final spot, the Pirates would have had a bench featuring all right-handers.

“It factored a decent amount into it,” Pirates’ General Manager Neal Huntington said on the makeup of the bench with today’s moves. “Jose’s swing change, we think, is playing up. We wanted to get him out and get him consistent at-bats, and try to get him off to a good start at Triple-A, and build some value to come up and help us.”

Huntington noted that today’s cuts were about getting these guys playing time to get them ready for their seasons, since the starting pitchers are going deeper into games, the relievers need the additional innings, and the guys competing for the bench will need the at-bats in the final week of Spring Training. Tabata wouldn’t have seen many at-bats going forward if he stuck around.

“Our job is to get him back to the big leagues and provide him with an opportunity,” Huntington said. “[We were] very open with him that opportunity may come with someone else, but if he goes out and plays hard, plays well, he’ll be in the big leagues with somebody.”

I don’t see anyone trading for Tabata and taking on his contract unless he displays some big changes. He will go to Triple-A, and will likely get plenty of playing time. One playing time situation to watch in the Indianapolis outfield will be with Gorkys Hernandez. He put up good numbers this Spring, and Huntington indicated that the Pirates want to give him a closer look going forward.

“Gorkys has had a great camp. It’s amazing that it’s his 27-year-old season,” Huntington said. “He can still play defense with just about anybody. The swing looks shorter. Now is the time to go out and get him consistent at-bats, and see if this swing change is going to translate into the quality that we saw so far this Spring Training.”

The final bench spot is now a battle between Andrew Lambo and Jaff Decker. Both are left-handed hitting outfielders. Justin Sellers is still on the roster, but has soreness in his Achilles tendon, and is unlikely to factor into the mix. The wild card could be Pedro Florimon. Huntington said he is still in the mix, mentioning that his defense, base running, and versatility could have more value than just a left-hander off the bench.

No Decision For the Rotation

The Pirates haven’t made a decision on the fifth spot in the rotation yet, with the decision still being between Jeff Locke and Vance Worley. Locke pitches today, while Worley threw yesterday. But those outings will only play part of the decision.

“We pride ourselves on being process driven and not outcome driven,” Huntington said. “We’ve still got a couple more outcomes to work through. Our challenge is that we’re in a really good spot, whether it’s Jeff Locke or Vance Worley. Both of those guys deserve to be in Major League rotations. Both of those guys are going to make quality starts for us this year. It’s just a matter of who gets in the rotation to start the season.”

Huntington confirmed that the loser will go to the bullpen, before adding that history shows that pitcher will likely be back in the rotation at some point.

“There’s no question we’re going to need both of these guys to make quality Major League starts for us this year,” Huntington said. “We’re absolutely going to need more than five starters. Hopefully we won’t need 12 like we did a few years ago, or nine like we did last year.”

One situation that could factor in the mix is the rehab of Charlie Morton. The right-hander seems to be in line to begin the season in Pittsburgh from a health and innings standpoint, but has had some issues with his stuff while working on a tweak in his delivery.

“Much like when a pitcher has surgery, [that pitcher is] getting used to the arm again. In Charlie’s case, he’s getting used to his hips again, and how his body functions,” Huntington said. “We’ve seen some really good things from him and we’ve seen some challenges from him.”

Huntington said that the Pirates are focusing on having Morton in the rotation, with the loser of the Worley/Locke battle serving as depth for the rotation. However, a lot will be determined by the next start for Morton.

“Our expectation is he’ll be ready to go, but we want to see how this next outing goes, and make sure that he’s ready to go out and compete and get hitters out on a consistent basis,” Huntington said.

Jung-ho Kang to Start the Year in Pittsburgh

Don’t expect Jung-ho Kang to go down to Indianapolis due to his struggles in Spring Training.

“We have every intent in the world of him helping us winning games at the Major League level beginning Opening Day,” Huntington said, before listing off the things they like about Kang. “We like the bat speed. We love the power. We like what he’s been able to do defensively at short, at third, at second. The ability to make the blind turn was very intriguing. At the same time we also know that we’ve got some reps that are needed to have him feel comfortable there overall.”

Other Notes

**Huntington talked about the opt out clause for Clayton Richard, and the situation involving stretching him out, which I talked about yesterday: “Our goal is to get Clayton Richard back to the big leagues. We hope it is with us. We believe it is going to be with us…We’re working to get Clayton ready to go, and hopefully that is with us, whether it’s in Pittsburgh or in [Indianapolis].”

**Chris Stewart is still expected to start the year on the disabled list, as Huntington said they don’t want to turn a 2-4 week layoff into 6-8 weeks. “Chris is working hard, he’s begun baseball activities. I think we’re both in a good spot in that there’s no need to rush him back. There’s no need to push this.”

+ posts

Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.


Pirates Prospects has been independently owned and operated since 2009, entirely due to the support of our readers. The site is now completely free, funded entirely by user support. By supporting the site, you are supporting independent writers, one of the best Pittsburgh Pirates communities online, and our mission for the most complete Pirates coverage available.

Related articles

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Tom Brenholts

Watching the highlights from today’s game, it looks like the leg kick is gone from Kang’s swing.

Steel City Scotty

Anyone else realize that during this off-season, the Pirates parted ways with Gaby Sanchez and Travis Snider and signed Gorkys Hernandez and Brad Lincoln.

It’s almost like the moves made at the trade deadline in 2012 never happened…


It’s deja vu all over again…again


Could have sent Marte and Lincoln to Arizona, then the Pirates would have Justin Upton for another year.


I’d take Marte over Upton.


As would I, and without question considering the extension. I find it funny how many times Marte has been linked to trade rumors

Lee Foo Young

How is Kang going to get enough ABs in Pgh? He’ll get some, but he’d get a lot more at Indy….jmo.

Luke sutton

He can still get a decent amount of at bats in the bigs, as PIT has been pretty open about saying they like the idea of getting regulars more days off to keep everyone fresh. Kang can spell Harrison and Walker, and if they truly do trust the defense to be at least average they can throw him in at SS on occasion. I could see him carving out 2 starts a week early on and increase that if he plays well. If they really get creative, they could even throw Harrison in RF at times when they wanna give Polanco a day off and Kang slides into 3B.

He’ll get enough to help the team and learn ML pitching, which i think is more important at this point than seeing AAA arms.


I was there initially, Foo. Thought for sure he should start in AAA. Still don’t think it would be the worst thing if it happens.

But I think a lot of the typical needs-regular-at-bats talk is actually deflection for the given player just not being good enough or ulterior roster decision motive. Ultimately, the biggest adjustment a hitter has to make is against *big league* pitching, and that won’t ever happen in AAA.

If Kang helps the club win more than Florimon and Lombardozzi, and the club doesn’t see a fatal flaw in his approach, then I don’t see why getting the ultimate adjustment over with sooner doesn’t actually help him.


Suspect there are contract issues – and that the reaction in South Korea would be pretty strong – and negative.


The Pirates proved long ago that they will do whatever they think is right, and damn the reaction of the fans. And they did this at a time where they needed every fan they could get. Now we’re supposed to believe that they’re afraid of the reaction in South Korea. Right.


Being process driven is a good thing as long as your outcomes are positive, the true test of character is when your process begins to have negative outcomes and you are either willing our unwilling to make the changes needed to facilitate a positive outcome. The pirate brass seems to be pretty flexible on this so I don’t think it will be a problem should the situation arise I just wanted to get this out there. As far as worley v locke I personally would rather have worley over locke and morton I just think and see that he is a better pitcher than the other two, of course my info is not as good as the pirates and I have no financial stake in any of these guys. Either way as long as the pirates win I really don’t care what process or pitcher the pirates use or any other player for that matter, just win me buccos, just win!

Mike Adamson

I really hope Worley beats out Locke. Just think he’s the better pitcher. Even though Locke has pitched well early in seasons.

Also hope Kang starts hitting. I hate to see a guy make the team based on money.


Worley is going to be the 5th starter, he is just the better pitcher.


If he makes the team, it won’t be because of money. See Jose Tabata. It will be because of talent. Cutting players from the team over money is almost as stupid as cutting them over the results of 30 spring training at bats.


No idea how one could presume Kang is making the team due to money when commenting on an article which talks about Jose Tabata being buried in AAA.

Mike Adamson

Completely different. Tabata has had a ton of chances. Kang is the new guy who had money spent on him this off season. I’m just saying if he’s not starting or getting a bunch of AB’s I would rather he play everyday in AAA.


I don’t believe for a second they made a big commitment to him just to see him languish on the end of the bench. I expect him to see quite a bit of action early on.


And I actually agree with what you’re “just saying”. Just think it’s awfully disingenuous to blame it on the money.

I see no evidence of that, what-so-ever.

Ron Loreski

I think its a safe bet that Worley already beat out Locke.


Today’s start for Locke – and Morton’s next start should help clear things up – Worley did not make a strong case for himself yesterday

Luke sutton

If they make a decision about a starting rotation spot based at all off 1 ST start, they are dumber than i want. Locke has had a rough start in ST, Morton has had a rough start in ST, and so has Worley. Morton needs to be healthy, and Worley deserves the 5th spot. Not a mark against Locke, but Worley hasnt done anything to clearly show he is worse than Locke right now. A good start from Locke wouldnt really show me he improved. His issues are clear, he nibbles and it either works or he doesnt make it to the 6th inning.

Paul Dixon

If Tabata gets off to a good start in AAA this year, the Pirates should eat some of his contract and trade him to a team that could use him, might as well try to get some kind of prospect back instead of him just lingering in AAA since there’s no place for him here.


One of the teams that could use him is Pittsburgh, as soon as one of the outfielders gets hurt. They’ll get nothing back for him in a trade, even if he gets off to a great start at Indy. His contract is too great an albatross. He’s worth more as injury insurance to the Pirates than the value of anything they might get in return for him.


Send him to ny or a cali team where his off field antics would not even be a blip compared to some of those guys and his weirdness would fit right in, it all hinges on him putting bat to ball though so my thought is, c’mon jose, you can doooo it!

Share article

Latest articles


Latest comments