Today is a wonderful day for baseball fans because Spring Training has begun!! Pitchers and catchers reported to Bradenton, FL for Pirates Spring Training, but the majority of the position players have already arrived earlier in the week. For the Pirates, their roster is mostly set, but there are a few positions to be fought over by players.
The final starting pitcher position is a toss up between Vance Worley and Jeff Locke because Charlie Morton is expected to return to make the Opening Day roster. The Pirates having too many pitchers is a fantastic problems to have because you aren’t short on talent. Vance Worley regained his form from the 2011 season when he joined the Pirates in June of last year. Worley posted an 8-4 record in 17 starts with a 2.85 ERA (Earned Run Average). Locke hit a rough patch in the second half of 2013, after making the All-Star game. Locke rebounded in 2014 and went 7-6 with a 3.91 ERA. I am not sure who will get the starting job because when they are both at the top of their game, they are un-hittable, but with Locke, you aren’t sure who is going to show up night in and night out.
The Pirates bullpen was one of the best in the NL the past 2 seasons. Mark Melancon, Tony Watson, Jared Hughes, John Holdzkom and Antonio Bastardo are going to make up the bulk of the bullpen leaving 2 spots to fight for. There could potentially be a 3rd spot available if the Pirates decide to carry 1 less position player. Jameson Taillon, Pirates top pitching prospect, is expected to join the big league club sometime in 2015, which will make this situation that much more hairy. Taillon is returning from Tommy John surgery, which ended his 2014 season. There are roughly 5 guys who are fighting for these positions, but there are another 5 or 6 guys that could pitch their way into the bullpen rotation.
The Pirates have the best outfield in the MLB with McCutchen, Marte, and Polanco. The fight for the 4th outfield position will be between Jose Tabata, Andrew Lambo and Corey Hart. It will interesting to see if Tabata will get it because of his experience, or if Lambo can prove that he is as talented as everyone says. Another scenario that could play out, is if Jung Ho Kang can prove he can play 3rd base, Josh Harrison would play outfield on a day that one of the outfielders has off and Kang would play 3rd. This would allow the Pirates to carry an extra pitcher, either a starter or a reliever.
It will be interesting to see how all these battles will play out, but I am just excited that baseball season is back!!!
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