The Pirates optioned Daniel Moskos down to Triple-A, which puts the team one cut away from their final roster.
Yamaico Navarro, Josh Harrison, and Matt Hague will battle for the two bench spots remaining.
Jared Hughes and Chris Leroux will battle for the final bullpen spot.
The Pirates will then have to decide whether to keep an extra bench player or an extra bullpen spot.
I mentioned last week that my preference would be an extra bullpen spot. Early in the season you’re not going to get a lot of pitchers going deep in to their outings. It would be more beneficial for the team to carry that extra pitcher, as opposed to a sixth bat off the bench. The entire reasoning behind the extra bench bat seems to be centered around avoiding a tough decision between Hague, Harrison, and Navarro.
The thing about this decision is that it’s a short-term decision. Whether the Pirates keep an extra bullpen spot or an extra bench spot, that player will only be in the majors for ten days. The Pirates will need to bring up a starter on April 15th, which will likely be the return date for Charlie Morton to the rotation. At that point the extra bullpen/bench player will be sent down to Triple-A.
This isn’t a long-term decision, so the focus should be on the team’s needs during the short-term. The Pirates will play eight games in the ten day period before they need a fifth starter. Here are some figures from the first eight games of the 2011 season:
**The bullpen pitched 30.1 innings. Just under 4 per game.
**11 position players made starts. The players who weren’t in the opening day lineup but made starts were Matt Diaz (platoon role), Jason Jaramillo (backup catcher), and Josh Rodriguez.
**There were 20 pinch-hit or substitution plate appearances, or about two and a half per game.
Looking at those numbers, it’s clear that the need for early season relievers outweighs the need for an extra bench bat. Even if every starter goes six innings, the Pirates will need 24 innings in relief from their bullpen before Morton returns. At the same time, they will likely start the same players in the lineup for the first week and a half, and probably won’t need a pinch hitter as often as they’ll need bullpen innings.
There’s a desire to keep all of the bats in the majors, but that desire seems to be backed by a feeling that the Pirates will get to see something from all three players while they’re up. The fact is that the extra bench player probably won’t get a lot of playing time in the next ten days. A bullpen arm would be much more valuable in the short-term, and that’s where the focus should be when we consider that the extra player is likely to be sent back down ten days from now.
Links and Notes
**The Pirates lost to the Phillies 7-2. Game story here.
**Pirates Notebook: Final Roster Moves Remain
**Baseball America released the top 20 prospects from the DSL and VSL last year. The Pirates had two players on the list with Dilson Herrera and Edwin Espinal making the cut. Both players were in Spring Training this year, and will make the jump to the GCL.