-- The ax fell on Andrew McCutchen and Brian Bixler today, as both were assigned to minor league camp on their way to Indy. The reasoning was that they both had things to work on, and better to do it everyday in the bushes than on the bench at Pittsburgh.
Dunno that GW agrees with that pretzel logic, but it was in the cards. And now the roster is down to 35...ten more meetings with the Turk to go until April 6th.
-- Another name is popping up for that extra infielder spot. The Marlin's Robert Andino is out of minor league options and no cinch to stick with the club. His name was brought up during the Ronny Paulino trade talks, so either the Pirates had some interest in him or the Marlins were ready to dump him in the off season.
Andino, the Marlin's #2 pick in 2002, is a good glove, bad stick (.201 lifetime) middle infielder. He has a couple of connections in Pittsburgh, according to Rob Biertempfel of the Tribune Review. Scout Marc DelPiano signed Andino, and he's now a special assistant to GM Neal Huntington. Perry Hill coached him when he was on Florida's staff.
The suits still have some interest in Colorado's Jeff Baker, too, so if we were Luis Cruz, we wouldn't send those bags to PNC quite yet.
-- Phil Dumatrait will start on the DL - he just started throwing live again over the weekend - and is 4-6 weeks from rejoining the club.
-- Andy LaRoche's disappearance from the lineup didn't have anything to do with injury; he's got the flu. So does Evan Meek, so we'll see if that impacts his chances of breaking camp with the big club.
-- The Pirate rotation seems set with Paul Maholm, Ian Snell, Zach Duke, Ross Ohlendorf and Jeff Karstens. The bullpen isn't quite so set.
Matt Capps, Tyler Yates and John Grabow are in; Donnie Veal and Craig Hansen likely, and Meek, Sean Burnett, Chris Bootcheck and Jesse Chavez are fighting for the last two spots, and it could be down to one if the suits decide to keep Jason Davis or Virgil Vasquez as a long man during a busy April.
Of course, that mix could change if someone becomes available in the next week during final cuts. It does look like Pedro Martinez and Will Ohman can both be crossed off the Bucco shopping list. (EDIT - Ohman for sure; he inked a deal with the Dodgers this afternoon.)
-- Ditto for the Pirate bench; Ramon Vazquez, Eric Hinske, and Jason Jaramillo are locks; Craig Monroe is the favorite to take the last OF spot from Jeff Salazar, and if no moves are made, the Bradenton scuttlebutt says that Luis Cruz will take the fifth spot, with Andy Phillips making up for injury time at Indy.
The regular lineup looks like Nyjer Morgan, Freddy Sanchez, Nate McLouth, Ryan Doumit, Adam LaRoche, Andy LaRoche, Brandon Moss and Jack Splat. Hinske and Monroe could see some OF platoon time, both to rest Moss in right and spell Morgan in left, especially if he doesn't find his stick soon.
-- The Big O had another strong outing in the Pirates 3-2 win over the Reds today. He went 5-1/3 innings, giving up a run on three hits, with three K's and two walks. The Bucs scored twice in the ninth with two away when Salazar singled home the tying run and Jaramillo singling up the middle for the walk-off knock.
Jeff Karstens will pitch against the Twins tomorrow against Nick Blackburn. A good outing should cement his spot on the staff, but a bad day at the office could turn the struggle for the rotation's last spot into a cage match.
-- The Bucs picked up 24-year old LHP Shawn Cunningham from the Tribe today for a player to be named later. Cunningham had OK stats as a starter, but a bad start on the hill followed by a switch to the pen led to some pretty horrible numbers in 2008.
He has a fastball that hits 89-91 MPH, and a good curveball and changeup. Cunningham is supposed to have some mechanical problems, and the Bucs will try to salvage his career at Altoona.