OK, mini-camp has started, and except for visa problems *sigh* for Jose Tabata and Jose Ascanio, the gang's all in Florida.
For the Pirates, it's step one in determining a roster with which to bravely march into the future. There are two places where the traffic is especially congested, the outfield corners and the bullpen.
The crowd in the pasture consists of sure shots Andrew McCutchen, Lastings Milledge, Garrett Jones, and Ryan Church. After that, aye carumba!
Will this be the end of the road for Brandon Moss or Delwyn Young? Can John Raynor transfer his center field skills into a roster position? Jonathan Van Every is in camp too, even though he seems to be penciled in as Indy insurance. The only oufielders absent are Moss and Church.
The outfield shakeout will be one top storyline to watch in March to see who wins the steel-cage match for the suddenly crowded field of fly boys. It'll be affected by a couple of questions - when will Tabata take his bow, and will Jones remain at least a platoon OFer or become a full-time first baseman?
The bullpen is another area that's drawn a cattle call. Roster players Anthony Claggett, Joel Hanrahan, Steven Jackson, Chris Jakubauskas, Javier Lopez, Evan Meek, and Ronald Uviedo are in Florida. Uviedo is the only guy that will start for sure on the farm, though Claggett is a long-shot.
Non-roster attendees are Jeff Karstens, Vinnie Chulk, Virgil Vasquez, Jeremy Powell, Jack Taschner, Justin Thomas and Brian Burres. No Dotel or Carrasco signings - yet.
Ascanio, Tyler Yates, Neal Cotts, and Craig Hansen are out with injuries; Wil Ledezma, Ramon Aguero, and Jean Machi all got byes because they were in winter ball.
This will be another storyline worth watching in the spring. Hanrahan, Meek, and Lopez are locks; four positions will be up for grabs.
Starters Zach Duke, Paul Maholm, Ross Ohlendorf, Charlie Morton, Daniel McCutchen, Hart, Brad Lincoln, and Donnie Veal are also throwing. Jimmy Barthmaier is there too, but hasn't recovered enough from his TJ surgery from last May to toss the pill yet.
There are some storylines here, too - when will Lincoln get the call? Will Hart start in the pen or rotation? Do the suits think they have enough depth to deal a Duke or Maholm?
Other position players that are taking advantage of some early work are Ramon Vazquez, Jeff Clement, Andy LaRoche and Steve Pearce along with catchers Ryan Doumit, Jason Jaramillo and Erik Kratz.
The storyline here is what becomes of Clement and the guys who split time between Indy and Pittsburgh - Pearce, Brian Bixler, and Neal Walker?
So the prelude is finally being played. 2010 may not add a lot of wins to the Bucs' total, but it looks like a year in transition as the suits finally muck their way into putting together a roster for the future.