RHP Pedro Beato, 24, (Orioles): Beato was a sandwich round pick of the Orioles in the 2006 draft who was shifted from starter to a relief role in AA this year. He had done well enough as a starter to make the Futures Game roster in 2007, but he began to lose velocity and his star dimmed.
The heat's back with his switch to the pen, though. Beato is a fastball/curveball pitcher, throwing in the low-to-mid 90s, and made the Eastern League's All-Star team for Bowie going 4-0-16 with a 2.11 ERA.
More encouraging for a team looking to break him in as a long man, at least for 2011, he made 43 appearances and went nearly 60 innings, so he's not limited to one-and-out work from the pen.
RHP George Kontos, 25 (Yankees): He was the fifth round selection of the New York Yankees in the 2006 draft, and the Pirate thought highly enough of him to try to get him in the 2008 Nady deal. Now they have the chance again.
But they may have to wait; he's recovering from TJ surgery and isn't expected to be ready to throw again until at least June. Still, not a problem, especially if the Bucs want to stockpile him; he gets his rehab time in before they have to place him on the 25-man roster.
His heater was timed in the low-to-mid nineties before the injury, though his plus slider was his out pitch. Kontos was 21-29 in the minors, with a 3.47 ERA and a K per inning. He's a starter; we've included him with the relievers because it will take a while to get him stretched out again, and he'll see action from the pen if Pittsburgh picks him.
LHP Jeremy Horst, 26, (Reds): Horst was originally drafted by the Pirates in the 40th round in the 2004 draft, but went off to college. The Reds then selected him in the 21st round in 2007.
Pitching through three levels of the minor leagues (Hi A, AA, AAA) in 2010, Horst put up a combined 2.62 ERA with 75 strikeouts in 72 innings. Horst uses a slider and change to put batters away, as his fastball sits in the 88-90 MPH range.
It looks like his niche is as a middle-inning guy bridge guy, although his splits suggest he could become a LOOGY. His walk-to-whiff ratio is strong (2.2 BB/9 and 9.4 K/9 in 2010), and he may be the most MLB ready, although not the most toolsy, of the available relievers.
RHP Wynn Pelzer, 24, (Orioles): Drafted in the ninth round by San Diego in 2007, the Padres traded him to the O's for Miguel Tejada, where Pelzer made a full-time transition from starting to the pen.
He doesn't really have an effective off-speed pitch, just a two and four seam heater thrown with sink and at 93-95 MPH. Pelzer gets grounders and strikes out nearly a batter per inning; he also walks five per game, and that's why he's Rule 5 eligible. But he projects down the road as a closer.
The Bucs look for hard-throwing guys even the control-challenged like past picks Meek and Veal, so he could well be on their radar.
RHP Zach Simons, 25, (Tigers): Simons was the Rockies second round draft pick in 2003 as a starter, and he converted to the bullpen in 2007. He thrived in that role, and was traded to the Tigers for Jason Grilli in early 2008.
Simon was on Erie's roster during 2009-10, and he made the Eastern league All-Star team both seasons. That's also the league the Altoona Curve play in, so the Pirate scouts have gotten to see plenty of him.
He's a fastball/curveball pitcher, throwing in the low 90s and somewhat a flyball pitcher. His line over the past two seasons is 4-6-6 with a 2.59 ERA for AA Erie and 3-0-1 with a 3.09 ERA at AAA Toledo as a set-up man. Simon has issued 53 walks and collected 135 K in 139-1/3 IP the past two years, so he can miss bats - and sometimes the plate, too.