Thursday, January 6, 2011

Bucs Still Looking For A Few Good Arms

Jerry Crasnick of ESPN tweets that the Pirates are one of seven teams still in the Jeff Francis sweepstakes.

As we've noted before, the Pirates already have a small posse of pitchers on hand. We're wondering if they're planning to hold back their young pitchers for another season for developmental reasons.

It's just a guess, but after Brad Lincoln, Charlie Morton, Kevin Hart and Daniel McCutchen were spanked in 2010, the suits may have decided that fast-tracking guys is not the way to go.

Our read so far is that J-Mac, Ohlie, Paul Maholm and Kevin Correia are in, and there's a wide-open competition for the fifth spot, which looks a lot like a shoot-out between Charlie Morton and Scott Olsen.

Rudy Owens is the best lock to move up to Indy. The betting line is that he'll be joined in the rotation by Lincoln, Sean Gallagher, Cesar Valdez and maybe Olsen, who is signed but still has two options remaining, or Brian Burres, or Fernando Nieve. Danny Moskos and Ramon Aguero should open for the Tribe in the pen.

Mike Crotta, Kyle McPherson and Tony Watson, all protected on the 40-man roster, have to get some innings in, too, as does Donnie Veal. They too should be in Indy this coming season.

That leaves Jeff Locke, Bryan Morris, Justin Wilson, Aaron Thompson and Aaron Pribanic/Brian Leach toiling for Altoona. All have some aspect of their game to work on; spending a little more time in the slow lane might be a blessing in disguise. But their arrival at Indianapolis is inevitable, even if the time table is delayed by a few weeks or months.

To add to the equation, Morton, Hart, Jose Ascanio and Jeff Karstens are all out of options and have to get through waivers if left off the 25-man roster. And with Joel Hanrahan, Evan Meek, and Chris Resop in as bullpen locks, we're sure Clint Hurdle with be looking for a couple of southpaws.

We don't think they plan to go into the year with just Moskos, Justin Thomas, and maybe Watson as the sum of all their left-handed depth; rest assured that they'll find a lefty or two. That being the case, the out-of-option RHPs can't all be stockpiled in the outfield (although that may be Ascanio and Karsten's ultimate destination).

Quite a crowd this year, unlike most seasons. And with a couple of months before camp, there still may be some roster shuffling, especially in the bullpen. We're hoping the Pirate evaluators can make the numbers game a good problem to have this season.

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