Pirates scouring the market for lefty relievers
Pirates beat reporter Jenifer Langosch answered questions in this weeks inbox where she discussed the search for lefty bullpen help, contract extension with Neil Walker and more (You can read the entire transcript here).
- When Hurdle took over as manager, he said he felt we needed a couple of left-handers in the bullpen. Do you see any left-handers on the horizon other than Scott Olsen?
Assuming that Olsen remains in a starting role, the Pirates do lack proven left-handed options in the bullpen. Lefties Justin Thomas and Brian Burres both signed Minor League deals with the club and could be possibilities for the bullpen. Internal options include Tony Watson and Daniel Moskos, though neither has any previous Major League experience.
The Pirates continue to scour the market to see if there are other left-handed options available, and don’t be surprised if some additions are made in the next few weeks. It would be a substantial risk to begin the season without a reliable left-handed option, even if management insists that it doesn’t see a strong benefit in having a lefty specialist.
- Is there any chance that both Ryan Doumit and Jason Jaramillo make the team out of Spring Training? The Pirates have already said that they are going to play Doumit more than just as a backup catcher, so could we carry three catchers into the season?
Yes, I believe there is a chance that the Pirates will carry a third catcher this season, though such a decision has not yet been made. As you mentioned, the Pirates’ plans for Doumit are not to plug him solely into a backup role. In order to have the flexibility to liberally insert Doumit in as an outfielder, first baseman or pinch-hitter, the Pirates would need to have a third catcher available in case of an emergency.
This decision is certainly one to keep an eye on as the makeup of the bench comes into better focus during Spring Training. It will also be intriguing to see how Doumit’s new role develops, and how he handles the decrease in playing time.
- With all the talk about the fifth spot in the rotation going to Olsen and Brad Lincoln, is there a chance that Rudy Owens could be rewarded with the job instead?
It’s unlikely that Owens will make the jump from Double-A to the Majors without first stopping in Triple-A to begin the 2011 season. This will be Owens’ first taste of big league camp, and he will technically be competing for a rotation spot with the Pirates as camp gets under way. However, I just don’t see the Pirates slotting Owens into the rotation on Opening Day no matter how well he pitches this spring.
I’d project that Owens will start the year in Indianapolis, and it is certainly possible that you could see him in Pittsburgh sometime midseason. That will depend on how the rotation is faring at the Major League level and how Owens continues to develop in the Minors. I will say that, from a selfish standpoint, I’m looking forward to getting my first look at Owens in person this spring. The numbers that he has put up over the last two seasons are sensational, and he is a left-hander to get excited about.
And as you mention possible fifth starter candidates, don’t forget about Charlie Morton. He, along with Olsen and Lincoln, seem the three likeliest options.
- Neil Walker was great last year and, in my opinion, was one of the bright spots for the Pirates last season. Do you see the Pirates signing him long-term?
While there is definitely reason to be excited about Walker’s potential, it is too early to begin talking about a long-term contract for the former first-round Draft pick. The reality is that Walker has had just four months of success at the Major League level. That’s not to say that his 2010 success was a fluke. It’s just to point out that Walker must consistently produce for another few seasons before the Pirates would feel comfortable offering multi-millions his way.