PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Spring Training is officially underway!
The Pittsburgh Pirates are already getting to work as they look to bounce back after a disappointing 2016 season.
There are plenty of questions surrounding the team with the season just around the corner.
Here are five things to look out for in Spring Training:
1. The “Real” Andrew McCutchen
Let’s start this list with the Most Obvious. Andrew McCutchen is coming off his worst season with the Pirates. Not even close to his career averages in just about every category. He batted .256 – about 40 points lower than the year before and way off pace from his MVP type seasons. He said he didn’t feel comfortable at times. He wasn’t happy batting No. 2. This year, he is back in the 3 hole, but doesn’t sound like he is happy playing right field.
2. “Ace” Gerrit Cole
If McCutchen is the No. 1 reason for the Pirates’ success, Gerrit Cole is 1-A. Cole is also coming off a subpar season and injuries are one of the main reasons why. Cole was injured before Spring Training last season and it continued throughout the season until he found himself on the DL to finish the season. He said he is healthy this spring. Let’s hope that translates into wins.
3. Who Leads Off?
The Pirates might not have a “true” leadoff hitter, but they have a few guys that can fill the role in various situations. Josh Harrison seems to be the likely candidate. He likes being at the top of the order and his numbers indicate that. Harrison is at his best leading off. The Pirates like Starling Marte batting fourth, but he has developed into a more patient hitter and could potentially fill the role. The more likely candidates if it isn’t Harrison could be Alan Hansen or Adam Frazier. Don’t count out Jordy Mercer.
4. Back End of the Bullpen
Mark Melancon is gone. Move in Tony Watson. Watson is coming into the same situation as Melancon last year. He is a free agent at the end of the season and will likely get paid if he puts up some good numbers. Watson was pretty good in his new role closing games, but he did struggle at times and fans remember. Watson will close and Felipe Rivero and Daniel Hudson will be his set up guys. Rivero has the stuff to be a real good closer when Watson is traded or leaves via free agency. Even though the starting rotation looks right-handed heavy, the bullpen is the exact opposite with a few lefties in key situations. One guy to keep an eye on his hard throwing Pat Light. Light can hit 102 mph.
5. Jung Ho Kang
This is the mystery we are currently trying to solve. So many hurdles right now. Kang gets sentenced in Korea at the beginning of March for his third DUI. He is not expected to serve any jail time, but could face potential punishment from MLB or the Pirates. Pirates fans will be lucky to see him by Opening Day in April.