Pirates Make Cuts, Get Closer To Filling Starting Rotation

PITTSBURGH (93-7 The FAN) – The Bucs made four roster moves Tuesday, including eliminating one of those battling to be the fifth starter.

Lefty Steven Brault and infielder Gift Ngoepe were optioned to the minors, while reliever Josh Lindblom and corner infielder Jason Rogers were reassigned.

“We like a lot of the things Steven is doing and we like where is going to go eventually for us as a pitcher,” General Manager Neal Huntington said. “We believe he’s eventually going to be a good starting pitcher just our challenge is we have some guys ahead of him right now. We wanted to get him out as we run out of innings to get him stretched out and make a start for us as soon as we need him.”

The 24-year-old Brault was in the mix for the final starting spot as Trevor Williams, Tyler Glasnow and Drew Hutchison remain. Brault’s was 3-0 with a 3.45 ERA pitching in 15.2 innings this Spring, 6 runs, 16 hits, 5 walks and 8 strikeouts. Brault essentially had one bad inning, against the Phillies on March 18, giving up 4 runs.

Huntington said of the three still battling, one may end up in bullpen or two will start in Triple A. There is a perception that Hutchison has the inside track because he was brought in as part of the Francisco Liriano trade. Hutchison had a 7.41 ERA entering Tuesday’s start.

“He is not,” Huntington said of Hutchison getting special treatment. “He is going to have to earn what he gets here just the same way the other guys are. Each guy has things that we like, each guy has reasons why he could or should be in the rotation or in the bullpen. How we acquire them is not one of the factors we are weighing at all.”

Chad Kuhl In The Rotation

The Bucs GM did confirm that Chad Kuhl will make the opening day roster and be in the Pirates rotation as the third starter.

“We’re not overly concerned with who are one starter is, who are three starter is, it’s more five guys with a legitimate chance to help us win a game,” Huntington said.

Jason Rogers Next Man Up

The Pirates seemed like a good fit for Rogers when he was acquired in a trade with Milwaukee in 2015, but 29-year-old was only 2 for 25 with the Bucs last year, and hit .263 in Triple A with just 6 homers. Rogers can play first and third and missed the first couple of weeks of camp this year with an ankle sprain.

“He would be our next best available bat if we have an injury in Spring Training depending upon the final decisions as we come out of camp,” Huntington said. “Jason’s done some things offensively than not may other guys have done.”

Ngoepe Enjoyed Time

Signed as a free agent in 2008, Gift Ngoepe had his best training camp ever. The 27 year-old infielder called it phenomenal and enjoyed picking the brains of the big leaguers

“I’ve put so much pressure on myself than in the years before and this year I came with a different mindset.” Ngoepe said. “Just find my inner-peace and just go play the game and have fun. It’s been more relating than I’ve ever been playing baseball.”

Ngoepe is known for his stellar defense, but hasn’t hit above .260 since high A ball in 2013. Ngoepe hit .429 this Spring in 42 at bats.

Lindblom Thankful

Following the news that 29-year-old Josh Lindblom was sent down, the righty was effusive in his praise of the Pirates organization.

“Coming in as one of the very few non-roster guys on the pitching staff, just seeing how much they care about guys here,” Lindblom said. “How much they care about guys’ careers. The support they’ve given me, it’s a pretty unbelievable experience.”

Lindblom feels like he got a lot better throughout camp and will get some starts at Triple A to be an option there or as a long reliever.

“I love getting the ball and I love competing no matter what role it’s in,” Lindblom said. “Where ever they hand me the ball, it’s just about getting outs.”

Injuries

Huntington was optimistic about Gregory Polanco’s shoulder injury, thinking that he will be a go for Opening Day. “Injury is a strong word,” Huntington said. “He has a little discomfort in there.”

“We’ll use these upcoming days to test and see where he is,” Huntington said of the groin injury to catcher Chris Stewart. “One of the benefits of one of the rule changes in the off-season is that the DL is 10 days instead of 15, which will probably result in more tweener guys being put on the disabled list than ever.”

If Stewart isn’t ready, Elias Diaz would be recalled from the minors to take his spot.

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