PITTSBURGH (93-7 The FAN) – Pirates General Manager Neal Huntington said Monday morning they have three guys fighting for the last two starting rotation spots. It’s the first time this Spring anyone from the club has officially mentioned names with battles in regards to the rotation.

“We’ve seen some very strong outings and very strong indicators from (Ryan) Vogelsong and (Jeff) Locke, we don’t want to say it’s a wide open competition, but we brought Juan (Nicasio) here for a reason,” said Huntington.

Nicasio really opened eyes on Wednesday against the Orioles striking out 10 of the 14 batters he faced. After five more outstanding innings in Ft. Myers on Monday, Nicasio has yet to give up a run this month.

“Whose spot can’t he take right now,” Locke said of Nicasio. “He’s obviously pitched better than anyone in camp, starters or relievers. If they decide to take someone over me, that’s their decision.”

“You look at Cole and Liriano and build the rotation around them and we fully anticipate Jon Niese will be in the rotation,” Huntington said. “We brought those three guys – Locke, Nicasio and Vogelsong – two of those three will be our fourth and fifth starter to begin the season. I think you guys know we are going to need a sixth starter sometime before we want to.”

Locke says he’s got almost everything he’s wanted accomplished so far this spring and is getting better.

“I don’t know what to expect,” he said. “I don’t know if you have to throw a no-hitter every time or if it’s okay to give runs up as long as you are getting better. I don’t know what the expectations really are for camp.

“I’ve got almost 100 starts in the major leagues and never been given a job, never been told a position on the team is mine. But at the same time I have a lot of experience up there for someone who has never been a rotation spot,” he said.

Vogelsong said following a simulated game at Pirate City Sunday, bouncing back and forth from starting to the bullpen took its toll on him both physically and mentally last year in San Francisco. He was looking forward to just being a starter with the Pirates.

“It’s not going to bother me either way. We go through the same thing every Spring where they talk about this guy or that guy, I always find my way into the rotation,” Locke said.

“It’s the standard normal around here, it’s always the same stuff, ‘How is Locke going to do, is he doing okay, how is he throwing, can’t give up any runs, gotta be perfect every time.’ It’s the same stuff all the time, so I’m pretty used to it,” he added.

Each of the three will get at least one more opportunity with Locke’s coming Wednesday against Baltimore. Grapefruit League stats clearly favor Nicasio with 15 scoreless innings and 24 strikeouts. Vogelsong has thrown nine innings giving up four runs with four strikeouts and 10 baserunners. Locke has gone 14 innings, allowing 14 hits and 11 runs while striking out eight.

“It’s that combination of subjective and objective of what your analysts think, of what your scouts think and then what your coaches can go apply,” Huntington said of their decision. “I think between those three guys we will come out pretty well.”

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