BRADENTON, Florida (93-7 THE FAN) – A disgruntled second baseman, a frightened but thankful catcher, and a somewhat naïve general manager walk into camp…
No, this isn’t the beginning of a really bad joke. It was Day 5 of workouts at Pirate City, and Josh Harrison, Elias Diaz, and Neal Huntington all spoke to the media.
Harrison’s desire to play for a winner and Huntington’s awkward assurance that the Pirates are closer to a World Series title than they were before they traded Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole have been hashed out in greater detail on other pages.
Diaz’s story though is just as important, if not more so. It is informative of the chaos Venezuela has spiraled into that the kidnapping his mother was a victim of is a somewhat ordinary occurrence in his home country.
It’s even more harrowing though that it was perpetrated by a neighbor of Diaz’s who was not only a family friend he grew up with, but a police officer.
“It removes the trust of your roots,” said Diaz, through interpreter Mike Gonzalez. “[It] makes you question ‘Do I want to go back?’”
The nightmare has Diaz considering moving not just his mother, but other members of his family out of the country.
“The goal is to get them out of Venezuela. It’s a tough process, but that’s the goal and that’s what we’re working hard for.”
Despite the ordeal, Diaz expressed thanks that his teammates remained in such close contact with him throughout the situation, and that ultimately, his mother is home safe and sound.
“I feel like my mother was reborn, and I was reborn as well. I feel like a brand new man.”
There was some levity briefly introduced during Diaz’s scrum when an incoming batting practice home run nearly took out the media contingent. Instead it clanged off the metal awning directly above Diaz’s head. Gonzalez didn’t miss a beat, continuing to translate like a pro.
Diaz and Harrison, the last two players to report, will take part in Monday’s first full squad workout, which begins after Clint Hurdle’s team-wide address at 9am.
As for Sunday’s action…
-14 pitchers threw live batting practice to the team’s catchers and minor league players. Jameson Taillon, Ivan Nova, Joe Musgrove, Tyler Glasnow, Steven Brault, Casey Sadler, Jordan Milbrath, Tyler Jones, A.J. Schugel, Josh Smoker, Kyle Crick, Michael Feliz, George Kontos, and Felipe Rivero all threw 2 simulated innings, warming up in the bullpen beforehand as they normally would and maxing out at no more than 35 pitches. Directives on paper from Ray Searage included varying hold times – including quick pitches – and at least two pitch outs.
The vocal encouragement from Searage came often and loudly, usually punctuated by a “ATTABOY, [INSERT NAME OF PITCHER HERE]!! ATTABOY!”
-The crowd around the cage as Milbrath pitched was sizable and included not just Searage, but Bullpen Coach Euclides Rojas, Hitting Coach Jeff Branson, and Assistant General Managers Kyle Stark and Kevan Graves. The organization will have to figure out quickly if Milbrath, a Rule 5 pick from the Indians organization, is worth stashing on the Major League roster all season, or perhaps trying to pry away from Cleveland in another, more creative way, despite the fact he’s never pitched above the AA level.
-Given his pedigree – 1st Round Draft Pick, #1 Organizational Prospect, All-Star Futures appearance – it shouldn’t be surprising that Crick has great stuff. Watching from behind the cage however is another thing. The movement on his fastball looked exceptional.
As it stacks up now it should be assumed that A.J. Schugel, Daniel Hudson, Kontos, and Rivero – all without any minor league options remaining – are ticketed for the bullpen. If Tyler Glasnow also ends up in the ‘pen, that would leave just two remaining spots. One could go to a lefty – either Smoker or Jack Leathersich, but perhaps Steven Brault. That would mean Feliz, Crick, Dovydas Neverauskas, and Edgar Santana would all be fighting for the final spot (or two, depending on how those lefties perform… or perhaps even three if Glasnow is jettisoned to Indianapolis).
All of those pitchers, from Glasnow down through Santana, still have options remaining, which means there’s nothing guaranteed for anyone. It also means the best arm – or two… or three – should come out on top.
There aren’t any Jared Hughes on this roster who should fear being released altogether if they can’t make the Major League bullpen.
-Tomorrow’s full squad workouts will be lengthy, with most players not wrapping up before 1pm.