Pirates send prospects Newman, Kingham to minor-league camp
BRADENTON, Fla. — Former first-round pick Kevin Newman and one of the organization's top pitching prospects, Nick Kingham, were among six players sent to the Pirates minor league camp Monday morning.
The 6-foot-6 Kingham, ranked the No. 9 prospect in the organization by MLB.com, joined fellow right-handed starter Clay Holmes as players on the 40-man roster who were optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis.
Joining Newman in being reassigned to minor league camp were left-hander Cody Dickson, right-hander Tyler Eppler and catcher Jin-De Jhang.
The moves were not unexpected, as scarce innings are available for players — particularly starting pitchers — to get ready for the regular season that begins three weeks from Monday. The Pirates already have seven starters assured or vying for the five spots in their major-league rotation.
"Really, with each of the pitchers, none of them did anything to deserve getting sent out of camp. It just became a matter of innings," general manager Neal Huntington said. "Guys that are in competition to make our major league team (need those innings). And even with Kevin to an extent, (we're) just out of innings at shortstop for him."
While five regulars are taking part in the World Baseball Classic, and starting third baseman Jung Ho Kang is stuck in Korea because of visa issues, starting shortstop Jordy Mercer is the rare regular with the team in Bradenton, limiting opportunities for Newman behind a crowded middle infielders group.
Newman has zoomed through four levels of the system in the season-and-a-half since being drafted in 2015. He hit .389 in 18 Grapefruit League at-bats. He's the organization's No. 5-ranked prospect, per MLB.com and Baseball America. Newman, 23, hit .366/.428/.494 at High-A Bradenton early in 2016 to earn a promotion to Double-A Altoona, where he hit .288/.361/.378.
"We are excited about where he is, excited about some of the things he did for us last year and some of the things he showed us in spring training," Huntington said. "And we are looking forward to his continued growth and development offensively and defensively. We gave him some things to work on."
Kingham was a fourth-round pick in 2010 and had a 3.04 ERA for Double-A Altoona in 2014 but had Tommy John surgery early in 2015, keeping him out of action 14 months. He declared himself completely healthy this spring.
"My stuff feels good. Maybe a little normal spring inconsistency, but everything has been getting better and better every time I take the mound," Kingham said.
"I'm going to go down there and get ready like I would for a normal rotation."
Cole pitches sim game
Gerrit Cole threw 67 pitches in a four-inning simulated game Monday at LECOM Park. Hurdle termed the report he got from pitching coach Ray Searage as "a good outing."
"Good finish and arm angle, liked the curveball, liked the slider and threw some changeups," Hurdle said.
In a sign that regular-season prep for relievers is ramping up, too, lefties Felipe Rivero and Tyler Webb — both of whom pitched in Sunday's game at LECOM Park — each tossed a 12-pitch simulated inning, as well.
Day of rest
For the first time since Grapefruit League play began Feb. 25, the Pirates will not play a game Tuesday. It will be the first day of inactivity since players reported in mid-February.
"It's been a solid month," Hurdle said. "We've done a lot of work, and we've played a lot of games. Everybody needs to take a day off. Head to the beach. Relax."
Tyler Glasnow wasn't as enthusiastic about the notion that a day off was a welcome reprieve.
"I mean, sure," the right-hander said after starting Monday's game in Orlando. "I kind of want to get back out there and show (my stuff). Just go out and compete again.
"But, yeah, I guess off days are cool, too."
Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.