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Taillon among players sent back to minors by Pirates

| Wednesday, March 13, 2013, 7:18 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher James Taillon delivers to Brandon Inge during an intrasquad game at McKechnie Field in Bradenton, Fla.

BRADENTON, Fla. — Jameson Taillon returned to Pirates spring training camp Wednesday morning, but he didn't stick around very long.

Taillon, who pitched for Canada on Sunday in the World Baseball Classic, was among 11 players who were in the Pirates' first round of cuts.

“A lot of (the moves) were tough,” general manager Neal Huntington said, who added that the cuts came later than usual because of the WBC and a rash of injuries.

Taillon and fellow right-hander Erik Cordier, infielders Matt Hague and Anderson Hernandez, and outfielder Darren Ford were reassigned to minor league camp. Infielder Clint Robinson, outfielder Jerry Sands and pitchers Vic Black, Hunter Strickland, Duke Welker and Stolmy Pimentel were optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis.

Taillon worked the first four innings of the 9-4 loss to the United States, which eliminated Canada from the tournament. He allowed two runs (one earned) on four hits, walked one and struck out three.

“It was unnerving, as a GM, to watch a young pitcher with as high expectations as we have for (Taillon) pitch a make-or-break game against Team USA,” Huntington said. “But he handled himself well. He showed the maturity and the stuff that has us so enthusiastic about his future.”

Taillon will open the season with Double-A Altoona. A first-round pick in 2010, Taillon was in big league camp for the first time. He pitched in one Grapefruit League game, surrendering one unearned run on one hit and struck out three.

Sands and Robinson were sent out because they got caught in the first base/right field logjams. Sands primarily will play right field at Indianapolis.

“There's very little doubt in our minds Sands is going to help us (in the majors) at some point, probably this year and maybe sooner than later,” Huntington said. “We want to make sure we give him the at-bats and the innings to get off to a good start.”

Black and Welker could figure into the Pirates' bullpen mix later this summer.

“As we told pretty much everybody out the door, we're not going to have (the same) 12 pitchers and 13 position players all season,” Huntington said. “The more guys we have who can come up and not miss a beat, the better team we'll be.”

Although Strickland and Pimentel were optioned to Indy, Huntington said either or both could actually start the season at Double-A Altoona. Their eventual destination depends on how the minor league depth chart looks at the end of spring training.

Pimentel, 23, has never pitched above Double-A. If he goes to Altoona this year, it might be easier to fit him into a starting rotation instead of the bullpen.

“We're going to give him every shot in the world to show he can be a major league starting pitcher,” Huntington said. “We really like what we've seen out of him.”

Pimentel was the last player to arrive in camp this year as visa problems held him up in his native Dominican Republic. The right-hander was acquired in the Dec. 26 trade that sent Joel Hanrahan to the Boston Red Sox.

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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