Share This Page

Pirates name lefty Locke fifth starter

| Wednesday, March 27, 2013, 9:27 a.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Jeff Locke throws in the bullpen during the 2013 spring training at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla.

BRADENTON, Fla. — Jeff Locke never got too high or too low during his six spring training outings. That was good enough for the left-hander to clinch the final spot in the Pirates' starting rotation.

Locke was among the survivors Wednesday when the team made its final cuts to set the Opening Day roster. Locke got the No. 5 starting job and will make his season debut April 7 in Los Angeles against the Dodgers.

Righty Jeanmar Gomez, who is out of minor league options, will be in the bullpen as a long reliever. Kyle McPherson was optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis.

“We had extremely challenging decisions,” general manager Neal Huntington said. “We didn't have clear separation on a number of fronts, but we still made decisions we feel good about.”

Alex Presley, who started in left field on Opening Day last year, and infielder Jordy Mercer were optioned to Indianapolis. Relievers Mike Zagurski, Ryan Reid and Vin Mazzaro; catchers Carlos Paulino and Lucas May; and outfielder Felix Pie were reassigned.

Utility infielder Josh Harrison will get the final bench spot if, as expected, Brandon Inge (shoulder) starts the season on the disabled list.

“The determination isn't final, but Brandon is still having some soreness,” Huntington said.

Locke, 25, began last year at Indy and made eight starts for the Pirates (1-3, 5.50 ERA).

This spring, he outdueled McPherson by going 2-1 with a 3.38 ERA and 1.41 WHIP in six Grapefruit League appearances.

“There's no outing that stood out above the other ones,” Locke said. “There's none that was so bad that it stood out, either. Most of them were pretty consistent. I was able to make adjustments a lot quicker than (last year).”

McPherson put up an 8.46 ERA and 1.57 WHIP in six spring starts. In 22 innings, he allowed 30 hits, including five homers, and five walks. Clearly stung by his demotion, McPherson left the clubhouse without speaking to reporters.

“The message we gave to Kyle was to continue to grow and develop,” Huntington said. “He has major league-caliber pitches. It's just the consistency and command that need work. We know he's going to help us, either out of the rotation or bullpen, and probably early this season.”

Cutting Presley and Pie leaves the Pirates without a lefty bat on the bench on days when Garrett Jones and Travis Snider are in the lineup. Huntington left open the possibility that Gaby Sanchez will get more starts at first base, which could push Jones or Snider to the bench.

“It's going to be an ever-evolving process there,” Huntington said. “Ideally, you want a switch-hitter, a left-handed hitter and a right-handed hitter. But you also need five guys who can throw a glove on and go around the field. Our bench has some areas that are lacking, but there are others that are pretty strong.”

Presley and Pie performed well in camp — Presley batted .304 with eight RBI and two steals; Pie hit .318 with two homers and eight RBI. But Jose Tabata is out of options, which gave him an edge to make the team.

“They all did some very good things at various times, and all had some struggles, too,” Huntington said. “If there's not clear separation, something out of their control (such as options) plays into it.”

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

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.