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Some Pirates anxiously await final spring training week

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Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Vin Mazzaro delivers to the plate against the Rays at McKechnie Field in Bradenton, Fla.

Four's a crowd

The Pirates have four candidates for three bullpen jobs:

In: Jason Grilli, Mark Melancon, Tony Watson, Justin Wilson

On the bubble: Stolmy Pimentel, Jeanmar Gomez, Bryan Morris, Vin Mazzaro

Friday, March 21, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

BRADENTON, Fla. — After more than five weeks of mundane drills and meaningless games, everyone is keen for spring training to end.

Yet for some players, that eagerness is tinged with anxiety. There were 51 players in Pirates camp Thursday, but only 25 will be on the active roster when the season begins a week from Monday.

“There's a lot of people here right now,” outfielder Jose Tabata said. “I don't know what's going to happen. Everyone wants to be on the team, but there's only so many spots.”

There are several factors — including a player's salary, performance and remaining minor league options — that determine who survives the final cut. Players who are out of options must clear waivers before being sent to the minors.

As teams consult with their scouts and assess depth charts, it sometimes creates the right environment for a trade. This week, three industry sources told the Tribune-Review the Pirates have let teams know Tabata, reliever Vin Mazzaro and outfielder Travis Snider are available.

Tabata is batting .103 (3 for 29) with no extra-base hits in 12 Grapefruit League games. Snider, who's batting .333 (10 for 30), might have the upper hand on being the Opening Day right fielder.

“Right now I don't feel 100 percent with my swing,” Tabata said. “My body's (healthy). I'm working on my swing. I know what I can do. I trust myself. It will come.”

As a rookie in 2010, Tabata batted .299 with a .746 on-base plus slugging percentage. However, over three seasons since signing a six-year, $15.5 million contract in 2011, Tabata has hit .264 with a .714 OPS. His power never has developed, and perhaps as a result of hamstring injuries, his speed has become less of a weapon.

“I don't feel any pressure,” Tabata said. “I don't know what happened. I was better the last two months of last season.

“This year I want to be better than that.”

Some team might be willing to gamble that Tabata, who won't turn 26 until August, still can come up with a breakout season.

Even if Tabata or Snider is dealt, top prospect Gregory Polanco is not likely to be on the Opening Day roster. Polanco last week was reassigned to minor league camp.

The Pirates have four pitchers — Mazzaro, Stolmy Pimentel, Bryan Morris and Jeanmar Gomez — in the running for three bullpen jobs. All are out of options.

If any of the four is traded, Mazzaro figures to be the likely candidate. Mazzaro, 27, had a breakout season last year and was rewarded through arbitration with a $950,000 salary for 2014. Pimentel, Gomez and Morris are younger, less expensive and under team control longer.

Ken Davidoff of the New York Post reported Thursday that two industry sources told him Morris and Gomez also might be trade bait. Morris, who's having a good spring, boosted his stock by adding a two-seamer.

Gomez would command a higher return because he can be used as a starter or reliever.

“I don't think about that kind of stuff,” Gomez said. “I just try to work hard, make good pitches when I'm warming up in the bullpen and when I'm in the game.”

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




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