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Pitcher Irwin, infielder d'Arnaud among Pirates cuts

Pirates/MLB Videos

Friday, March 21, 2014, 3:15 p.m.

TAMPA, Fla. — The Pirates made a round of cuts Friday, but they had little impact on the position battles at first base and right field or the final three bullpen spots.

Pitcher Phil Irwin and infielders Chris McGuiness and Brent Morel were optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis. Infielder Chase d'Arnaud and relievers Josh Kinney, Yao-Sun Yang, Jake Brigham and Cody Eppley were reassigned to minor league camp.

None of the moves were surprises. McGuiness hit .240 in 14 games and didn't figure in the competition for the first base job. Any chance Irwin had to vie for a rotation spot evaporated when he missed two weeks with a sore elbow. Irwin made his big league debut last April when Wandy Rodriguez was out with an injury. It was Irwin's last game at any level that season. He had surgery to repair an ulnar nerve in July.

General manager Neal Huntington said Irwin pitched well this spring and could be an option if the Pirates need a spot starter this season.

“The curveball was sharp, the fastball command was pretty solid, the changeup showed some good signs,” he said. “If he's where he was when we called him up a year ago, he can absolutely do that (as a call-up). The nice part is, we've got some other guys who can fill that role as well.”

Morel played in 14 games and batted .160 after being claimed off waivers from Toronto. He might end up playing several infield positions at Indy.

“He'll primarily play third base, but he'll also get some work at first,” Huntington said. “We're still intrigued by the thought that he might be able to play some second base. He'll get some pregame work there and if it progresses to games, terrific.”

• Huntington said left-hander Francisco Liriano continues to feel tightness in his left groin. Liriano left Thursday night's game in the sixth inning due to the injury. “We'll see where he is (Saturday),” Huntington said. “He literally is day to day,” Huntington said. Outfielder Starling Marte was scratched from the lineup Friday against the New York Yankees due to what Huntington said was a “bad headache.” Lefty Jeff Locke (oblique) pitched two innings Thursday in a simulated game. Manager Clint Hurdle said Locke looked good, with his fastball ranging from 90 to 93 mph. However, Locke, who has one minor league option left, has no shot at making the rotation. “We're just out of time to get him stretched out to 100 pitches before the end of spring training,” Huntington said. “Assuming he continues to progress, we'll have an interesting decision at the end of camp.”

• Four out-of-options relievers — Stolmy Pimentel, Vin Mazzaro, Bryan Morris and Jeanmar Gomez — are vying for three bullpen spots. Huntington indicated it's a matter of when, not if, the Pirates trade one away. “We've been very open that we're probably going to have a pretty good arm available at the end of spring training,” Huntington said. “We're working through that process. You never want to leave yourself short. We've got the ability to hold until the last second to make sure we don't have an injury. We have the ability to move if we find something we like. We can go in either direction. We think we'll get a pretty decent return for whoever we decide to move.”

• Dan Marino threw out the ceremonial first pitch — and first pass — before Friday's game at Steinbrenner Field. After firing a strike, Marino picked up a football and lobbed a toss to the plate. ... Clint Barmes was slated to start at third base against the Yankees but instead played in a nine-inning minor league game at Pirate City. Robert Andino was at third base against the Yanks.




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