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Pirates finalize roster

Joe Rutter
| Sunday, April 4, 2004

BRADENTON, Fla. - When it came time for the Pirates to finalize their 25-man roster Saturday, the determining factor was time spent on the field as opposed to time spent in the training room.

That's ultimately what worked against Sean Burnett and Rick Reed.

Burnett was optioned to Class AAA Nashville and Reed was re-assigned to the minor-league camp as the Pirates broke camp and returned to Pittsburgh in advance of Monday's opener against the Philadelphia Phillies.

In addition, Ryan Vogelsong and Oliver Perez will round out the rotation. Jason Boyd and rookie left-hander Mike Johnston earned the final two spots in the bullpen.

Lower back stiffness sidelined Reed for almost two weeks and he was set back again Friday when his final start lasted only two innings after he took a line drive off his left thigh. He pitched only 11 innings against major-league competition this spring.

Burnett was slowed by left shoulder soreness earlier in camp, rolled over his ankle in his final start against major-leaguers and had his minor-league start shortened Friday by a small cut on his left hand.

Reed, 39, and Burnett, 21, were the oldest and youngest players in camp.

The Pirates hope Reed will take the assignment to Nashville and acquire innings, but it is unlikely he will do so. Had he made the roster, he would have earned $675,000 with a chance to make an extra $325,000 in incentives.

"If you really analyze things and break it down, the fact is Rick was not built up enough," McClendon said. "He missed too much time and it didn't allow him to get his pitch count up. We think he understands the situation even though I'm sure he is disappointed."

Reed declined comment about his future.

"We still feel he can pitch, know how to pitch and can be an asset to this club," McClendon said. "At the same time, I have a responsibility to take the guys north who are ready to perform. He's just not ready to do that."

Neither was Burnett, who came into camp as a longshot to make the rotation.

"We could not take a young starter who couldn't give us six or seven innings off the bat," McClendon said. "I have a sneaking suspicion he'll be in the big leagues at some point this season."

This will be Burnett's first season at Nashville. He was 14-6 with a 3.21 ERA at Class AA Altoona last year and is a two-time organizational minor-league pitcher of the year.

"To make it to the last day and know there is a flight in a few hours to Pittsburgh is rough," Burnett said. "There's nothing I can do about it but go down and pitch well. I didn't come in here with a lot of expectations, and there are a lot of pluses coming out of this. They know now I can face major-league hitters and get them out."

Vogelsong not only won a spot in the rotation, he could end up being the third starter behind Kip Wells and Kris Benson. He is expected to start Thursday night against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Vogelsong finished the spring with a 2.05 ERA and 29 strikeouts and six walks in 26 1/3 innings.

"He was probably our best starter in spring training and he deserved an opportunity to start," McClendon said. "I'd be hard-pressed to tell him to go out, perform and if you're one of the best, we'll take you north and then we don't keep up our end of the bargain.

"He kept up his end of the bargain, so we kept up ours."

The Pirates had considered using Perez in the bullpen to start the season while he works out his mechanical flaws with pitching coach Spin Williams. Instead, he'll be the fifth starter and will take his turn Sunday against the Cincinnati Reds.

Five rookies will begin the season on the roster while two more are on the disabled list (Jason Bay and Freddy Sanchez). That includes left-handed relievers Johnston and John Grabow.

That's not a worry for McClendon.

"The only thing that concerns me is if they're not talented," he said. "And they're talented."

The Roster

Pitchers (12)

Number Name Height Weight Age

32 Kip Wells 6-3 200 26

34 Kris Benson 6-4 195 29

22 Ryan Vogelsong 6-3 213 26

27 Josh Fogg 6-0 203 27

48 Oliver Perez 6-2 190 22

60 Jose Mesa 6-3 232 37

41 Brian Boehringer 6-2 196 34

50 Jason Boyd 6-3 175 31

46 Brian Meadows 6-4 230 28

16 Salomon Torres 5-11 210 32

78 Mike Johnston 6-2 215 25

39 John Grabow 6-2 210 25

Catchers (2)

18 Jason Kendall 6-0 195 29

11 Humberto Cota 6-0 210 25

Infielders (6)

35 Randall Simon 6-0 240 28

79 Jose Castillo 6-1 200 23

17 Bobby Hill 5-9 180 26

7 Abraham Nunez 5-11 190 28

2 Jack Wilson 6-0 192 26

3 Chris Stynes 5-9 207 31

Outfielders (5)

43 Raul Mondesi 5-11 230 33

5 Tike Redman 5-11 172 27

36 Craig Wilson 6-2 220 27

26 J.J. Davis 6-5 250 25

59 Rob Mackowiak 5-10 195 27

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