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Pirates cut ties with Brandon Moss

| Tuesday, March 30, 2010

BRADENTON, Fla. -- The Pirates on Monday cut outfielder Brandon Moss, picked up pitcher Hayden Penn and created some difficult questions about their Opening Day roster.

Penn, 25, was claimed off waivers from the Florida Marlins. To clear a spot on the 40-man roster, Moss was designated for assignment.

Moss, 26, was one of the four players acquired July 31, 2008, in the Jason Bay trade. Moss hit .232 with 13 homers in 178 games with the Pirates and couldn't hold the starting job in right field.

In 19 spring training games this year, Moss went 3 for 37 (.081) with no extra-base hits or RBI.

"He fought himself a lot and it did snowball on him," manager John Russell said. "He does have talent. At some point, hopefully, it will come out for him."

Moss left McKechnie Field without speaking to reporters. He did not return phone calls and text messages for comment.

If Moss clears waivers -- which is unlikely -- the Pirates could send him to Triple-A Indianapolis.

"We'll cross our fingers and see what plays out of the next week or so," general manager Neal Huntington said.

Penn was on the Marlins' Opening Day roster in 2009 and went 1-0 with a 7.77 ERA in 16 outings (one start). After being demoted to Triple-A, the right-hander went 2-4 with a 4.11 ERA in 14 games (13 starts).

Penn was the Baltimore Orioles' fifth-round draft pick in 2002. In 30 games (15 starts) in the majors, Penn is 4-6 with an 8.89 ERA.

"He's a strike-thrower and he gets ground balls," said Huntington, who said Penn's youth is the culprit for his struggles in the majors. "We like the upside. He's another arm we can add to the mix."

Penn is out of minor-league options, meaning the Pirates cannot send him down without first passing him through waivers. With five spring games to go -- final 25-man rosters are due at 3 p.m. Sunday -- Hayden will get two or three relief outings to show the Pirates what he can do.

"He's going to get every shot in the world to make the club," Huntington said. "We'll see how this week plays out."

Huntington said the Pirates have mapped a general plan for final roster cuts -- there are 37 players left in camp -- but are not yet ready to reveal the details.

"We've still got some moving pieces and parts, maybe other waiver claims and trade conversations as the final pieces fall into place," Huntington said.

Because they have three off days in the first three weeks of the regular season, the Pirates might short-hand their bullpen and keep six position players on the bench. That would give them more time to trade infielder Ramon Vazquez and extend the evaluation time for outfielder John Raynor, a Rule 5 pickup.

But if they do that, the Pirates can keep only six relievers. Veterans Octavio Dotel, D.J Carrasco, Brendan Donnelly and Javier Lopez are locks.

Jack Taschner has pitched well enough to be the second lefty, plus he can opt out of his contract if he's not on the Pirates' roster on June 1. Right-hander Evan Meek also deserves a spot. Penn would be No. 7.

"You don't claim guys with the idea that you're going to send them out (right away)," Huntington said.

If either Vazquez or Raynor is out of the picture, the Pirates can use a five-man bench and seven-man bullpen. They could keep Penn and get through April with a little roster maneuvering, such as:

» Daniel McCutchen starts April 11 against the Diamondbacks, then is optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis to stay on his rotation. Because of off days, the Pirates won't need a fifth starter again until April 24.

» Reliever Joel Hanrahan (elbow) is activated from the disabled list when McCutchen goes to Indy, giving the Pirates eight relievers. Penn and Carrasco could handle long relief/spot start duties.

» For the April 24 start against the Astros, either McCutchen or Kevin Hart is recalled from Indy. At that point, it's decision time again. The odd man out could be Meek, who has two options left.

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