Pirates' bullpen taking shape for season
BRADENTON, Fla. — When it comes to clarifying the composition of their bullpen, the Pirates did more Wednesday than name their closer.
Manager Clint Hurdle set Joel Hanrahan as the closer and Evan Meek as the main setup reliever. Entering spring training, the right-handers were the only sure picks in the bullpen.
Hurdle yesterday also indicated two nonroster invitees — lefty Joe Beimel and righty Jose Veras — will make the team. The veterans are capable of handling seventh- and eighth-inning roles.
"We didn't go get (Beimel) to try him out," Hurdle said. "We wanted to have a left-handed option who can bridge innings for us. I believe Joe's going to be much more than a left-on-left guy. He's got the arsenal to do that, so he's going to play a significant role."
Beimel, 33, said knowing his role this early in camp is a plus.
"It's kind of hard when you're competing for a spot to go out there during the (spring) games and work on things because you've got to be on your game every single time out," Beimel said. "It gives you a chance to relax, maybe throw more breaking balls than you usually would to get your work in. It takes some pressure off, also."
Veras, 30, has made 176 career outings for the New York Yankees, Cleveland Indians and Florida Marlins.
"He was a good get for us," Hurdle said. "He's got a big arm."
To break camp with the Pirates, Veras and Beimel must be added to the 40-man roster.
Right-handers Jeff Karstens and Chris Resop are front-runners for two of the other three bullpen jobs.
Karstens also is a consideration to be the No. 5 starter, but management is more comfortable with him as a reliever. Last season, Karstens, 28, made 19 starts (3-10, 4.78 ERA) and seven relief appearances (5.87 ERA).
The other spot almost certainly will go to a lefty.
It could be Scott Olsen, if he is edged by Charlie Morton for the final rotation job. However, Olsen, 27, has been used almost exclusively as a starter in his six years in the majors. Left-handers Justin Thomas and Brian Burres pitched part of last season with the Pirates. Thomas, 27, had a 6.23 ERA in 12 outings. Burres, 29, was ineffective as a reliever but performed well as a fill-in starter down the stretch.
Three righties with injury histories — Kevin Hart, Jose Ascanio and Tyler Yates — also are in the mix. Yates (elbow surgery) hasn't pitched since May 2009 but looked great in his first bullpen session Tuesday.
Hart (shoulder surgery) had a recent setback and is limited to throwing on flat ground. He is out of options, meaning the Pirates could lose him through waivers if he doesn't start the year in the majors — but the Pirates could buy themselves time by putting him on the disabled list in late March.
Ascanio has tossed just three innings in the minors since having shoulder surgery in October 2009. He also is out of options.
Visa problems have kept Ascanio, a native of Venezuela, from reporting to camp. If he misses much more time, he could fall too far behind to compete for a roster spot.
Notes: Hanrahan hasn't chosen his entrance song but said it will be something by hard rockers Slipknot. ... The Pirates are planning to honor former manager Chuck Tanner, who was buried Wednesday. "We will recognize Chuck on Opening Day, and (it's) likely that we will wear a patch honoring Chuck," president Frank Coonelly said. Before putting a patch on their uniforms, the Pirates must get approval from Major League Baseball. ... Pedro Ciriaco and Matt Diaz checked into camp yesterday, leaving four position players still to arrive.
Four of the Pirates' seven bullpen jobs appear to be set. Here are those who have secured jobs and others still in the running:
Joel Hanrahan, rhp: Was named the closer Wednesday.
Evan Meek, rhp: Remains closer-in-waiting, will be main setup guy.
Joe Beimel, lhp: Could be used as more than lefty specialist.
Jose Veras, rhp: Power arm with 176 career outings.
Who's in the mix
Chris Resop, rhp: Did well last year after being claimed off waivers.
Scott Olsen, lhp: Also is candidate for No. 5 starter's job.
Justin Thomas, lhp: Had 6.23 ERA in 12 outings last year.
Brian Burres, lhp: Was used mostly as a starter last season.
Tyler Yates, rhp: Injuries have kept him inactive since 2009.
Jeff Karstens, rhp: Excelled last year in swingman role.
Jose Ascanio, rhp: Visa issues have kept him from reporting to camp.
Kevin Hart, rhp: Recent setback in shoulder rehab may be costly.