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3 questions facing Pirates before Opening Day

MLB.com @adamdberry

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The Pirates have 31 active players remaining in camp, and they can only carry 25 north for their Opening Day matchup against the Tigers. The next 24 to 48 hours in Florida will be tough for the Pirates' decision-makers, but as pitching coach Ray Searage pointed out, even more so for the players involved.

"Do the best job you possibly can on that given day and just let the chips fall," Searage said Sunday. "They all work so hard. You'd like to have a 40-man roster, but that ain't going to happen."

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DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The Pirates have 31 active players remaining in camp, and they can only carry 25 north for their Opening Day matchup against the Tigers. The next 24 to 48 hours in Florida will be tough for the Pirates' decision-makers, but as pitching coach Ray Searage pointed out, even more so for the players involved.

"Do the best job you possibly can on that given day and just let the chips fall," Searage said Sunday. "They all work so hard. You'd like to have a 40-man roster, but that ain't going to happen."

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Here's a look at three major questions the Pirates must answer in the coming days.

12 or 13 pitchers?
General manager Neal Huntington brought up the idea of breaking camp with 13 pitchers while addressing the media recently, an indication the Pirates are seriously considering an eight-man bullpen for at least the first few days of the season.

Why? Pittsburgh's relievers have struggled to work multiple innings, for one. Moving from the rotation to the bullpen, Tyler Glasnow and Steven Brault aren't conditioned to pitch on consecutive days. With a designated hitter in the lineup, there's less of a need for pinch-hitters. Their bench players, particularly Sean Rodriguez and Adam Frazier, are versatile enough to play anywhere.

But doing so would push Jose Osuna off the Opening Day roster despite an excellent Spring Training. The corner infielder/outfielder is batting .327 with a team-leading five homers and 16 RBIs. With Bryce Brentz on outright waivers, the last bench spot all but officially belongs to Osuna.

Video: TB@PIT: Osuna laces an RBI double off left-field wall

But will that spot exist on Thursday? If not, how soon will they rebalance their roster?

Who's filling out the bullpen?
This is their most pressing question, and it's no easier to answer with eight relievers than seven. For now, let's assume only closer Felipe Rivero, setup man George Kontos, right-hander Michael Feliz, Brault and Glasnow are in.

Video: 30 Clubs in 30 Days: Rivero aims to build off 2017

The remaining candidates include Kyle Crick, Jordan Milbrath, Dovydas Neverauskas, Edgar Santana, Kevin Siegrist and Josh Smoker. Nobody has claimed a spot without question. Everyone but Milbrath, the Rule 5 Draft pick, and Siegrist, who can opt out for a better opportunity, could be optioned to Triple-A to start the season.

"It's going to be a tough decision for us. I don't want to say one way or the other," Searage said. "We're going to have to have a conversation over it the next day or so, then we'll come to a head and make our decision."

Searage said Sunday he has seen "potential" in the hard-throwing Crick and "flashes of being a consistent left-handed reliever" from Smoker. The Pirates have experimented with Neverauskas as a mid-inning fireman, a role manager Clint Hurdle values. The Bucs have some concerns about Siegrist's velocity and arm strength, but the lefty said Sunday he's ready for the rush of regular-season adrenaline.

"I feel healthy, and I feel good. That's all that really matters to me," Siegrist said. "I feel like I'm ready to go."

When will Musgrove join the rotation?
This became a little clearer on Sunday, after Joe Musgrove threw five efficient innings against the Blue Jays in the Pirates' 7-4 win at Dunedin Stadium.

Musgrove said he will travel to Detroit with the Pirates. Then he'll return to Florida to pitch six innings in a Minor League game on Saturday, his final Spring Training outing. He will debut in Pittsburgh's rotation during the April 5-8 series against Cincinnati at PNC Park.

It's unclear exactly where Musgrove will slot into the rotation. If he remains on regular rest, he would start April 5, pushing Trevor Williams back a day. They don't technically need a fifth starter until April 8, the series finale.

Regardless, Musgrove felt it was important that he be with his new team on Opening Day.

"I really wanted to be there. Opening Day is really special," he said. "It's like that first day of school as a kid again. It's extremely exciting. To do it in the big leagues is incredible. I got my first one last year, and I hope to make the next 10 or so."

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.

Pittsburgh Pirates, Joe Musgrove