BRADENTON, Fla. -- The Pirates made their first significant round of Spring Training roster cuts on Monday, sending a number of top prospects to Minor League camp at Pirate City.Outfielder Austin Meadows, right-hander Clay Holmes and lefty reliever Jack Leathersich were optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis, where they will begin the
BRADENTON, Fla. -- The Pirates made their first significant round of Spring Training roster cuts on Monday, sending a number of top prospects to Minor League camp at Pirate City.
Outfielder Austin Meadows, right-hander Clay Holmes and lefty reliever Jack Leathersich were optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis, where they will begin the season. Shortstop Cole Tucker, outfielders Bryan Reynolds and Jason Martin, right-hander Damien Magnifico and catcher Christian Kelley were reassigned to Minor League camp.
Meadows, the Bucs' No. 2 prospect as ranked by MLB Pipeline, made another strong impression this spring as he went 7-for-19 with a home run, a triple, two doubles and eight RBIs. If he remains healthy, the 2013 first-round Draft pick should be ready to make his Major League debut later this year.
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"Saw some very good development from him. Health, first and foremost," general manager Neal Huntington said. "Showed us why we're excited about what he can become in the future. Get him out to Triple-A, get him some at-bats, get him some confidence, let him learn some things at that level and prepare himself to come help us win games in Pittsburgh."
Leathersich came into camp competing for a job in the bullpen. In five appearances, he allowed six runs on five hits and six walks while striking out four in 4 2/3 innings. The Pirates have several other lefty relief options in front of closer Felipe Rivero, including non-roster invitee Kevin Siegrist, Josh Smoker and Steven Brault.
"We just didn't see him get ahead in the count enough this spring and, as a result, put himself in tough counts and put himself behind some of the other guys that we have," Huntington said of Leathersich. "He's still an interesting guy. But as we look to narrow our innings and allocate those innings to guys who are still legitimately in competition, unfortunately he put himself behind the 8-ball."
Tucker (Pittsburgh's No. 5 prospect), Reynolds (No. 6) and Martin (No. 22) should begin the season with Double-A Altoona. Tucker was the Pirates' first-round Draft pick in 2014 and worked exclusively at shortstop this spring. Reynolds and Martin were acquired two months ago in the Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole trades, respectively.
"Even though they're challenged a little bit statistically, we had some good at-bats. We had some good defensive plays," Huntington said. "We had some opportunities for them to realize that they're close, but also they have some work to do."
Holmes, the Bucs' No. 19 prospect, made a solid three-inning start against the Blue Jays in Dunedin on Sunday. At this point of Spring Training, however, it becomes harder to keep starters in camp -- if they aren't competing for Opening Day roster spots -- as they build up their pitch counts.
Having Holmes as rotation depth in Indianapolis, where he spent all of last season, may allow the Pirates to open the season with Tyler Glasnow and/or Brault in the big league bullpen.
"He's definitely one of the options that we feel very good about, that could come up and make a Major League start for us," Huntington said. "It's just a matter of trust -- trust his weapons, trust his work. He has weapons that can get Major League hitters out."
Kelley, 24, should advance to Double-A this season after hitting .243/.340/.295 in 92 games last season for Class A Advanced Bradenton. Magnifico, 26, came to the Pirates in the Minor League phase of the Rule 5 Draft in December; he allowed three runs on two hits and five walks in 3 2/3 innings over five appearances in the Grapefruit League.
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.