BRADENTON, Fla. -- The Pirates' Opening Day roster is all but officially set. Pittsburgh on Monday optioned corner infielder/outfielder Jose Osuna and reliever Kyle Crick to Triple-A Indianapolis, reassigned veteran left-hander Kevin Siegrist to Minor League camp and reportedly put Rule 5 Draft pick Jordan Milbrath on waivers.
The Bucs will break camp with a four-man bench and an eight-man bullpen. They may rebalance their roster at some point after their season-opening series in Detroit, but general manager Neal Huntington would not commit to a timeline for such a move.
"We just feel that it's the best way to get us off to a good start from a pitching standpoint," Huntington said. "The three games in Detroit with the DH help, but I would anticipate … that we'll be at an eight-man bullpen for longer than that. An injury could always change that, but it is the way we'll start the season and we may be there longer than just Detroit."
Osuna enjoyed yet another strong Spring Training showing, slugging a team-leading five home runs. Osuna's experience in the Majors, strong performance this spring and growing versatility as a first/third baseman and corner outfielder should help him earn a spot whenever the Pirates need bench help.
"We had a handful of hard decisions. Jose was one, especially, with what he did last year with us," Huntington said. "We do have an opportunity now to get him some significant time at third base in Triple-A and see if we can speed up that development process."
Crick, who was acquired from the Giants alongside outfield prospect Bryan Reynolds in the Andrew McCutchen trade, struggled to locate his fastball this spring and did not crack the bullpen. The Pirates expect to call upon Crick at some point this season.
"It would have been easy to put Kyle on the club because of who he was traded for. We took the players that we felt put us in the best position to win games early in the season," Huntington said. "Kyle is going to help us and our belief is still that he's going to be a really good, Major League reliever for years to come."
The Pirates have expressed some concerns about Siegrist's fastball velocity and arm strength, and they hope he will benefit from some time in Triple-A. Siegrist's contract includes a sort of upward mobility clause that allows him to seek other opportunities. If another club commits to carrying him on its active roster, the Pirates can either let Siegrist go or add him to their Opening Day roster.
One reason the Pirates bolstered their bullpen? Their relievers have struggled this spring when asked to pitch multiple innings.
"We haven't had anybody really jump out and corral that opportunity to be that guy," manager Clint Hurdle said. "So [with] the extra man, maybe we just cut it up where it's one inning apiece for a while to cover those two innings."
Milbrath's high-octane sinker and unique sidearm delivery intrigued Pittsburgh enough to merit a selection in the Rule 5 Draft, but he battled through an inconsistent spring as he worked to nail down his arm angle. If Milbrath clears waivers, the Pirates must offer him back to the Indians. Milbrath's locker at LECOM Park was cleared out on Monday morning.
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With these moves, the Pirates have seemingly -- but not officially -- filled out their bullpen. They already guaranteed bullpen spots to closer Felipe Rivero, setup man George Kontos, right-hander Michael Feliz and converted starters Steven Brault and Tyler Glasnow. Barring a late move, which is possible as players are put on waivers, the remaining three spots will go to right-handers Dovydas Neverauskas and Edgar Santana and left-hander Josh Smoker.
The Pirates also placed left-hander Jack Leathersich, one of their first Spring Training roster cuts, on waivers, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. With outfielder Bryce Brentz being claimed by the Mets, the Bucs will have three open spots on the 40-man roster if Milbrath and Leathersich are moved or outrighted. That flexibility would allow them to claim players off waivers or otherwise acquire them as clubs set their Opening Day rosters this week.
"We'll always look for opportunities to make the club better. That is a possibility," Huntington said. "At the same time, we like this group. We'll take something that we feel makes us a better 25-man roster or makes us better organizationally to do that."