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Notes: Two out-of-options Pirates to watch

Kingham, Stallings hope to make mark this spring
February 14, 2019

BRADENTON, Fla. -- There are a number of factors the Pirates must consider when filling the holes in their Opening Day roster over the next six weeks. Some of those factors, like performance, are within the players' control. Others aren't. For a few players, their Minor League option status makes

BRADENTON, Fla. -- There are a number of factors the Pirates must consider when filling the holes in their Opening Day roster over the next six weeks. Some of those factors, like performance, are within the players' control. Others aren't. For a few players, their Minor League option status makes the decision even more complicated.
When a player is out of options, he can't be sent to the Minor Leagues without first being put on waivers, where any team can claim him. There are two players to watch in Pirates camp who are out of options this year: right-hander Nick Kingham and catcher Jacob Stallings.
Kingham is competing with right-hander Jordan Lyles and left-hander Steven Brault for the fifth spot in the rotation. If he's not one of the Pirates' five starters, there should be room for him in the bullpen as a long reliever. Last month at PiratesFest, Kingham acknowledged that being out of options might put him "under the microscope" a little more, but he generally looked at it as a positive.:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::
"You're going to be given an opportunity. Let's capitalize on it. Now it's all up to me," Kingham said. "It's either going to make or break me. That next level needs to happen, or something bad's going to happen and I might be sitting at home. I think it is going to happen, and I'm looking forward to it."
Pirates' Opening Day roster prediction
Stallings is in a more difficult position. He won't unseat Francisco Cervelli and Elias Díaz, who were the Majors' most productive catching tandem last season. Few teams carry three catchers because it limits their flexibility, especially in an era of 13-man pitching staffs. The Pirates did it at times last year, however, and it allowed manager Clint Hurdle to aggressively use Cervelli and Diaz as pinch-hitters.
But the Pirates don't have much Major League-ready catching depth behind Cervelli, Diaz and Stallings. Non-roster invitee Steven Baron, likely the next man up, has six games of big league experience. So if they lost Stallings on waivers and something happened to Cervelli and/or Diaz, they would be in a tough spot at a critical position.

It's a scenario for the front office and coaching staff to consider as the spring goes on. For now, though, Hurdle advised patience.
"Take it one day at a time. He'll have ample opportunity to play this spring. A week from now, we could have a whole different conversation," Hurdle said. "There's just so much time. Whether it's an injury, who knows, but we want to get him incorporated. He works well with our pitchers. He makes them better. He's worked hard to earn this opportunity."
Stallings hit .285/.335/.414 in 68 games for Triple-A Indianapolis last season. He batted just .216 in 14 games for the Pirates, but pitchers raved about his work behind the plate. The 29-year-old backstop is approaching this spring with the kind of one-day-at-a-time mentality that Hurdle mentioned.
"Any sort of thing can happen, especially in this situation. It's not something I've gone through before. It's a little different in that sense," Stallings said. "Day to day, I don't think it bothers me too much. Just trying to get better, like I always do, get ready for the season, hopefully play well and see what happens at the end. It's not really something you can worry about every day."
Around the horn
• Right-hander Chris Archer threw a bullpen session to Cervelli during Thursday's workout at Pirate City. The other pitchers to scale the bullpen mound were Richard Rodríguez, Nick Burdi, Dovydas Neverauskas, Alex McRae, Dario Agrazal, Elvis Escobar, Brandon Waddell, Eduardo Vera, Jesus Liranzo, Luis Escobar, Geoff Hartlieb and Blake Weiman.

• Third baseman Colin Moran and non-roster outfielder JB Shuck reported to Spring Training, joining a large group of early-arriving hitters. Position players are not required to report until Sunday, but they performed fielding drills and took batting practice on Thursday morning.
• The Spring Training schedule still runs early in the day, especially when compared to the regular-season schedule consisting mostly of night games, but the Pirates pushed back their routine a bit. Players can't report to the clubhouse any earlier than 7:30 a.m. this spring, whereas some arrived before 6 a.m. in years past, and the Pirates are hoping the extra rest pays off.
"We did a lot of strategic planning in the offseason," Hurdle said. "We made a lot of phone calls to our players, sharing with them what our thoughts would be, how we would stagger the schedule on certain work days. We're all on board on doing something different that we think will bring us benefits throughout the season."

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