BRADENTON, Fla. -- Once packed to the point that a couple of young players were sharing lockers, the Pirates' clubhouse at LECOM Park is now mostly full of blank nameplates and empty chairs. That means the competition for spots on the Opening Day roster is winding down.The first few weeks
BRADENTON, Fla. -- Once packed to the point that a couple of young players were sharing lockers, the Pirates' clubhouse at LECOM Park is now mostly full of blank nameplates and empty chairs. That means the competition for spots on the Opening Day roster is winding down.
The first few weeks of Spring Training were a reminder of how quickly those position battles can change. When camp opened, the Pirates didn't have one obvious candidate to start every day in left field. For a few days last month, they had too many outfielders to form just one platoon. Then they acquired Corey Dickerson, released Michael Saunders and lost Daniel Nava to back surgery, gaining clarity in the outfield.
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Those moves obviously had an impact on our initial Opening Day roster projection. So did the signing of reliever Kevin Siegrist, a left-hander looking to regain his previous form.
With a few days to go before the Bucs line up at Comerica Park, much more still can change as players move out of those LECOM Park lockers. But here's another shot at predicting the Opening Day roster.
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Catcher (2): Francisco Cervelli, Elias Diaz
They're both healthy, so nothing's changed here.
First base (1): Josh Bell
It's his job, and he is clearly motivated to improve upon his solid rookie year.
Second base (1): Josh Harrison
Yes, he reiterated his desire to be traded if the Pirates won't contend. And yes, he's still here.
Shortstop (1): Jordy Mercer
Still on track for his fifth straight Opening Day start as the Bucs' shortstop.
Third base (2): Colin Moran, David Freese
Moran hasn't done anything to diminish the club's belief in him as its starting third baseman. Freese is a valuable, veteran complement to Moran at third and Bell at first. Expect to see Freese occasionally start at third against particularly tough left-handed starters.
Utility (2):Adam Frazier, Sean Rodriguez
Here is our first change, as Max Moroff gets bumped off the initial projection. He has been optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis. He would have to be among their first callup considerations, however, particularly if they need infield help.
Rodriguez and Frazier will continue to move around everywhere on the field and get plenty of playing time in their super-utility roles.
Outfield (3): Dickerson, Starling Marte, Gregory Polanco,
A few changes here following the early spring addition of Dickerson, and another strong camp from Jose Osuna. Dickerson will start in left with Marte in center and Polanco in right. Nava is no longer an option following back surgery. Expect Frazier and Rodriguez to get reps in the outfield, too.
Top prospect Austin Meadows had a good spring but still needs some time in Triple-A. Jordan Luplow was also optioned to Triple-A, where he can play every day. That leaves out-of-options Bryce Brentz, who's had an uneven showing this spring, and Osuna. It seemed like Brentz would win the spot, but that may change. Osuna has performed well, and the Pirates have discussed carrying eight relievers on Opening Day. If Osuna wins the job, they could break camp with eight relievers and send one down to make room on the bench for Osuna when they return to PNC Park on April 2.
Rotation (5):Ivan Nova, Jameson Taillon, Chad Kuhl, Trevor Williams, Joe Musgrove
Musgrove has moved past his early bout of shoulder discomfort, and he's on track to join the rotation at some point during the Pirates' series against the Reds from May 5-8. So this group remains unchanged.
Nova will start on Opening Day followed by Williams and Kuhl. Taillon will pitch the home opener. Steven Brault and Tyler Glasnow remain in the bullpen as rotation depth, while Nick Kingham and Clay Holmes are a call away in Triple-A.
Bullpen (8):Felipe Rivero, George Kontos, Michael Feliz, Kyle Crick, Brault, Glasnow, Siegrist, Dovydas Neverauskas
Rivero, Kontos and Feliz will form their late-inning trio. Brault and Glasnow will be multiple-inning relievers. That much, we know. It's also become clear that Pittsburgh might break camp with eight relievers, opening another spot in the bullpen.
Trading Daniel Hudson opened up one of those spots, but Siegrist could fill it given his experience and track record when healthy. Among the other candidates are Crick, Neverauskas, Edgar Santana, Josh Smoker and Rule 5 Draft pick Jordan Milbrath. We'll give the edge to Crick (acquired in the Andrew McCutchen trade) and Neverauskas, who has been tested this spring by entering in the middle of an inning -- a fireman role manager Clint Hurdle likes to have filled in his bullpen.
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.