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Bullpen race wide open in Bucs camp

More than a dozen expected to compete for four open relief spots
MLB.com @adamdberry

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Less than a week into Spring Training, the Pirates' rotation is all but officially set. They have one open spot in their outfield. They might have to make a tough decision or two as they fill out their bench.

But what about their bullpen? That race looks to be wide open. The Bucs send waves of pitchers to the four practice mounds at Pirate City each day, and every group contains at least one candidate to crack the Opening Day bullpen. They have plenty of options, which should translate to depth in the long run.

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Less than a week into Spring Training, the Pirates' rotation is all but officially set. They have one open spot in their outfield. They might have to make a tough decision or two as they fill out their bench.

But what about their bullpen? That race looks to be wide open. The Bucs send waves of pitchers to the four practice mounds at Pirate City each day, and every group contains at least one candidate to crack the Opening Day bullpen. They have plenty of options, which should translate to depth in the long run.

"We've got a lot of choices to look at this spring," manager Clint Hurdle said. "We've got a lot of interesting arms to look at. … We just need to get them the ball, get them the opportunities, but we will have a number of guys we're looking at for multiple innings out of the bullpen."

Closer Felipe Rivero, George Kontos and Daniel Hudson are in. Beyond those three, though, are more than a dozen candidates for the final four jobs.

On the 40-man roster, that includes Michael Feliz, Kyle Crick, Dovydas Neverauskas, Edgar Santana, A.J. Schugel, Josh Smoker, Jack Leathersich and Rule 5 Draft pick Jordan Milbrath. Hurdle said the non-roster pitchers in camp will have a "real opportunity," and a few of them -- including Damien Magnifico, Richard Rodriguez and Bo Schultz -- have Major League experience.

Video: HOU@SEA: Feliz fans Zunino to strike out the side

The Pirates prefer to carry at least two multiple-inning relievers, and most of the above candidates have experience working more than one frame. But those roles also could fall to left-hander Steven Brault and/or right-hander Tyler Glasnow, who might be better served pitching out of the bullpen in the Majors than spending additional time in Triple-A.

Brault, who would satisfy their need for an additional lefty, owns a career 2.68 ERA in Triple-A after putting up a 1.94 mark for Indianapolis last season. Glasnow has dominated the Minor Leagues, recording an overall 2.02 ERA with a 1.95 mark in 43 Triple-A starts.

Video: Hurdle on roles of Glasnow, Brault in 2018

"Tough to look at those guys and then say, 'You know what, one more year of Triple-A would be good for you,'" Hurdle said. "I'm not so sure about that."

Around the horn
• The Pirates typically do not announce their International free-agent signings, but they have been active on that front over the winter, spending from a bonus pool that ranked among the game's largest.

The Bucs dismissed longtime Latin American scouting director Rene Gayo in mid-November and, with that change pending, weren't as busy as usual during the standard, post-July 2 International signing period. Pittsburgh hired international scouting director Junior Vizcaino on Dec. 1, and his staff has since gone to work signing young, International free agents.

"Good players are still signing in November, December, January and, we're thinking, February as well," general manager Neal Huntington said. "We want to maximize the impact of the international pool that we had."

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

The Pirates recognized their need to improve in that department at an odd time, Huntington said: during offseason trade talks. They targeted a number of players who signed for less than $250,000 as International free agents -- other systems' versions of Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco.

"We need to be better in that area," Huntington said, "and we believe we've gotten better in that area."

• Another wave of early arriving position players joined the club for Thursday's workout, including David Freese, Austin Meadows, Jordan Luplow, Eric Wood, Erich Weiss and Jason Martin. Gregory Polanco has also arrived in Florida.

Position players must report by Sunday, before the first full-squad workout on Monday. Josh Harrison, Adam Frazier, Bryan Reynolds, Pablo Reyes and Elias Diaz (who remains excused to spend time with his family) have yet to check in at Pirate City.

• Hudson (sprained ankle) did not throw his scheduled bullpen session on Friday.

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

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