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Pirates send right-hander Schugel to Triple-A

Reliever expected to provide bullpen depth if needed
MLB.com

MONTREAL -- Hours before finalizing their Opening Day pitching staff, the Pirates provided a bit of clarity to their bullpen picture when they optioned reliever A.J. Schugel to Triple-A Indianapolis on Friday morning.

Schugel had been one of the last men standing in the race for Pittsburgh's final two bullpen spots, which ultimately went to Trevor Williams and Wade LeBlanc after the Bucs slotted Tyler Glasnow into their rotation.

MONTREAL -- Hours before finalizing their Opening Day pitching staff, the Pirates provided a bit of clarity to their bullpen picture when they optioned reliever A.J. Schugel to Triple-A Indianapolis on Friday morning.

Schugel had been one of the last men standing in the race for Pittsburgh's final two bullpen spots, which ultimately went to Trevor Williams and Wade LeBlanc after the Bucs slotted Tyler Glasnow into their rotation.

Schugel served as valuable relief depth last year, posting a 3.63 ERA in 52 innings over 36 games, and figures to be among the Bucs' first options if a need arises early this season.

Last season, the Bucs called up Schugel on April 13. The right-hander posted a 1.04 WHIP with 46 strikeouts, a save and 11 games finished. The right-hander has an option year remaining, so he can be shuttled between Triple-A and the Majors this season.

The Pirates have yet to officially finalize their bench. After an exhibition game against the Blue Jays in Montreal on Saturday afternoon, the Pirates will begin the regular season Monday (2:05 p.m. ET) against the Red Sox at Fenway Park.

Hughes released
Veteran reliever Jared Hughes cleared unconditional waivers on Friday and officially became a free agent, the Pirates announced. The Bucs informed Hughes on Wednesday that he would be released.

Hughes emotional, grateful after release

After leaving the Pirates' Spring Training clubhouse in Bradenton, Fla., Hughes planned to head home to Texas, where he will await another opportunity.

Roll call
Pittsburgh brought 44 players north of the border for the two-game set against Toronto. Outfielder Gregory Polanco (passport issue) and Nova (pitching Sunday in a Minor League game) did not make the trip.

The group includes a handful of players brought over from Minor League camp, including Canadian infielder Eric Wood -- who played for Team Canada in the World Baseball Classic this month -- and shortstop prospect Cole Tucker.

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

Pittsburgh Pirates, A.J. Schugel