BRADENTON, Fla. -- The Pirates turned over a few prominent parts of their roster, but they had relatively little Spring Training competition for such a young team.The Pirates entered camp knowing who would start at every position except left field, and that was answered with the acquisition of Corey Dickerson.
BRADENTON, Fla. -- The Pirates turned over a few prominent parts of their roster, but they had relatively little Spring Training competition for such a young team.
The Pirates entered camp knowing who would start at every position except left field, and that was answered with the acquisition of Corey Dickerson. Their rotation was set from the start: Ivan Nova, Jameson Taillon, Chad Kuhl, Trevor Williams and Joe Musgrove. Even the key pieces of their bullpen -- Felipe Rivero, George Kontos, Michael Feliz, Steven Brault and Tyler Glasnow -- were all but officially determined.
In only a few days, the Pirates will get a chance to see what that group can do. There is a sense of optimism inside the clubhouse, a confidence that they can outperform expectations as long as everyone stays healthy. Before the Pirates take the field for Opening Day Interleague Play matchup with the Tigers on Thursday at Comerica Park, let's take a look at several key components of their roster.
Projected Opening Day lineup
Adam Frazier, DH
Josh Harrison, 2B
Gregory Polanco, RF
Josh Bell, 1B
Starling Marte, CF
Corey Dickerson, LF
Francisco Cervelli, C
Colin Moran, 3B
Jordy Mercer, SS
RHP Ivan Nova
• Expect to see a number of different lineup combinations throughout the season and at least three different leadoff hitters. Frazier will start there when he's in the lineup. Harrison will also spend time in the leadoff spot. But so will Dickerson. The left-handed-hitting left fielder batted leadoff 57 times (and posted an .858 OPS there) for the Rays last season.
• Rivero is the closer. Kontos is the eighth-inning setup man. Feliz will pitch in high-leverage situations. Brault and Glasnow will be used as long relievers, perhaps occasionally in more situational roles. Beyond that, time will tell how manager Clint Hurdle deploys his bullpen arms behind the Bucs' young rotation.
• The Pirates have a versatile bench with some experience. David Freese will start at third against tough left-handers, backing up Moran, and occasionally spell Bell at first base. Sean Rodriguez and Frazier will play everywhere, with Rodriguez likely Pittsburgh's top backup in center and at shortstop. Elias Diaz will spell Cervelli behind the plate.
• Musgrove is no longer hurt, having fully healed from the right shoulder discomfort that bothered him earlier this spring, but he is delayed. Musgrove has one more Spring Training-type outing remaining, and it will be in a Minor League game in Florida on Saturday.
• Reliever A.J. Schugel exited his first Grapefruit League outing on Feb. 25 due to right shoulder discomfort and hasn't pitched in a game since. He's working his way back, but it's unclear when he'll be game-ready -- and how long of a rehab assignment he might need when he is.
• Non-roster outfielder Daniel Nava (back surgery) will be rehabbing for most of the first half. Rule 5 Draft pick Nick Burdi, a right-handed reliever coming back from Tommy John surgery, could join the bullpen in August if his rehab goes according to plan.
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.