BRADENTON, Fla. -- The Pirates provided some clarity regarding their rotation and bench competitions on Tuesday by sending four players to Minor League camp.Pittsburgh optioned left-hander Steven Brault to Triple-A Indianapolis, taking him out of the running for the open spot in the Pirates' rotation. That race will come down
BRADENTON, Fla. -- The Pirates provided some clarity regarding their rotation and bench competitions on Tuesday by sending four players to Minor League camp.
Pittsburgh optioned left-hander Steven Brault to Triple-A Indianapolis, taking him out of the running for the open spot in the Pirates' rotation. That race will come down to Andrew Hutchison, Tyler Glasnow or Trevor Williams, which also means the Bucs will begin the season without a lefty in their rotation.
"We want the five best starting pitchers that we feel give us the best opportunities to win games and then depth behind that," Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said. "We have complete confidence Brault can come up and win games for us in the Major Leagues."
The Pirates' rotation depth, which now includes Brault, allows them to keep two of the three remaining starters on their Opening Day roster: one in the rotation, one in the bullpen. It is worth noting that Williams is scheduled to pitch in relief on Wednesday, but Huntington said all three are candidates for either role in the Majors or starting in Triple-A.
"You'd like to have multiple guys in the Triple-A rotation who can make Major League starts for you," Huntington said. "We feel comfortable there. One of them may end up in our bullpen or three of [the four, including Brault] might end up in the Indianapolis rotation. There are some final things that need to come together."
The Pirates also optioned infielder Mpho' Ngoepe to Triple-A and reassigned infielder Jason Rogers and right-hander Josh Lindblom to Minor League camp.
Ngoepe and Rogers were longshots to earn a spot on the Opening Day bench. Rogers was removed from the 40-man roster in December and missed time this spring with a right ankle injury, but Huntington and manager Clint Hurdle were impressed with Rogers' hitting when he was healthy.
Already the organization's best defensive infielder, Ngoepe made a strong impression on the Bucs' brass this spring by improving his approach at the plate. Ngoepe hit .429 with a 1.000 OPS in 21 games this spring, focusing on a shorter swing and simplified approach.
"He's walking out of here with the best confidence level. He played well here," Hurdle said. "Very good camp for him, very good camp. I really believe he's in a good spot."
Lindblom had an outside shot to crack the Opening Day roster, but he is instead bound for Indianapolis. The right-hander said he will be stretched out to start but may wind up working as a multiple-inning reliever depending on how the Major League pitching staff shakes out.
"I felt like I got a lot better," Lindblom said. "There were a lot of things I needed to work on mechanically, just getting back to where I feel comfortable, getting back to where I was a year and a half ago, in 2015. I was able to accomplish that. That's what was really important to me."
Lindblom pointed out that his assignment is a "pretty cool worst-case scenario," as he'll get to live at home with his family as long as he remains in Indianapolis. Lindblom returned to the Pirates organization this winter after two years in Korea, coming back to be with his family and their infant daughter, Monroe, who was born with a rare congenital heart defect.
"Being in the situation that I was in, why I decided to come back, the support that they've given me, it's an unbelievable experience," Lindblom said.
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.