PITTSBURGH — One of the final checkpoints before the Pittsburgh Pirates convene for Spring Training 2.0 this week was crossed on Sunday, as they released their list of players who will be in Pittsburgh or a part of their taxi squad.
MLB teams had a 4 p.m. deadline to release the list of up to 60 players who will report to training camp, which begins Wednesday. The Pirates’ list has 59 names on it. Pitcher Edgar Santana would have been the 60th, but he was suspended by MLB for 80 games for testing positive for a forbidden substance.
The list also includes a list of players known as the taxi squad, who will train separately in Altoona and will be ready to join the big-league roster, should they be needed, in the case of an injury or illness of some sort.
The full, 60-man Pirates roster for the 2020 season is listed below.
Pitchers: Steven Brault, JT Brubaker, Nick Burdi, Blake Cederlind, Kyle Crick, Miguel Del Pozo, Robbie Erlin, Michael Feliz, Geoff Hartlieb, Derek Holland, Clay Holmes, Keone Kela, Mitch Keller, Chad Kuhl, Joe Musgrove, Dovydas Neverauskas, Hector Noesi, Richard Rodriguez, Chris Stratton, Nik Turley, Trevor Williams
Catchers: Luke Maile, John Ryan Murphy, Jacob Stallings
Infielders: Josh Bell, Phillip Evans, Adam Frazier, Erik Gonzalez, Ke’Bryan Hayes, Colin Moran, Kevin Newman, Jose Osuna, JT Riddle, Cole Tucker
Outfielders: Socrates Brito, Jarrod Dyson, Guillermo Heredia, Gregory Polanco, Bryan Reynolds
Taxi Squad: Infielder Ji-Hwan Bae, pitcher Cody Bolton, infielder Rodolfo Castro, infielder Will Craig, infielder Oneil Cruz, pitcher Sam Howard, catcher Christian Kelley, pitcher Max Kranick, outfielder Jason Martin, infielder Mason Martin, pitcher James Marvel, pitcher Nick Mears, pitcher Braden Ogle, outfielder Jared Oliva, pitcher Cody Ponce, pitcher Yacksel Rios, pitcher Aaron Shortridge, outfielder Travis Swaggerty, catcher Andrew Susac.
BREAKING DOWN THE ROSTER
There are, of course, Pirates who everyone expected to see on this roster. Bell, Frazier, Kela, Reynolds and players of that ilk were always going to be a part of spring training 2.0, if at all possible.
The Pirates’ usual suspects all being present, however, does speak to something general manager Ben Cherington has hinted at before. None of the Pirates players chose to opt out of the 2020 season for health reasons amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, Cherington confirmed on Sunday, the Pirates haven’t experienced any issues with visas or travel commodities for their players traveling from out of the country to return for the season.
“We’re pretty confident that the league is helping with a flight out of DR (Dominican Republic) July 1,” Cherington said. “We’ll have some players on that flight. We don’t have any reason to think that anyone on the roster that you just were sent will have a problem getting to either Pittsburgh or Altoona.”
Some of the attention paid to the Pirates’ 59-man list will surely surround some of the names that aren’t there. There had been some question over whether teams would use some of their slots on the taxi squad to get recent draft picks some extra development.
That would go for 2020 first-rounder Nick Gonzales or 2019 first-rounder Quinn Priester, neither of whom made the roster. The same goes for top prospects like pitcher Brennan Malone and shortstop Liover Peguero.
Cherington said the Pirates considered including some of the young talent in their farm system, but ultimately decided against it, hoping that there will be some alternate way to develop these players aside from the taxi squad.
“We just felt like that we remain hopeful that there will be an opportunity to get them in uniform at a facility in 2020 and if we can do that, that would be just a more productive way for them to continue their development,” Cherington said. “In Quinn’s case, and really I would say that Quinn and a number of younger pitchers who haven’t yet been at the full-season level, we just felt like this wasn’t quite the time to include them in this group. We have an important group of young pitchers that haven’t been quite at full season yet. We remain hopeful there will be an opportunity to get them development and innings this year.
“And then in Nick’s case, and really with all of our draft picks, we just feel like there’s a more effective way for that particular group to get introduced to professional baseball and the Pirates, and we remain hopeful there will be a way to do that in 2020.”
That, of course, doesn’t mean the Pirates are devoid of talent altogether. The last roster move the Pirates made before spring training was shut down by COVID-19 in March was to option seven players to Triple-A Indianapolis. That move included shortstop Cole Tucker, third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes and right-hander Geoff Hartlieb.
Those three will be in Pittsburgh come next week. Tucker and Hayes are of particular interest, since they both have high expectations as young, exciting infield prospects, and could play big parts in the Pirates’ future. That at least means that Cherington and the Pirates are willing to give players like Tucker and Hayes another chance at cracking the Opening Day roster, with an opportunity to contribute throughout the season.
“I think you can look at the group of 40, or I guess it’s 39 now … that will be in Pittsburgh would be the group that we expect to get our opening day roster out of, and also guys who we certainly think could be in the mix over the course of the regular season,” Cherington said. “So we’re not making any decisions on Opening Day, but we felt like that was the right group to have in Pittsburgh, and then we’ll have a second group starting up in Altoona not too long after that.”
The roster finagling is not done entirely. With Santana’s suspension, Cherington said the Pirates will look to fill that slot. Perhaps that comes via a free agent signing or from a promotion from within. Since the news on Santana came on Sunday, though, Cherington said they didn’t want to rush that decision, whatever it may be.
There are, also, some scheduling things to iron out. For instance, the start date for the taxi squad’s Altoona camp is unclear. The Pirates still need to make sure all of the COVID-19 protocols are set up and ready there.
Still, baseball is further peaking its head over the horizon. The Pirates will return to Pittsburgh this week for spring training, and now we know exactly who will be there.
“I like the energy, focus and excitement that we’re hearing from players about getting back here, getting back to work. That’s been evident throughout,” Cherington said. “I have not sensed a single bit of resistance from any of our guys about wanting to play this year. I think that’s partly a reflection on them. We have a good group of guys who care about the game, want to be out there playing. And I think partly a reflection on the environment that (manager Derek Shelton) and the staff have started to create in spring training. Guys want to be a part of that. I’m excited about that, for sure. We’re got a lot of young players in this group, both in Pittsburgh and Altoona.
“We’re really excited to see that group continue to grow, get better. We know that when we’re winning games in Pittsburgh, it’s going to be because that group of players is performing and continuing to find another level of performance.”
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