Pittsburgh Pirates Team Report
Posted 1hour 23minutes ago

INSIDE PITCH

Ryan Doumit remains in the Pirates' fold, but maybe not for long.

The team has been trying to trade him most of the offseason. Talks heated up during the winter meetings in early December, then died down.

But, thanks to a key vacancy in Houston, the right opportunity might finally be at hand: The Astros just lost catcher Jason Castro to right knee surgery and need an everyday player. Doumit is not great defensively, but his pull power from either side of the plate would be a fine fit for Minute Maid Park.

"Things kind of die in terms of most conversations when you get into February, and they kind of pick back up again with a couple weeks left of spring games," general manager Neal Huntington said last week. "Right now, it's a very quiet period for most clubs."

The Pirates have denied being motivated by money in shopping Doumit, but he is set to make $5.1 million for an undefined bench role, perhaps backing up catcher Chris Snyder, first baseman Lyle Overbay and right fielders Matt Diaz and Garrett Jones. That is an awfully big chunk of a $45 million payroll to invest in a spare part.

Most likely, the Pirates' motivation in waiting this long is, as Huntington has bluntly said of Doumit, "We're not just going to give him away." They wanted to wait for a team to have a genuine need, such as the one just created in Houston.

Doumit has been the good soldier so far — "I'm just here to do my job," he said on the opening day of spring training — but be sure that he would welcome a change of scenery, if only because of his staunch belief that he can continue to be a starting catcher. Doumit, who will turn 30 in April, batted .251 with 13 home runs and 45 RBI last season, missing much of the season to the latest in a series of concussions.

[HIGH-LIGHT]NOTES, QUOTES[/HIGH-LIGHT]

—LHP Joe Beimel had a scare as the calendar turned to March and he felt pain in his forearm, but an MRI cleared him of ligament damage and he continued his throwing program on the side. Still, Beimel being sidelined served as a stark reminder of the Pirates' lack of left-handed depth in the bullpen. He currently is the only reliable option.

—RHP Evan Meek got a clean bill after straining his calf and was expected to resume pitching in games within a few days. Also on the mend is SS Ronny Cedeno after missing a game to a sore finger on his right hand after it was struck by a groundball March 3.

—Spring training had its first taste of controversy when LHP Scott Olsen told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette he wants no part of pitching in the bullpen. "They didn't bring me in here to be a bullpen guy," Olsen said. "They want to do that, we're going to have to have a conversation about it, and we haven't had that conversation." Olsen, always something of a loose cannon, was signed as a free agent and was told he would compete for the fifth-starter job. But no promises were made, GM Neal Huntington said, and Olsen could work in relief.

—3B Pedro Alvarez, plagued by talk of his subpar conditioning and the chance that the Pirates will draft Rice 3B Anthony Rendon this summer, remains adamant that he wants to stay at his natural position. "All I know is that I'm a third baseman, and that's what I'm working for," Alvarez said. "That's where I'm working to stay the rest of my career. I plan to get better."

—RHP Charlie Morton, the favorite for the fifth-starter spot, reiterated that former pitching coach Joe Kerrigan took away his sinker last year because the Pirates preferred to have him focus on locating his four-seam fastball. His sinker has looked good in the early going this spring. Asked after one spring start why he hadn't used the sinker previously, Morton replied, "Uh, I wasn't throwing it. I threw it in '08 and '09 and last year we just ... we scrapped it." He then looked upward and shrugged his shoulders.

BY THE NUMBERS: 25 — Pitches, including 19 strikes, Charlie Morton needed to coast through three scoreless innings March 3.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "They didn't bring me in here to be a bullpen guy. They want to do that, we're going to have to have a conversation." — LHP Scott Olsen

[HIGH-LIGHT]ROSTER REPORT[/HIGH-LIGHT]

ARRIVALS: 1B Lyle Overbay (free agent from Blue Jays), RHP Kevin Correia (free agent from Padres), LHP Scott Olsen (free agent from Nationals), OF Matt Diaz (free agent from Braves), RHP Cesar Valdez (trade with Diamondbacks), 3B Josh Fields (minor league free agent from Royals), LHP Joe Beimel (free agent from Rockies).

DEPARTURES: LHP Zach Duke (traded to Diamondbacks), LHP Dana Eveland (free agent, signed with Dodgers), RHP Chan Ho Park (free agent, will pitch in Japan), RHP Joe Martinez (traded to Indians), LHP Wil Ledezma (claimed off waivers by Blue Jays), 3B Andy LaRoche (free agent, signed minor league deal with A's), OF Lastings Milledge (free agent, signed minor league deal with White Sox).

PROJECTED ROTATION:

1. RHP Ross Ohlendorf

2. LHP Paul Maholm

3. RHP Kevin Correia

4. RHP James McDonald

5. RHP Charlie Morton or LHP Scott Olsen

The fifth-starter spot will be decided by a spring competition, with RHP Brad Lincoln also in the mix. But expect Morton to be given every chance to break through, if only because of his superior arm, the best of anyone in the rotation.

Overall, this group has nowhere to go but up after a dismal 2010 in which it was the majors' worst. There is some cause for optimism — all are 30 or younger, and neither of the two newcomers, Correia and Olsen, pitched up to par last season.

PROJECTED BULLPEN:

RHP Joel Hanrahan (closer)

RHP Evan Meek

RHP Chris Resop

LHP Joe Beimel

RHP Jeff Karstens

The one area where general manager Neal Huntington has fared consistently well is in building a bullpen, but this group does not appear to offer nearly as many options for a good spring competition as in years past. The five above are the best the Pirates have to offer, and even Class AA types such as LHP Daniel Moskos and LHP Tony Watson are considered candidates to round it out.

Hanrahan was designated as the closer at the start of camp, but Meek, an All-Star last year, could fill that role if Hanrahan falters.

PROJECTED LINEUP:

1. CF Andrew McCutchen

2. LF Jose Tabata

3. 2B Neil Walker

4. 3B Pedro Alvarez

5. RF Matt Diaz/Garrett Jones

6. 1B Lyle Overbay

7. SS Ronny Cedeno

8. C Chris Snyder

Hurdle is giving zero clues about his lineup. "I'll tell the players before I tell you," he said recently. But it is reasonable to expect that the top four of the order will remain the same as the close of last season. McCutchen is a dynamic leadoff man, and Tabata and Walker make consistent contact before Alvarez's thunder.

Diaz and Jones will platoon in right field, providing what the Pirates hope will be some power out of a position where previously there was little. Depending on which of the two is playing, the order could shift.

The bottom of the order, Nos. 7-8, should be a grave concern.

TOP ROOKIES: LHP Rudy Owens was the Class AA Eastern League pitcher of the year, and management is high enough on his poise, potential and stuff to be considering him a long shot for the rotation. He was 12-6 with a 2.46 ERA for Altoona last season. CF Alex Presley was the Pirates' minor league player of the year, when he batted .312 with 12 home runs and 85 RBI. That earned a September recall despite starting 2010 in high Class A. He will be in the mix for a reserve outfield spot, and he might have an edge because he can play center.

[HIGH-LIGHT]MEDICAL WATCH:[/HIGH-LIGHT]

—No significant injuries.

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