PITTSBURGH -- The only thing clear about the Pirates' 2011 bullpen is that it will include Joel Hanrahan and Evan Meek. The rest falls under the to-be-determined category.
The Pirates' decision to finish the year with a 13-member bullpen was partially done to give manager John Russell enough options to get through the grind that the final month presents. However, the addition of so many extra arms is also serving as an evaluation tool.
Pitchers are, in a sense, auditioning for jobs in 2011. It's not to say that what happens in September should be viewed as make-or-break. But it can certainly help or hurt. So far, it appears as if Russell has come to one conclusion.
"I am liking the fact that it doesn't look like we're going to have to bring in a multitude of arms like we have in the past," he said. "I think internally, we have some guys with us now -- [injured pitchers Kevin] Hart and [Jose] Ascanio will be in the mix as well -- that we've got some pretty good options to put together a pretty strong bullpen.
"We've got a lot of good arms. That will be up to us over this offseason period to start piecing that together. The internal options are the ones that we're excited about going into next year because we have not had that these last couple of years."
Excluding Hanrahan and Meek, both of whom are guaranteed spots on next year's team, the reliever who appears to have made the best impression is right-hander Chris Resop. While the Pirates aren't definitively ruling out Resop as a future starting option, indications seem to be that the club likes what he can offer as a middle reliever.
The Pirates also appear stacked with long-relief candidates for 2011. Jeff Karstens, Daniel McCutchen and Joe Martinez highlight that list of options.
General manager Neal Huntington has succeeded in piecing together bullpens largely through free agency each offseason. And even if the Pirates like a number of their internal options, Huntington is still likely to complement those choices through some winter pickups.