BRADENTON, Fla. -- Wanting to give Josh Rodriguez a longer look, the Pirates are going to have a Rule 5 player on the 25-man roster for the fourth straight season.
After Sunday's game, manager Clint Hurdle and general manager Neal Huntington informed Pedro Ciriaco that he would begin the year in Triple-A Indianapolis. By optioning Ciriaco to the Minors, the Pirates opened the door for Rodriguez to go north with the team as the backup middle infielder.
A number of factors played into the Pirates' decision to keep Rodriguez, one of which was his status as a Rule 5 player. Cleveland, which had publically stated that it would take Rodriguez back, would have had that chance, had the Bucs not kept Rodriguez on the 25-man roster. At the same time, Ciriaco has a Minor League option remaining, meaning the Pirates can shuttle him back and forth between Triple-A and Pittsburgh this season without consequence.
"We've got nothing to lose here," Hurdle said. "We need to try some things. We need to be creative and open-minded."
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Ciriaco outperformed Rodriguez defensively, though Huntington said Rodriguez met the challenge of showing the club he is capable of backing up Ronny Cedeno at short. The Pirates certainly lose some speed by not keeping Ciriaco on the bench, but Rodriguez has the higher upside on the offensive end.
The Pirates will have Ciriaco bounce around to play second, third, short and center in Triple-A in an effort to prepare him for a super-utility role. The opportunity for Ciriaco to get more regular at-bats than he would have in the Majors is also something the Pirates think will be beneficial to the 25-year-old's development.
"His history, if you look at it, he's been somewhat of a slasher up there," Hurdle said of Ciriaco, who batted .333 this spring. "Will he always be? He might be. But with a little more focus down there and the volume of at-bats that he is going to get, I'm hoping he can tighten that up a little, because when he gets the ball in the strike zone, he's pretty efficient with it."
The challenge now for the Pirates is to find a way to help Rodriguez continue his development while also putting him in a position to succeed. Rodriguez has never played higher than Triple-A, where he hit .293 in 86 games last season.
"I'm not going to look at it as a lost season," said Rodriguez, who must stay on the 25-man roster or else be offered back to the Indians. "It's a big opportunity for me. I'll play my role. I'll come off the bench and basically do everything in my power to make the team better."