Webb excited for fresh start with Pirates

Rule 5 Draft selection participating in club's mini-camp this week

Webb excited for fresh start with Pirates

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Tyler Webb didn't make any plans for the Rule 5 Draft last month. More than anything, he was surprised the annual event took place so early -- beginning at 9 a.m. ET on the final day of the Winter Meetings. He followed the proceedings on Twitter while working out at the University of South Carolina, his alma mater.

The Pirates selected Webb from the Yankees in the Major League portion of the draft, adding the big left-hander to their bullpen competition. After spending parts of three seasons in Triple-A, Webb was pleased to hear he'd have a shot at cracking Pittsburgh's big league roster.

"I was extremely excited, for sure," Webb said after finishing a workout at mini-camp. "I think it's a great opportunity. I enjoyed my time with the Yankees, learned a lot from them. They had some great coaches and staff. Just looking forward to a new opportunity and a fresh start."

Webb, 26, heard from his agent shortly after he was picked. General manager Neal Huntington and manager Clint Hurdle reached out later in the day. Over the following few days, Webb said, he talked to a handful of people within the Pirates' organization. This week, he's had a chance to work with them in person for the first time.

"Seemed like I talked to a lot of people. I tried to remember their names as well as possible, but I probably failed miserably," he said, smiling. "It's good to get down here and put some names with some faces and get acclimated a little bit."

As a Rule 5 pick, the Pirates must keep Webb on their Major League roster all season. Otherwise, they would have to return Webb to the Yankees or work out a separate deal to keep him in the organization. At this point, the Bucs have one open spot in their bullpen, and the front-runners appear to be Webb, veteran lefty Wade LeBlanc and right-hander A.J. Schugel.

Webb worked in a variety of roles in the Yankees' system, and he's comfortable throwing multiple innings as a reliever. The Pirates prefer to have several multi-inning relievers in their bullpen, so acquiring the well-rounded Webb makes sense.

The 6-foot-6, 225-pound southpaw also presents some intriguing peripheral numbers. He has struck out 11.1 batters per nine innings in the Minors, and he fanned 82 in 72 2/3 innings over 36 appearances last season. Webb has leaned on a four-seam fastball and changeup throughout his career, and his work-in-progress slider emerged as a reliable offering last year.

"It became another pitch instead of a project," Webb said. "The trust factor was definitely there a lot more than it had been in the past. That was good. The innings definitely helped. ... I liked that opportunity to throw multiple innings, and I think it helped my offspeed stuff a lot."

Around the horn
• Right-hander Nefi Ogando, claimed off waivers from the Marlins on Dec. 23, threw a bullpen session Wednesday morning in front of Hurdle and pitching coach Ray Searage, among others.

The 27-year-old reliever throws a hard fastball and cutting slider. He likely will begin the season with Triple-A Indianapolis but could help the Pirates' bullpen as a depth option. He has been pitching in winter ball in the Dominican Republic this offseason.

"I felt really strong," Ogando said. "I've been talking with the people here and telling them I feel really good for the start of Spring Training."

• Right-handers Trevor Williams and Nick Kingham reported to mini-camp the past two days. Outfielder Gregory Polanco is the only expected player who has yet to arrive. Polanco has been in the Dominican Republic this week, taking part in the charitable Striking Out Poverty project along with Marlins second baseman Dee Gordon.

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. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.