Pirates add Mientkiewicz to squad

Pirates add Mientkiewicz to squad

BRADENTON, Fla. -- While the bullpen situation remains in flux, the Pirates have solidified the 13 position players who will be on the team's Opening Day roster.

Prior to Wednesday's game against the Tigers, general manager Neal Huntington announced that the team purchased the contract of Doug Mientkiewicz, giving the versatile veteran the final spot on the Pirates' bench.

Having filled their bench, the Pirates also announced that infielders Josh Wilson and Jorge Velandia had been cut from Major League camp. The Pirates reassigned Velandia to Triple-A Indianapolis and designated Wilson for assignment since the middle infielder is out of options on his contract.

With Wednesday's moves, the Pirates -- in addition to their eight starters -- will carry Mientkiewicz, Chris Gomez, Ryan Doumit, Nyjer Morgan and Luis Rivas on their bench to open the season.

The Pirates signed Mientkiewicz to a Minor League contract just prior to the opening of Spring Training, and they spent the past month testing out his versatility and ability to play the outfield.

A natural first baseman, Mientkiewicz has played both in right field and at third base this spring, and he gave Pirates management enough assurances in his defensive abilities to essentially earn himself a spot on the team. Mientkiewicz can also serve as the team's emergency catcher if needed.

"He's come in and played very well in the outfield," Huntington said. "He's trimmed up. He's probably in the best shape he's been in years. He's given us quality at-bats off the bench. Doug's done everything he's been asked to and more this spring."

Mientkiewicz carried a .268 average into Wednesday's contest against the Tigers and had gone 7-for-22 in his last 11 games. The 33-year-old former Gold Glove winner came into camp knowing that he wouldn't be competing for a starting spot, but he has said that he still sees himself able to see sufficient playing time off the bench.

"The good thing about the National League is that you may not get four at-bats every game, but there's a good chance you'll get one," Mientkiewicz said. "[In the] National League, you get a chance to be in the game at any given moment. That's why I wanted to move around to give [manager John Russell] a few more options."

For Velandia, the utility infielder will return to Triple-A, where he spent the '05 season, and he will most likely be the Indianapolis Indians' starting second baseman. As for Wilson, it appears unlikely that he will clear waivers.

If it turns out that second baseman Freddy Sanchez is not ready to start the season with the Pirates and has to spend some time on the disabled list, Velandia would be considered as a replacement, along with infield prospect Brian Bixler.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.