BRADENTON, Fla. -- One of the few teams yet to whittle down population in the Major League camp, the Pirates are expected to get into that act on Wednesday, when they check back into McKechnie Field following Tuesday's break in their schedule. Wednesday is a logical cutdown day also because it signals the start of exhibition play between Minor League teams.
Still, do not anticipate wholesale trims from the 62 players in big league camp.
For one thing, the actual playing force is considerably smaller than that. Pitchers Jason Grilli (Italy) and Wandy Rodriguez (Dominican Republic) are still at the World Baseball Classic, four other pitchers (Jeff Karstens, Charlie Morton, Francisco Liriano, Jose Contreras) and a catcher (Ali Solis) are getting treatment, and infielders Chase d'Arnaud (strained thumb) and Anderson Hernandez (shoulder) are on the blink.
For another, the competition in several areas remains too tight to make any early calls. The best battles are in the bullpen and on the bench.
The skirmish for three vacant bullpen seats was highlighted during the three-game winning streak the Pirates will take into Wednesday's game against the Blue Jays at 1:05 p.m. ET (listen on Gameday Audio). In those three games, 13 relievers combined to allow two earned runs in 17 2/3 innings, while compiling 22 strikeouts.
"The competition can be contagious as well. When the bar has been heightened, a different type of adrenaline can show up," manager Clint Hurdle noted. "I'm liking what I'm seeing develop, and we still have over two weeks to go. But I like the place we're at right now, in regards to the competition in different spots."
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less