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Eppley among intriguing Pirates hurlers

Eppley among intriguing Pirates hurlers

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Several pitchers took the mound in Pirate City's Bob Friend bullpen on Friday morning under a bright spotlight.

Those taking their first turns of Spring Training included comeback lefty Wandy Rodriguez, newest face Yao-Hsun Yang and top prospect Jameson Taillon, whose very first pitch excited his catcher.

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"Beauty!" Russell Martin exclaimed before returning the ball to the 22-year-old right-hander.

Still, one guy totally under the radar stood out in a very specific way. Righty Cody Eppley's sidearm deliveries were enough to make a right-handed batter wince at just the thought.

Eppley has been a virtually overlooked entry in the list of non-roster invitees to camp, but he brought a resume: In 2012, he was one of the busiest members of the Yankees' bullpen, appearing in 59 games and doing quite well (3.33 ERA).

"He did a great job for that team," said Chris Stewart, the Bucs' new backup catcher who caught Eppley as a member of those '12 Bombers. "He's not overpowering, but when he's on, he can be tough. A lot of ground balls."

Eppley was released in the middle of last season by the Yankees and signed with the Twins, who also released him in November. All along, he struggled in Triple-A (6.49 ERA in 41 appearances between the two organizations).

Maybe Eppley gives the Pirates a chance to reinvent the bullpen wheel. Match-up relievers are common, but they are predominantly tough lefties. Eppley's delivery figures to flummox right-handed swingers, but not lefties. True enough, righties have a lifetime average against him of .231 -- and lefties .386.

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.

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