BRADENTON, Fla. -- The Pirates haven't yet settled on who will make the Opening Day bullpen or who will play which roles. They have a few pieces set, plenty of contenders -- some of them out of Minor League options -- and a lot of strong Spring Training performances to consider.
Regardless of the uncertainty, manager Clint Hurdle is confident that his relief corps will put together another strong season. In 2013, Pittsburgh's relievers compiled a 2.89 ERA, the third lowest in the Majors, in 545 2/3 innings, the fourth-most.
"It's an important part of what you do. That's one of the toughest challenges you have, is when games get away late," Hurdle said. "You go six, seven, eight innings and have a lead, and then you don't finish it off. That's part of the dynamic of baseball, and you'll see this year that there will be four or five closers that will go through that, and people will be throwing their hands up in the air and screaming and yelling and shouting how it's a violation.
"Well, we feel confident in the men that we have. They are human beings, and any one of them could go through a stretch where it's challenging. We do believe the overall skill set's going to play out, though, when you talk about the context of a season and the men that we have out there with capable skill sets that can attack you a bunch of different ways, depending on how long our starter goes.
"And we don't feel like we're out of a game if our starter gets knocked out early by any means, with the depth and the length that we have available as well."