Bucs start season with new bullpen

Bucs start season with new bullpen

PITTSBURGH -- It was no secret that the Pirates had big plans to retool their bullpen during the offseason. Little did anyone know, though, that the seven relievers who took a seat out behind the left-center-field wall during Monday's opener would not include a single holdover from the 2009 Opening Day roster.

In fact, this reshaped bullpen -- which many predict could be the strongest asset of the club -- includes just one pitcher who saw any playing time with the Pirates last season. That distinction belongs to Evan Meek, who started '09 in Triple-A before being called up to the big leagues at the end of April.

New closer Octavio Dotel, Brendan Donnelly and Javier Lopez represent three of the club's more notable offseason free-agent signings. D.J. Carrasco and Jack Taschner made the 'pen as non-roster relievers. Hayden Penn, who the Pirates claimed off waivers one week ago, rounds out the group.

"It's a good personality bullpen," said manager John Russell, whose 2009 bullpen ranked 15th in the league last season with a 4.61 ERA. "Dotel brings a lot of energy and life to our bullpen. Donnelly brings veteran leadership and a bulldog mentality. I think that's really going to help our young guys. I think it's a very good situation for us to be in with the bullpen. We've got left-handers, we've got right-handers. We've got some power. We've got some finesse. It's a good mix."

This new group of seven -- which will soon include rehabbing reliever Joel Hanrahan -- carries with it years of experience that last year's 'pen lacked. Leaving out the younger Meek and Penn, the other five Pittsburgh relievers have a combined 1,636 Major League appearances over parts of 36 seasons.