Could the Pittsburgh Pirates carry 13 pitchers and 12 position players when the regular season begins in Detroit next week?
On Tuesday, Neal Huntington met with the media. Among the topics discussed by the general manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates was the construction of their Opening Day lineup. And, according to Huntington, the Pirates may go with a non-traditional makeup to begin the season.
Huntington said that the Pirates are toying with the idea of starting the regular season with 13 pitchers and 12 position players instead of the traditional roster construction of 13 position players and 12 pitchers. The reason the team may do this is due to the regular season beginning in Detroit. Due to this, the team will have a designated hitter to begin the season and will not need a full five man bench.
So, if the Pirates take 13 pitchers north, who will the extra man be?
The pitching staff looks pretty set. Jameson Taillon, Ivan Nova, Trevor Williams, Chad Kuhl, and Joe Musgrove will be the starting rotation. Felipe Rivero, George Kontos, and Michael Feliz are locks for the bullpen. Kyle Crick and Kevin Siegrist appear to be as well, and, odds are, Tyler Glasnow and Steven Brault will be in the ‘pen, too.
If the Pirates decide to take an eighth reliever north it would likely be one of four pitchers: Dovydas Neverauskas, Edgar Santana, Jordan Milbrath, or Josh Smoker. My money would be on Milbrath. This is due to Milbrath being a Rule 5 Draft selection. This means that Milbrath must remain on the team’s 25-man roster all season long, or else the Pirates must return him to the Indians.
Milbrath, however, has struggled immensely this spring as he continues to transition to being a side-armed pitcher. So, Clint Hurdle and the Pirates may decide against keeping Milbrath regardless. If that were to happen then it would hinge on what Hurdle wants more another left-handed reliever (Smoker) or a pitcher that has in the past earned Hurdle’s trust (Neverauskas or Santana).
If the Pirates do indeed take 13 pitchers north to start the season, odds are, it would only be for the opening series. When the team returns home to National League Baseball and no DH on April 2nd, they would likely want a full five man bench. This could mean that a potential 13th pitcher would only be on the roster for three days to beging the season, before being optioned to Triple-A for another positon player.
How the Pittsburgh Pirates construct their Opening Day roster may hinge more on Bryce Brentz than any other player. Adam Frazier, David Freese, Elias Diaz, and Sean Rodriguez are locks as bench players, which leaves one more bench spot. The battle for this spot is between Brentz, Jordan Luplow, and Jose Osuna. Luplow and Osuna have minor league options and can be sent to Triple-A to begin the season, unlike Brentz.
If the Pirates are high on Brentz and do not want to risk losing him on waivers, then my guess is the team takes 13 position players and 12 pitchers north to begin the season. If not, then they very well may take 13 pitchers and 12 position players to Detroit.