Pirates News: Team announces pitching plans for Grapefruit League opener

Feb 14, 2024; Bradenton, FL, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Yasmani Grandal (6) and Pittsburgh
Feb 14, 2024; Bradenton, FL, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Yasmani Grandal (6) and Pittsburgh / Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports

On Thursday, we learned which pitchers will take the ball for the Pittsburgh Pirates in Saturday afternoon's Grapefruit League opener

Saturday afternoon, the Pittsburgh Pirates will travel to Fort Myers to player the Minnesota Twins in their 2024 Grapefruit League opener. While it was not the biggest pitching related news of the day for the Pirates, hello Mitch Keller extension, it was announced on Thursday which pitchers will take the ball on Saturday.

LHP Bailey Falter
RHP Jared Jones
LHP Michael Plassmeyer
LHP Josh Fleming
LHP Jose Hernandez
RHP Kyle Nicolas
RHP Hunter Stratton

Falter was acquired from the Philadelphia Phillies at last summer's trade deadline. While, overall, Falter struggled with the Pirates post-trade, he did pitch much better in relief than as a starting pitcher. The front office also tried to acquire Falter for multiple seasons, and he is out of minor league options. Due to this, Falter likely has a better chance than most people may think of cracking the Opening Day roster. He probably enters Grapefruit League play as the frontrunner to be the team's long-man out of the bullpen.

The most exciting and intriguing arm that will pitch on Saturday is Jones. A top 100 prospect, Jones reached the Triple-A level last season and is one of the best pitching prospects in the Pirate farm system. Jones should make his MLB debut at some point this season, making him a person of interest for fans this spring.

Fleming and Hernandez should both have an opportunity to earn a spot in the Opening Day bullpen. Fleming was signed as a free agent last week after pitching 51.2 innings with the Rays last season. While he really struggled down the stretch, Hernandez was a mainstay in the Pirate bullpen last season.

Where Fleming and Hernandez land on Opening Day could hinge on how many lefties the Pirates decide to carry in their bullpen. Aroldis Chapman and Ryan Borucki are locks to be in the Opening Day bullpen, and as discussed above Falter will likely be in the mix as well. Carrying four or five lefties in the bullpen may be more than Derek Shelton is interested in.

Plassmeyer, Nicolas, and Stratton are likely all locks to begin the season in the bullpen for Triple-A Indianapolis. Plassmeyer, who has a 9.82 career ERA, was signed as a minor league free agent last month. Plassmeyer is likely nothing more than an organizational depth/filler type of player.

As for Nicolas and Stratton, both made their MLB debuts with the Pirates this past Septmeber. Stratton became a minor league free agent in November after being designated for assignment, but returned to the Pirates on a minor league deal. Both Nicolas and Stratton could have an opportunity to make an impact out of the Pirate bullpen at some point in 2024.

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