Bucs' Minor Leaguers arriving for camp
Club preparing for about 50 players to file into Bradenton on Sunday
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Those fields at Pirate City are about to get much more crowded.
The Pirates open up early Minor League camp on Sunday and are preparing for about 50 players to file into Bradenton, some of whom have already arrived, for a sort of pre-Spring Training camp. The club's Minor League pitchers and catchers are not required to report until March 6. The position players have a March 10 reporting date.
Those reporting a week in advance are doing so for a variety of reasons. Many will be starting pitchers, who need the extra time to stretch out their arms before the season starts. There will also be a number of the organization's top prospects in the group. Getting those players into camp earlier will allow them to extend their season a bit and to enjoy more individualized instruction.
A handful of players who will be making position changes have also been asked to arrive in advance of many of their teammates. That includes infielder Jarek Cunningham, who has been pegged to move from the left side of the infield to the right this season.
Cunningham, the Pirates' 18th-round pick in last year's First-Year Player's Draft, was drafted as a shortstop and played 11 games at short and 26 games at third in the Gulf Coast League last summer. However, because of the way the Pirates' 2008 Draft class developed, the Pirates have a plethora of talent blocking Cunningham at short and at third.
Both Chase d'Arnaud (fourth round, 2008) and Jordy Mercer (third round, 2008) are slotted to be everyday shortstops at the Class A levels. The club also drafted two promising third base prospects -- Jeremy Farrell (eighth round) and Matthew Hague (ninth) -- last season, therefore squeezing Cunningham out of potential playing time there.
As a result, he'll spend much of Spring Training making sure he's comfortable at second. Kyle Stark, the Pirates' director of player development, said the transition will allow Cunningham to be a starter at Class A to start the year.
"We want him to get out and play," Stark said of Cunningham, who ranked third among all Pirates farmhands with a .318 batting average last year. "He's put himself in that position."
Infielder Angel Gonzalez, who has been in the organization since 2003 and played almost the entire '08 season as a shortstop for the Pirates' high Class A affiliate, will make the shift over to third so that Jim Negrych can transition back to second permanently.
Both Negrych, who played primarily at third in 2008, and Gonzalez are likely to start the year at Double-A.
When asked about the role of first-round pick Daniel Moskos this season, Stark remained noncommittal about whether the left-hander would return to a starting or relieving role. Moskos, the fourth-overall pick in the 2007 Draft, was moved into the starting rotation last season in order to build up his arm.
However, the results were not overwhelmingly encouraging. Moskos went 6-7 with a 6.72 ERA in 20 starts with high Class A Lynchburg before the Pirates moved him into the bullpen for the final month of the season. What concerned the Pirates was that they saw some mechanical differences between Moskos, the professional pitcher, and Moskos, the once-successful college pitcher.
"There is a little different delivery and a different tempo," Stark said. "The video that we saw from college shows some promising things. I think if we can get his motion back to where it was, there is a little more power in his arm."
The development and coaching staff worked with Moskos on his delivery during the instructional league back in September, and similar work will continue this spring. As Spring Training nears its conclusion, Stark and his staff will then make a determination as to what Moskos' role will be during the season.
"We've got to decide throughout Spring Training if it's better for him to get more opportunities or more innings in order to get those adjustments made," Stark said. "We know what we need to do. We need to figure out which role works best for him to get to that point and then make a determination from there."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.