Bucs start season with new bullpen
Club begins anew with no holdovers from 2009 opener
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.
Hanrahan continues to progress
PITTSBURGH -- Though Joel Hanrahan can come off the disabled list as early as Saturday, he is on target for an April 12 return date, manager John Russell said on Monday. The reason for the two-day delay has to do with Hanrahan's scheduled pitching plan and nothing to do with a recent setback.Hanrahan, who got a late start this spring due to a right elbow injury, stayed in Bradenton, Fla., where he is pitching in extended spring games. Hanrahan might make an appearance in a Triple-A game later this week, though that will be dependent on the weather. The Pirates have not announced how they plan to make room for Hanrahan on the roster, though it's likely that starter Daniel McCutchen will be the odd man out. The Pirates already planned to skip McCutchen's spot in the rotation twice after he pitches against Arizona on Saturday, so by sending him to Triple-A after that first start, McCutchen would be ensured of getting in his normal work. Also, by using an eight-member bullpen while the Pirates don't need a fifth starter, the club would have an extra two weeks to evaluate right-hander Hayden Penn. Penn was the last reliever to make the club and was only able to pitch in two Grapefruit League games for Pittsburgh.
Moss clears waivers, heads to Triple-A
PITTSBURGH -- Brandon Moss, somewhat unexpectedly, was able to clear waivers, enabling Pittsburgh to outright the outfielder to Triple-A Indianapolis. The Pirates designated Moss for assignment on March 29 in order to open up a roster spot for right-hander Hayden Penn.The Pirates, who had 10 days to trade, waive or release Moss, had already anticipated losing the outfielder, who was acquired from the Red Sox in 2008 as part of a four-player package for Jason Bay. As it turned out, though, none of the 29 other clubs was willing to open up a roster spot for Moss. Moss now goes back to Triple-A, where he can continue searching for some consistency in his swing. He lost a chance at solidifying a bench spot this spring after collecting just three singles in 37 spring at-bats. Moss lost his job as the Pirates' right fielder midway through the '09 season, and he held a .236 batting average at season's end.
Bucs honor Huyke
PITTSBURGH -- Longtime Pirates Minor League manager Woody Huyke was presented with the organization's annual Pride of the Pirates Award before the start of Monday's season opener. The award recognizes a member of the organization who has demonstrated the qualities of sportsmanship, dedication and outstanding character during a lifetime of service.Hyuke, 72, is entering his 52nd year in professional baseball, and he has been associated with the Pirates for 41 of those seasons. Hyuke managed the Pirates' Gulf Coast League team from 1974-2004 and still serves as a coach for the club. GCL Pirates manager Tom Prince spoke about Huyke for a few minutes during the on-field ceremony. John Smiley and John Wehner, both of whom played for Huyke, were also on the field to honor him.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.