Atkins, Pirates go their separate ways
Veteran infielder now has chance to land with another club
BRADENTON, Fla. -- Garrett Atkins' attempt to resurrect his career in Pittsburgh is officially over, as the Pirates announced on Monday that the club has unconditionally released the veteran infielder. Atkins, 31, had been in camp as a non-roster player after signing a Minor League deal with the Pirates in December.
Manager Clint Hurdle met with Atkins twice on Sunday to discuss where the infielder stood on the depth chart this spring and Atkins made the decision that it would be best to leave camp now.
"He came here to make the club and is a very honest self-evaluator," Hurdle said. "He saw people ahead of him and knew that there wouldn't be an opportunity for him at Triple-A. The window of opportunity was closing. He didn't want to take at-bats from the guys still wanting to make the club and wanting to get ready for the season. Good for him."
2010 Spring Training - Pittsburgh Pirates
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Atkins now has the chance to try and latch on with another club if he wants to continue playing.
"I think [Atkins is] working through [his] options at this point in time," general manager Neal Huntington said. "I think part of him thinks there is still something to offer. Part of him wants to kind of evaluate the big picture. But it does still sound like there is an interest in continuing to play."
With four players vying to become the Pirates' corner utility infielder, the club had to begin whittling down its options. Atkins was the first in the group to be cut; Josh Fields, Andy Marte and Steve Pearce remain in the mix.
Atkins had just four hits in 31 at-bats this spring and just one in his past 22 chances. He spent much of last summer out of baseball after being released by the Orioles in early July. In 44 games with Baltimore, Atkins batted just .214.
Nieve, Thomas reassigned to Minors camp
BRADENTON, Fla. -- The Pirates reduced the number of candidates fighting for bullpen spots by two on Monday morning by reassigning lefty Justin Thomas and right-hander Fernando Nieve to Minor League camp.
Both were non-roster invitees to Spring Training and are expected to begin the year in Triple-A Indianapolis.
Thomas appeared a legitimate candidate to win a spot in the bullpen given the Pirates' lack of left-handed relief options. However, after making just two appearances after March 6, it was becoming clear that Thomas was not seen as a frontrunner for an Opening Day roster spot.
In 4 1/3 spring innings, Thomas allowed five runs (one earned) on eight hits.
Nieve's spring results weren't as strong. He gave up seven earned runs in his first 2 1/3 innings and surrendered 17 hits in his 7 1/3 total innings of work. Though Nieve has been used as both a starter and reliever in his career, he'll likely be put in the Triple-A bullpen because of the starting depth that the Pirates already have in Indianapolis.
With these two reassignments and the release of infielder Garrett Atkins, the Pirates now have 41 players remaining in camp. Twenty-one of those are pitchers.
Olson's first impression is a good one
BRADENTON, Fla. -- Three days after being claimed off waivers, Garrett Olson pitched a perfect inning in his spring debut for the Pirates in Monday's 4-1 Grapefruit League loss to the Twins.
Olson, a left-hander who flew to Bradenton on Saturday and threw a side session in front of the club on Sunday, retired all three hitters he faced in the eighth on Monday.
"You only get one chance to make a first impression," manager Clint Hurdle said. "Low strikes, a few changeups, good downhill plane. We'll get him back out there as quick as we can."
The outing was an encouraging one for Olson, who hadn't been at his sharpest in his spring appearances with the Mariners. With Seattle, Olson had given up seven hits, three earned runs and four walks in five innings. The subpar results led the Mariners to place Olson on waivers last week.
"I just felt kind of slow starting out," Olson said. "The more innings that I get, the better comfort I'll get out on the field and the more I can get into a groove. I'm definitely looking forward to getting some more innings this week. I'd say that early on, I've definitely not pitched up to my abilities."
With the Pirates' dwindling left-handed options, Olson would seem to have a good chance at joining the club in Chicago on Opening Day. Joe Beimel and Brian Burres are the only lefties remaining in camp who are competing for bullpen spots.
Olson could be helped, too, by the fact that he is out of options. This means that the Pirates would risk losing Olson if the team does not put him on its 25-man roster.
"I think they brought me here for a reason," Olson said. "I'm going to come in here and continue to do what I can do, which is work hard. I'm going to try and capitalize on the opportunity. When I found out I was coming here, I was actually pretty excited."
Beimel, Jones among Bucs on mend
BRADENTON, Fla. -- Here is the latest on the injured players in camp:
Left-hander Joe Beimel (left elbow discomfort) received a cortisone shot in his left arm on Sunday and was to be reevaluated on Tuesday. Beimel, who did not throw on Monday, said his elbow was feeling much better and that he hoped to resume throwing soon.
Right fielder Garrett Jones returned to action on Monday after dealing with some neck stiffness. Though Jones did take six at-bats in a Minor League game on Sunday, he had not played in a Grapefruit League game since Wednesday. The ailment began, Jones said, when he was running on Thursday and felt a little pop near his neck.
Catcher Chris Snyder (back soreness) took multiple at-bats in a handful of Minor League games on Monday and also put his catching gear on to catch a bullpen session. The plan is to have Snyder catch in a Minor League game on Tuesday, after which he should be cleared to return to Grapefruit League play.
Right-hander Brad Lincoln (right arm bruise) said the range of motion and strength was returning, though his arm is still swollen. Lincoln will miss his turn through the rotation this week and hopes to be able to begin tossing a ball again on Wednesday.
Right-hander James McDonald (left side soreness) threw a side session on Sunday without any issue. He is scheduled to return to the mound on Wednesday for another side session.
Right-hander Jose Ascanio will throw two innings of live batting practice to hitters at Pirate City on Tuesday's off-day. Sean Gallagher, Jeff Karstens and Daniel McCutchen are all scheduled to pitch in a "B" game on Tuesday. Karstens will be extended out to four innings. ... Steve Pearce made his debut in left field on Monday. The Pirates continue to bounce the natural first baseman around to all the corner infield and outfield spots as he fights to earn a bench spot. ... MLB Network was at McKechnie Field on Monday to conduct interviews and collect footage for the network's 30 Clubs in 30 Days series. The Pirates' episode will air at 11 p.m. ET on Tuesday. ... The Pirates will honor the members of the 2010 Double-A Altoona club in an on-field ceremony at McKechnie Field on Wednesday. Altoona captured the Eastern League crown last season. The organization's Venezuelan Summer League team, which also won its league championship, will be honored before the Pirates' game on Sunday. ... Lefty Garrett Olson will wear No. 36. Olson was claimed off waivers from the Mariners on Friday.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.