PITTSBURGH -- In deciding where to sign during the offseason, right-hander Tim Wood narrowed his choices to two cities -- Washington and Pittsburgh. He ended up choosing Washington, believing the Nationals when they told him he'd have a legitimate chance to make the Major League bullpen out of Spring Training.
Yet as a twist of fate would have it, here Wood is, getting his chance to return to the big leagues in Pittsburgh.
"I'm just thankful for the opportunity that the Pirates gave me," said Wood, one day after being promoted from Triple-A. "It's a good organization to be in, and [there's] a lot of opportunity here."
Wood's journey back to the Majors -- where he last appeared in 2010, with the Marlins -- was a circuitous one. He was sent out of Washington's big league camp early in the spring and then told the organization didn't have a spot for him on its Triple-A squad. Believing that he is better than a Double-A pitcher, he asked for his release.
The Nationals granted Wood's request on March 31, and the right-hander immediately signed a Minor League deal with the Pirates. Pittsburgh's assistant pitching coordinator, Scott Mitchell, was instrumental in that, as Wood and Mitchell have a relationship that dates back to 2004, when both were in Florida's organization.
"We stayed in contact," Wood said. "Talking to him after I got released from Washington, he said there's a good fit over here and a lot of opportunity. I jumped on it as soon as possible."
After a shaky start with Indianapolis, Wood cemented himself as the team's closer. He allowed just four earned runs in his final 22 Triple-A innings before the callup.
Manager Clint Hurdle has already mentioned the possibility of using Wood as a late-inning man.
"Everything feels really good," said Wood, who has undergone Tommy John surgery (2005), shoulder surgery (2007) and an elbow scope (2010). "I'm throwing the ball harder than I've thrown it in a while. I bounced back well, I think."
Finding a catcher easier said than done
PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates' search for a replacement catcher has begun in earnest. They have quickly learned, however, that filling the need is going to be easier said than done.
As the Pirates explore external options, they have found that teams are quick to take advantage of what they know is a desperate situation. Asking prices have been "silly" high, as manager Clint Hurdle put it, and the Pirates are wary of sacrificing the future for a short-term fit now.
"Everybody knows the situation you're in," Hurdle said. "So when you ask, we're getting some sticker shock. That's the nature of the industry. It's a shark that smells blood. They know we have a need. The [asking price] now is much greater than what it was two weeks ago."
The Pirates' need is the result of recent injuries to the top three catchers on their depth chart. Chris Snyder is out two to four months after undergoing back surgery on Friday. Ryan Doumit (left ankle sprain) is sidelined until late July, at the earliest, and Triple-A starter Jason Jaramillo is at least a few weeks away from returning to the field after being hit on the elbow with a pitch.
That has left the Pirates with the inexperienced tandem of Dusty Brown and Wyatt Toregas, who combined to play 33 Major League games heading into this season.
Toregas had a nice "get" in the first inning of Saturday's game, thwarting a steal attempt by New York speedster Jose Reyes.
Ideally, the Pirates would like to find someone to be their everyday catcher (Brown would be the backup) until Doumit and/or Snyder return.
That could come from another club's Major League team or from a Triple-A team in an organization that has substantial catching depth.
The Pirates might be eying more than a one-year fit, too. With Snyder and Doumit in the final guaranteed year of their contracts and top prospect Tony Sanchez unlikely to be Major League-ready by the start of the 2012 season, the Pirates could look to add a catcher who would remain a fit next year, too.
"You just try to be smart," Hurdle said. "We need to use some patience, too, because you want to try and find out if there is a right guy who can maintain the continuity behind the plate and maybe have one of the guys move to a backup role. I know [general manager] Neal [Huntington] is working overtime. I've been making calls. Everybody is trying to check on who's available. We remain guardedly optimistic."
Allie to make pro debut with State College
PITTSBURGH -- Highly regarded pitching prospect Stetson Allie will make his professional debut with short-season State College, director of player development Kyle Stark confirmed on Saturday.
Allie, the club's second-round pick in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, has been working specifically on fine-tuning the mechanics of his delivery in extended spring training since the Minor League season began in April. His delivery has become much more repeatable, meaning the Pirates are comfortable having him join the Spikes for their season opener on June 17.
Ranked by MLB.com as the Pirates' second-best prospect going into the season, Allie will be in State College's rotation. Though some have speculated that the hard-throwing right-hander might eventually slide into a closer's role in the Majors, the Pirates are going to give him every opportunity to establish himself as a starter first.
Before Allie, 20, ever threw a pitch in a pro setting, Baseball America picked his slider as the best in the organization. That pitch complements a fastball that reached 100 mph when he was a senior in high school.
Infielder Steve Pearce will leave on Tuesday and head to Bradenton, Fla., where he will continue the necessary rehab work on his right calf. He will continue to wear a protective boot until he travels south.
Shortstop Chase d'Arnaud has hit safely in 15 of Triple-A Indianapolis' last 17 games, posting a .410 average and driving in 16 during that stretch. That includes a 4-for-5 performance on Friday, during which he homered and drove in five. Widely considered to be the Pirates' shortstop of the future, d'Arnaud could begin making a case for a late-season callup if he continues to produce near this level as the summer progresses.
Indianapolis added right-hander Michael Dubee, the son of Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee, to its roster on Saturday. In a corresponding move, infielder Shelby Ford was placed on the Triple-A disabled list.
Saturday marked the first of three SkyBlasts scheduled at PNC Park this season. The next two fall on July 9 and Aug. 6.
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.