03/30/11 4:15 PM ET
Crotta edges out Leroux for bullpen spot
By Mike Radano / Special to MLB.com
A day earlier, the 26-year-old right-handed reliever had been interviewed about the Pirates' decision on their final two bullpen spots, for which they had three choices in Crotta, lefty Garrett Olson -- acquired through waivers from Seattle on March 18 -- and right-hander Chris Leroux.
So when Crotta was approached again one day later, initially he was surprised. Then, after he found out via the media he had all but made the 25-man roster -- barring any unforeseen moves by the Pirates -- it took a minute to sink in.
"It did," Crotta said. "No, I didn't know yet."
The odd man out in the equation was Leroux, who appeared dejected upon leaving manager Clint Hurdle's office. But in this situation, the reality is Leroux will most likely make an appearance with the big club at some point this year.
Both young right-handers came equipped with a power sinker, and both needed to work on their consistency -- which in the end made a difference, as Crotta has developed just a little more quickly since the first day of Spring Training.
"He throws a power sinker that hits between 93 mph and 95," pitching coach Ray Searage said. "When it's down in the zone, it's very effective. It's when it gets up and flattens out that there is trouble. But he's pitched well enough in Spring Training to take a longer look at.
"You see, what happens when he gets it down, everyone hits it on the ground. He's handled himself well -- with composure. And obviously, since he's young, he'll have his ups and downs. But so far, he's handled it very well."
For Leroux, the key will be the exact same thing.
"He has a nasty fastball that hits 95," Searage said. "[Leroux] is young and has great stuff. All he needs to work on is his consistency, and then he can really help us."
Morton finishes outstanding spring on high note
PHILADELPHIA -- Pirates manager Clint Hurdle has been around long enough not to put too much stock into the numbers of Spring Training.
That said, he has to be happy with Charlie Morton.
"He's pitched well all spring," Hurdle said after a 4-1 win at Citizens Bank Park over the Phillies in the final exhibition game of the spring. "He's been efficient. The breaking ball is there. The changeup was there, at times, and he's kept the ball down as well as anybody on our staff. He's pitched to contact as well as anybody on our staff."
That's good news for a team looking for a good start to the 2011 season, which begins on Friday in Chicago. Hurdle has a young team that certainly could use a boost early on, and a key to that will be the starting rotation -- and Morton is a big part of that five-man group.
"Once I got my sinker working, I gained a lot of confidence," said Morton, who allowed eight runs in six starts this spring -- with five that came in a game against Tampa Bay. "It's more important that I got to come [to Philadelphia] and pitch against a good lineup. It's a big league park with a lot of fans, and that's what gets you going during the season."
"There are still things out there that are spinning around, so you never know. The roster isn't set, yet. But the people we have here, if nothing changes, we feel confident that we have a good group to go out and get involved in the season. We worked hard all spring for this, and the next step is the next test to open in Chicago -- and it doesn't get much better than that. Then, we go to another great baseball town in St. Louis, and then we get to come home -- so we're excited about this season,"
-- Pirates manager Clint Hurdle
Mike Radano is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.