Over the past few days excitement surrounding the beginning of the Grapefruit League Season for the Pittsburgh Pirates has been picking up steam for many within the fanbase. Sure we know these games don’t count for much of anything and that more than likely a long season awaits us when the boys finally pack up and head north to PNC Park, however, it will be somewhat comforting to have ball games on our televisions, or more accurately mixed in with radios intermittently for the next few weeks, from now until October 3rd.
Nevertheless, before we get to look completely forward, it is difficult to not take a glimpse back to where we have been over the off-season. So much has transpired in the 153 days since the Pirates walked off the field after a 8-6 loss to Cleveland. Chris Archer’s option was declined, Trevor Williams was designated for assignment, Josh Bell, Joe Musgrove and Jameson Taillon were all traded and many new faces have been brought in to talk their places, while some old familiar ones remain; at least for the time being.
Obviously there is some enthusiasm built in to seeing how the Pirates, and many of its individual players, will hopefully progress and develop in the weeks and months that follow, yet, I feel like some have overestimated the role that much of the youth movement will play, especially in the beginning. It’s hard to resist the desire to just jump ahead to when all the Young Bucs will be contributing members of the big league club; unfortunately that isn’t possible. All too often I have seen people talk about the impact players like Quinn Priester, Nick Gonzales, Liover Peguero, Travis Swaggerty and Mason Martin will have during the next 29 games, without really understanding the difficulties the Pirates coaching staff will have in preparing the MLB ready players for a 162 game season.
Up until March 13th, managers can agree with one another to have games last as few as 5 innings. Even beyond that games can be limited to 7 innings. Add in the fact that due to the health and safety protocols these innings may not even be 3 outs, but actually based on the number of pitches thrown, as it can be requested that team change sides after twenty from a single pitcher. Please tell me how these guys that have been mentioned are going to used any more than sparingly during this time, and with these restrictions. I don’t mean to burst anyone’s bubbles, but I guess I am going to.
Manager Derek Shelton and company have a month to get the Pirates stretched out and game ready for Opening Day, all while having open competitions in centerfield, at shortstop and for the fifth starter; and I I am certain that Gonzales, Peguero, Swaggerty and Priester are not being mentioned in any conversations beyond rumblings from the fans. It’s nothing against them, it’s just the facts of the situation. All of these guys, and many others, will get their shots when Minor League Spring Training starts at the end of March, or for a select few when the Indianapolis Indians travel to Memphis to face the Redbirds on April 6th. Everyone else will have to wait until May 4th when the Double A, High A and Low A seasons begin.
As a self proclaimed prospect junkie, I am as eager as anyone else to see these guys make their mark. However, for now I will channel that energy into seeing if Cole Tucker, Kevin Newman or Erik Gonzalez is standing at shortstop at Wrigley on April 2nd, whether or not Anthony Alford can keep Brian Goodwin, Jared Oliva and Dustin Fowler from taking centerfield from him as he opens Spring Training as a pinch hitter or DH and if JT Brubaker is able to wrap up the 4th or 5th spot in the starting rotation, along with other storylines. And as far as today goes, I will turn on the radio, sit back and relax and maybe crack open a cold beverage while the Pirates take the field against the Orioles. It might not be 9 innings and 3 outs, but it will more than enough for me.