Biertempfel: Only One Bullpen Spot Left

PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 10: Chris Leroux #63 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches in relief against the Florida Marlins during the game on September 10, 2011 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Marlins defeated the Piraets 3-0. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Rob Biertempfel outlines the battle for bullpen jobs.

Closer Joel Hanrahan is assured a spot, as are right-handers Jason Grilli and Chris Resop. Evan Meek, nonroster invitee Juan Cruz and lefty Tony Watson, although not sure things, seem well positioned to break camp with the team.

That leaves five pitchers — Chris Leroux, Daniel McCutchen, Jared Hughes, Ryota Igarashi and Daniel Moskos — fighting for the last spot.

Assuming the Pirates don't make a move to acquire a lefty in the next few days, I agree that the players in the first paragraph should make it, with the possible exception of Evan Meek. As David and I discussed in the podcast last weekend, Meek is a big wild card here, and he does have an option. I wouldn't be particularly shocked or disappointed if he didn't make it.

Of the players in the second paragraph, Leroux seems like an easy, obvious choice for me. Igarashi's fastball is about the only thing he has going for him. McCutchen is the kind of player you don't mind having on your big-league team, but you certainly aren't excited about it. Both he and Moskos had awful strikeout rates last year, and both have options remaining.

That leaves Leroux and Hughes. I like both of them, and I'd probably take them both and send Meek down. But if Meek goes north, then Leroux has to get the other spot, since he's out of options, and he's good, or at least he was good last year. (As I wrote this weekend, his spring performance doesn't concern me too much.) For the players who don't make it, this is hardly a tragedy, since we'll surely see most of them at some point this year. It's pretty nice to have someone as good as Hughes as an insurance policy.

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