The Pirates came back to beat the Rays, 6-4, thanks to a three-run eighth inning keyed by three players who aren't even in big-league camp. Jeff Larish had a two-out double off Dane de la Rosa. Then Lucas May walked. Then minor-league infielder Stefan Welch hit a three-run homer.
Holy irrelevance, Batman! Anyway, the Pirates wouldn't have needed to come back had it not been for Mike Zagurski's meltdown in the top of the sixth. Zagurski allowed a homer, two doubles, a single and two walks en route to a three-run inning. He got off to a great start in camp, but he appears to be pitching his way out of contention.
After Zagurski's recent poor results and the Bryan Morris cut this morning, I think Tim's take on the pitching staff seems pretty reasonable. Jeff Karstens looks like he probably won't be ready to pitch six-inning starts, so the Pirates could stretch him out in the bullpen while they take a closer look at Jonathan Sanchez in the rotation. The Pirates need to decide by March 26 whether Sanchez will make the 25-man, and if he doesn't, he can ask for his release. Since the last two spots in the rotation aren't exactly nailed down anyway, it makes some sense for the Pirates to just hand one of them to Sanchez until he implodes completely (which is always a possibility with Sanchez), or Karstens or Francisco Liriano are available to pitch every fifth day. I think there's about an 85 percent chance of Sanchez being a complete disaster, but I can see the logic in gambling on him, since he does have upside as a lefty who gets strikeouts.
Anyway, in Tim's scenario, Sanchez and Jeff Locke get the last two spots in the rotation. As I've said for months now, the Pirates will probably want to send Kyle McPherson back to Indianapolis. And he hasn't helped his cause with his pitching this spring. With Karstens in the bullpen along with Jason Grilli, Mark Melancon and Jared Hughes, that leaves three spots. Two will likely go to Justin Wilson and Chris Leroux, and I have no idea what will happen with the third, although Ryan Reid bears watching, with his strong performance this spring and reasonably good results in Triple-A last year. Given Hurdle's preference for two lefties and Tony Watson's struggles, the door is, or was, open for Zagurski, but he may not be able to walk through it.