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Interviews with Ray Searage and Mark Melancon, and thoughts on Pirates' final roster spots

Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday I wrapped up my Spring Training interviews with a conversation with Pirates closer Mark Melancon. Mark actually got the start yesterday in the Bucs' final exhibition game in Bradenton and threw a scoreless two-strikeout inning. He and I had a limited amount of time to talk, but Mark had some interesting comments about the motion-tracking cameras now installed in every major league stadium and how they have helped him analyze his release point. He also talked about the extensive conversations he has had with Dan Fox and Mike Fitzgerald about how and why they go about shifting and gave his thoughts on the topic.

Last week I chatted with Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage but didn't have a chance to post the interview. Ray gave an update on as many guys as we could squeeze in in 15 minutes. As always he was upbeat.


As Charlie has written here and here, the Pirates have made some decisions in the last 24 hours that nail down the starting rotation and start to clear up the final mix in the bullpen. The Locke/Worley decision caught most people by surprise and the Pirates haven't and probably won't fully explain their rationale behind the move. I shared my thoughts about the decision extensively in the comments of the earlier thread so won't bother repeating them here, but suffice it to say, Huntington, Hurdle, Searage, et. al. have all the info we have and much more, so it will be interesting to eventually hear the logic behind the move if it comes out. Jeff Locke will certainly be the most-scrutinized pitcher the first few weeks. Here's hoping he doesn't go all 2013-Jonathan Sanchez to open the season.

The optioning of John Holdzkom didn't come as much of a surprise, although there are plenty who disagree with this move as well. The Holdzkom/Caminero debate is right out of the Neal Huntington playbook. Two power arms with limited experience and success who profile very similarly. One has options, one doesn't, so Huntington made the move that keeps both in the organization. The issue that many people seem to object to, though, is retaining Jared Hughes over Holdzkom. Again, I commented extensively in the other thread, but I think this has to do with bullpen composition, with Hughes bringing something different to the mix. His success at being able to induce ground balls makes him a useful mid-inning reliever and his success in that role last year I think cemented his spot.

That leaves two decisions. The last bullpen spot now comes down to Hughes or Stolmy Pimentel. I don't see any scenario where Pimentel makes the team unless there is a last-minute, Chris Leroux-type injury that opens a spot. If Pimentel gets DFA'd, I think it is likely (70-30?) that he gets claimed. He has to profile better than some Rule 5 candidates and plenty of teams will be willing to use their last bullpen spot on his power arm and potential. You can't keep everyone in the organization.

The other roster spot, the last bench spot, is the one that has really become somewhat intriguing over the last week. This was Andrew Lambo's job to lose coming into camp, and I think Lambo is still the most likely guy to go north with the team. Jaff Decker had a solid spring, and like Tony Sanchez, he has reinserted himself into the team picture after coming to camp as a guy who looked to be on his way out of the organization. Unfortunately for him, a calf injury on Sunday has ruled out any chance that he will make the OD roster.

In the last week a new contender has emerged--Pedro Florimon. Florimon is interesting because he brings something the Pirates lack off the bench, great speed and a great glove. The case for Florimon as the 25th man is that he is a legitimate defensive replacement at shortstop. The Pirates' current backups at the position are Kang, who is still a question mark, and Sean Rodriguez, who probably plays five other positions better. The fact that Rodriguez, Josh Harrison and Corey Hart can all play the outfield bolsters Florimon's case. The fact that he can't hit at all doesn't. Florimon is out of options, while Lambo still has two left. Will Huntington look to solidify the team's overall defense and continue to adhere to his philosophy of keeping assets in the organization, or will Lambo finally get at least a limited opportunity? This wasn't even a consideration a few weeks ago. Now I only give the slightest of edges to Lambo.


I also wanted to quickly link to two other articles that might be of interest. Yesterday Cards beat writer Derrick Goold wrote about the team's willingness to trade young talent, something most Pirates fans would find abhorrent. And few are able to tell a story like Joe Posnanski. Over the weekend he wrote about Bobby Bragan. Bragan was hired by Branch Rickey to manage the Pirates in 1956 and was replaced by Danny Murtaugh midway through the 1957 season, but this isn't about the PIrates. I promise it is worth a few minutes of your time.