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Pirates Spring Training relievers: Who are these guys? (Updated)

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Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Next in our series of posts about players with the Pirates for Spring Training, we'll cover relievers. Wilbur already wrote about starters, and of course the the line between a starter and a reliever can be fuzzy, particularly with players on the fringes of the roster. Here, then, I'll leave out players he already discussed, even if they might have some chance of relieving. And as usual, I'll leave out players who made significant contributions to the Pirates in 2015, so no Mark Melancon or Tony Watson or Jared Hughes or Arquimedes Caminero, even though those players are all good bets to contribute again in 2016 (if the Bucs don't trade Melancon, that is).

Lefties are marked with an asterisk. As they should be, the freaks.

Neftali Feliz (30): A former phenom who's fallen on hard times in recent years. Whatever's happened with Feliz can be traced all the way back to 2011, when his walk rate nearly doubled in just his second full season in the league. An ill-fated transition to starting and then Tommy John surgery followed, and Feliz hasn't been able to recapture the magic of his 2010 Rookie of the Year season since then, even though he still throws hard (although not as hard as he did in his first couple seasons, when his fastball averaged around 96 MPH). After a season in which he pitched for the Rangers and Tigers and posted a 6.38 ERA, the Pirates gave him a guaranteed contract, banking on Ray Searage's ability to fix him.

Chance of contributing in 2016: High.

Jim Fuller* (78): Your basic Triple-A lefty depth guy, but not a bad one. The 28-year-old Fuller got to Triple-A for the first time last season and did well, striking out 9.5 batters per nine. This is the kind of player where you can Google his name and "fastball" and not much comes up, because no one has really bothered to notice him, but this article from 2013 says he throws in the upper 80s, has a slow curve and a slider, and relies on deception. If Fuller has a future in the big leagues, it might be as a LOOGY, but the Pirates generally aren't interested in LOOGYs. Expect him to pitch in Indianapolis.

Chance of contributing in 2016: Low.

Trey Haley (--): The Pirates signed Haley to a big-league contract last month even though he's never pitched in the majors. According to all available reports, Haley throws blazingly hard, with a fastball that nears 100 MPH, so it's easy to see why he might appeal to the velocity-happy Pirates. He walked 21 batters in 21 innings last year in his first shot at Triple-A, though, so it would be very surprising if the Bucs thought he was ready to pitch in the majors right away. Instead, it's likely the Pirates are simply taking a chance on a guy with great velocity. Haley also has two options, which means that the Bucs can stash him at Triple-A for awhile as long as they're willing to use a 40-man spot on him.

Chance of contributing in 2016: Low to moderate.

John Holdzkom (43): Holdzkom is a personal favorite of mine due to his crazy backstory, great fastball, winning personality and role in the Pirates' 2014 playoff run. But his 2015 season went poorly, as he battled shoulder and control troubles and failed to appear in the majors. The Pirates still have him on their 40-man, suggesting a level of faith in him, but it's very hard to tell how Holdzkom's immediate or long-term future might unfold. Given his dominant stuff, it wouldn't be that big a shock if he re-emerged as one of the Pirates' best relievers in 2016. It's worth remembering that he struck out 14 of the 32 batters he faced in his brief time in the big leagues in 2014. If Holdzkom is healthy and his control is on point, he's ridiculous. Then again, health and control problems are two of the biggest problems a pitcher can have, so it also wouldn't be a shock if Holdzkom never reappeared in the big leagues. We'll see. In the meantime, he appears to be beginning the 2016 season on the outside looking in.

Chance of contributing in 2016: Moderate.

Guido Knudson (63): The Pirates claimed Knudson from the Tigers in November, then released him when they signed Haley. They then quickly re-signed Knudson to a minor leagued deal. He pitched a few innings with Detroit last season but spent most of the year with Triple-A Toledo, posting good numbers overall despite struggling a bit with his control. Knudson doesn't appear to be a soft-tosser but isn't a flame-thrower either, so his skill set isn't as glamorous as those of, say, Haley or Holdzkom. He does, however, have the ability to pitch multi-inning stretches -- it wasn't uncommon for him to throw 40 or 50 pitches in his minor league outings last year. That means he isn't a bad bet to see action with the Pirates on, say, the day after an extra-inning game.

Chance of contributing in 2016: Moderate.

Curtis Partch (46): Another hard thrower with sketchy control, this time with a red beard. Partch is still just 28, can reach the high 90s, and whiffed 81 batters in 63.2 innings at Triple-A last year. On the other hand, he has 24 walks in 30.1 career big-league innings (all of which came with the Reds in 2013 and 2014). He'll be a fun pitcher to have in the Indianapolis bullpen, sort of like Blake Wood last year. The Pirates probably don't see Partch as a serious contender to contribute in the big leagues in 2016, but who knows -- you underestimate high-velocity Pirates pitching additions at your peril.

Chance of contributing in 2016: Low to moderate.

Jorge Rondon (57): The Pirates claimed Rondon from the Orioles in October and outrighted him two months later. Like a lot of guys on this list, he throws very hard but has had control problems at times. He issued nine walks and 26 runs in 14.1 innings in the majors last season. He did, however, perform well at Triple-A, and he's only 27, so he might respond well to some help from Ray Searage.

Chance of contributing in 2016: Moderate.

Robert Zarate* (39): Zarate pitched for three years in the low levels of the minors in the Blue Jays system. He then headed to Japan, where he appeared briefly with the Hanshin Tigers but apparently spent most of his time pitching in the Japanese minor leagues and in Japanese independent ball, which is where the Rays found him prior to last season. He pitched very well in 2015 for Triple-A Durham, striking out 49 batters and walking 15 in 40.1 innings. Whether that makes him a viable candidate to contribute in the big leagues, though, is beyond me. (Even Neal Huntington calls Zarate "kind of a mysterious left-hander.") It is, however, perhaps worth noting that Zarate held lefties to a .135 average in Triple-A last season. He also has a bit of recent background with starting, so it's not impossible that he could be used in that capacity. He began the Spring with a bout of lateral elbow discomfort.

Chance of contributing in 2016: Low to moderate.

Cory Luebke* (26): Luebke, formerly a promising starter with the Padres, is looking to get his career back on track after missing most of the past four seasons after having two Tommy John surgeries and a variety of other injury problems. Given the amount of time he's spent away from the game, it's hard to tell what the Pirates will be getting. He'll start off in a bullpen role, although he began the spring with a hamstring issue, so he won't be available right away.

Chance of contributing in 2016: Moderate.

Eric O'Flaherty* (34): The veteran lefty had a terrible season in 2015, walking 18 batters in 30 innings split between the Athletics and Mets, and his control has never really been stellar. He was, however, very effective for several seasons with the Braves before having Tommy John surgery in 2013, and he's done an outstanding job generating ground balls throughout his career, with a 54.9 percent career ground ball rate. If the Pirates decide to go with two lefties in their bullpen, O'Flaherty probably has a good shot at a spot, given the uncertain statuses of Zarate and Luebke and given O'Flaherty's big-league experience.

Chance of contributing in 2016: Moderate to high.