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Pirates’ spring winners and losers . . . so far

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Pittsburgh Pirates Nick Burdi Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

With less than a week left in spring training, here are the Pirates whose status has taken a substantial step forward or backward, in my totally arbitrary opinion:

Winners

Nick Burdi, RHP: Apart from the Nightmare, Burdi has been the Pirates’ best reliever this spring. So far: 9.1 IP, 4 H, 3 BB, 13 K. No baserunners in his last four outings. I don’t see how there’s anything left to decide here.

Jung Ho Kang, 3B: Yeah, the Ks are a concern, but Kang has shown the power hasn’t gone anywhere and his fielding has been good. He was an unknown quantity coming into the spring. He also has a history of taking a while to get untracked, and that was without a two-year layoff.

Ke’Bryan Hayes, 3B: He still has to master AAA, but there’s not much doubt left about the future of 3B in Pittsburgh . . .

Cole Tucker, SS: . . . and not much more about SS. Tucker has a lot more left to prove than Hayes, but he made strides late last year, again in the AFL, and yet again this spring. He’s also filled out noticeably without losing the athleticism that makes him potentially a plus defender.

Tentative Winner

Dovydas Neverauskas, RHP: He hasn’t pitched in a game in a week and a half; I assume he’s been doing the sim game thing, but I haven’t seen that anywhere. Neverauskas made an odd transition, from a guy who didn’t walk many but was way too hittable in 2017, to a guy with high walk and K rates in 2018. He’s quietly had a good spring, with one bad outing against the Yankees and five good ones. Overall, he’s walked none and fanned 10 in 6.1 IP, so he’s probably protected his roster spot, although he won’t likely open the season in the majors.

Losers

Colin Moran, 3B (now 3B/1B): Meet the new Andy LaRoche . . . except LaRoche was decent defensively.

Michael Feliz, RHP: Mr. Gopher has continued his war on xFIP, giving up five boomballs in just a dozen innings. His roster spot shouldn’t be secure.

Kevin Newman, SS (now UT IF): The Pirates just handed their SS job to a 27-year-old utility player with a middling, at best, track record coming off a middling, at best, spring. It seems evident that they don’t consider Newman a major league shortstop.

Nick Kingham, RHP: Two very bad starts out of five drew an unusually dismissive assessment from Neal Huntington. The good news for Kingham is that he’s out of options and the Pirates have almost no starting depth, partly because of . . .

Steven Brault, LHP: The control problems continue, with eight walks and a 1.61 WHIP in 13.2 IP. With one option left, Brault will probably head to AAA and serve as rotation depth.

Jose Osuna, 1B/3B/OF: Osuna was already boxed in by various players at his various positions, with possibly the lethal blow coming when the Pirates brought in Melky Cabrera. A 167/262/250 spring line isn’t going to help.

Mitch Keller, RHP: Ugh. Anybody carrying on about super two in connection with Keller needs to check back in to reality.