There comes a point in Spring Training when fans are ready for the real games to begin. I imagine that’s true for players, as well. But we’re only about halfway through the spring as we charge towards Opening Day. The Pirates are 7-4 and third in the Grapefruit League. As fun as that is, I wouldn’t expect that to carry over into the regular season. But some components of this team are shaping up to be fun to watch over the course of the full season. Let’s break some things down from Spring Training 2021.
- Trevor Cahill
Earlier in the week, the Pirates signed veteran starter Trevor Cahill to a one year, $1.5 million contract. He’s been given innings pitched incentives, ranging from an extra $100,000 for 75 innings pitched to $300,000 for 175 innings pitched.
This signing shakes up the ideas we had about what the starting five would look like. It’s now unclear who, if anyone, gets bumped out of the rotation, or if the Pirates opt to go with a six-man rotation. One would think Tyler Anderson or JT Brubaker would get moved to the bullpen or Triple-A, if it comes to that.
- Anthony Alford
(The following was written before Alford’s hit by pitch Saturday afternoon; therefore, it is predicated on him being able to return in a timely manner before the beginning of the season.)
The Pirates centerfield spot hasn’t yet been decided, but Alford is making an excellent case for why he should be out there on Opening Day. Alford’s out here hitting bombs, he’s making diving catches, he’s picking up extra base hits, and scoring the tying run — and that’s all in one game.
Jared Oliva and Brian Goodwin would like to claim the centerfield spot for themselves, but the work Alford’s doing will be hard to pass up. Besides that, you have to think: Alford was a guy that was brought in last year to fill that hole before an injury derailed that plan for the time being. If I had to guess, Alford will be in the “8” position come April.
- Todd Frazier
Thus far, the Pirates are getting precisely what they thought they would from Frazier: An energetic guy who likes baseball and enjoys playing. Mic’d up on March 11, Frazier showed his infectious joyfulness in the box and out in the field.
Judging by this Jason Mackey tweet, Frazier is going to be an excellent veteran presence, and will certainly be on the roster when Opening Day rolls around.
- Blake Cederlind
Not all the news out of camp has been fun thus far, however. My dark horse of the season, Blake Cederlind, went on the 60-day injured list because of a strained UCL, according to this Rob Biertempfel article.
It’s certainly a shame that Cederlind’s undergoing this type of situation at the moment. While injuries are always setbacks, it’s a particularly troubling time for Cederlind, as the hard throwing relief pitcher has been anointed “closer-in-waiting,” which meant he was going to have time to hone his stuff before moving into that pivotal role in the near future. No other announcements have been made as of this writing, and we’ve yet to see just how big of a setback this will ultimately be.
Let’s end on a positive note: The Pirates have the third best ERA (3.30) in all of baseball to this point of Spring Training. They trail only the Marlins (2.76) and Dodgers (3.03). That’s certainly something to keep an eye on. While I don’t expect them to remain that high during the regular season, this is perhaps another sign that this team isn’t quite as bad as many of us believed them to be. Like I said in a recent article, depending on your priorities, that could be a good or a bad thing. For now, let’s treat it like a good thing.