Baseball fans are waking up with excitement this morning as pitchers and catchers make the trek to their respective facilities for the first workouts of Spring Training.
Some are excited to see their favorite clubs try to get back to the postseason, while others — like Pittsburgh Pirates fans — hope that their team is more competitive than last year.
After finishing near the bottom in almost every pitching statistic last year, the Pirates spent a good chunk of the offseason adding new arms to both the rotation and bullpen. Some were brought in as a form of veteran leadership, while others were viewed as low risk, high reward improvements to the team’s pitching depth.
Rule 5 pick Jose Hernandez is practically guaranteed a role with the Pirates due to him being a Rule 5 draft pick, but Dauri Moreta and Jarlin Garcia will be in a heated battle for a middle relief or set up role. They will be up against returnees Chase De Jong, Duane Underwood Jr., Robert Stephenson, and Wil Crowe.
Others who look to make it to the bullpen include Yerry De Los Santos and Colin Holderman. Both of whom were sidelined with injuries last season.
There are also several non-roster invitees looking to crack the 40-man or, in some cases, Opening Day roster. Those include veterans Tyler Chatwood and Caleb Smith; Pirates No. 3 prospect Quinn Priester; and aging prospect Cody Bolton.
Those looking to crack a starting rotation spot include the aforementioned Rich Hill, who the team signed to a one-year deal and will turn 43 before the season starts, but has put up respectable numbers over the past couple of seasons.
New Pirate LHP Rich Hill on being the veteran on a young team. pic.twitter.com/54yP31T759— Alex Stumpf (@AlexJStumpf) January 5, 2023
Meanwhile, Vince Velazquez looks to flip the script on his career and earn the fifth spot in the Bucs’ rotation.
There will also be a several among three prospects: Jared Jones, Carmen Mlodzinski and Kyle Nicolas. While it’s unlikely any of them will start the year in Pittsburgh, they look to show they’ve improved over the offseason and deserve a shot at a potential promotion during the season.
One of the most intriguing storylines of the offseason will be how Mitch Keller and J.T. Brubaker look during their appearances this spring. Both showed significant improvement towards the end of last season, with Keller carrying over his improvement into the offseason:
With 2023 focused on being competitive rather than rebuilding, every Spring Training game will carry lots of weight for the Pirates pitching staff.