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Pirates GM Ben Cherington Discusses Possible Additions, Extensions, More

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Ben Cherington, Pittsburgh Pirates

TAMPA, Fla. — Thursday was the 2024 spring training media day at George Steinbrenner Field, the spring home of the New York Yankees.

Major League Baseball general managers and managers from the Grapefruit League were on hand to discuss a number of topics regarding their respective teams.

For the Pittsburgh Pirates, Ben Cherington provided answers to a wide-range of questions about the offseason, spring training and what lies ahead in 2024.

ON ADDING EXTERNAL PIECES

It has been speculated that the Pirates are still looking to add to the team, even with the start of spring training already behind them.

The starting rotation still could use some work behind Mitch Keller, Martín Pérez and Marco Gonzales. While the Pirates are still exploring the starting pitching market, Cherington wouldn’t rule out additions in other areas on the roster while simultaneously mentioning internal development is also a key component.

“Not specific to pitching, I would say that we should be working to try and make the team better every day. I don’t think that job should end. The first day of spring training is a transition on the calendar because our guys are on the field. That’s really important.

“We’re excited about the players we have in spring training. We believe in them. And we know that, for the Pirates taking the next step as a team is always going to be largely driven from young players taking next steps. We totally own that, love that and believe in our guys. But we need to keep finding ways to make the team better. I don’t think that is specific to pitching. Anywhere on the roster.”

ON POSSIBLE EXTENSIONS

Spring training is a time when long-term extensions are often seen. For the Pirates, right-handed pitchers Mitch Keller and David Bednar are two logical candidates whom the Pirates could look to extend.

Without mentioning specific players, Cherington said he expects to have conversations with players.

“Over the course of the offseason and this part of the spring is the time on the calendar where that kind of conversation can happen. As I’ve shared before, we want to have an open door to that kind of conversation…I think if there’s an opportunity to share information and gain from that, that’s something we want to do. We just have to see where it goes.

“They’re not easy to find common ground on. They’re just not. There’s good reason for that; it has nothing to do with, ‘Is this person right? Is this person wrong?’ It’s a personal decision for a player. Really respect that. We feel like our job is to provide information so players can make a choice. In some cases we’ll look to do that. We’ll see what comes of it.

Though neither was announced during spring training, the Pirates have handed out franchise record-setting contracts each of the last two years to Ke’Bryan Hayes and Bryan Reynolds.

ON HENRY DAVIS POSSIBLY STARTING THE YEAR IN TRIPLE-A

The Pirates’ brass recently raised some eyebrows when they said there would be a competition for the other catcher roster spot that doesn’t go to Yasmani Grandal.

For Henry Davis, that means he will be in a competition with fellow backstops Jason Delay and Ali Sánchez. If Henry doesn’t win the competition, he could begin the season with Indianapolis.

“It’s a competition for that spot. Assuming (Grandal) is healthy, he’s gonna be one of the catchers to start the season. There’s a competition for that second spot. We know all the guys in that competition and Henry is one of them. By definition of a competition there’s two possibilities.”

Cherington went on to reiterate the organization’s belief in Davis as a catcher, largely in part to his excellent work ethic.

“Wherever that lands, we believe in this guy and he’s really important to us and he’s gonna do all the work necessary to become a really good major league player and help us win games.”

ON PAUL SKENES POTENTIALLY BREAKING CAMP ON 26-MAN ROSTER

Since being drafted, Paul Skenes has been labeled as a prospect who could quickly rise to the major leagues. With two starting rotation spots still up for grabs, Skenes could technically be in competition to be part of the Pirates’ opening day roster.

While Cherington didn’t rule it out entirely, it didn’t appear to be too likely that Skenes will be in the major leagues after 6.2 professional innings.

“We don’t feel like there is any particular rush…If you go back and look at very highly-drafted college pitchers who had gone on to exceptional careers, most of them had a good chunk of time in the minor leagues.

“That doesn’t mean that’s gonna happen in every case, but that’s what has happened in most cases. We’ll see. We’re not putting any ceiling on it. We want to respect Paul Skenes and let him be Paul Skenes. Whatever the path is, it should be unique to him. We want him to be in the best position to help the Pirates win as many games for as long as possible. I’m not concerned or ready to think about when that’s gonna start.”

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