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How Pirates Position Battles Shape Up Three Weeks Before Opener



Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pittsburgh Pirates kick off their regular season in three weeks when the face the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ballpark on March 30.

With spring training in full swing, a handful of positions and roster spots are already secured, but there is still a lot yet to be determined.

Entering camp, the Pirates knew that competition would be apparent in several different areas of the roster — second base, backup catcher, the bullpen and another bench bat or two. Three weeks from Opening Day and those battles are still largely unsettled.

In fact, additional bullpen spots may have opened up in wake of the Robert Stephenson and Jarlín García injury news. Another player may even be vying for one of the bench roles as the Pirates acquired Matt Mathias from the Texas Rangers on Wednesday.

So, how are the battles shaping up?

Second Base

  • Rodolfo Castro: .200/.200/.350, 4 for 20, one home run, five RBIs, eight strikeouts
  • Ji-hwan Bae: .071/.133/.071, 1 for 14, one walk, five strikeouts, one steal
  • Tucupita Marcano: .100/.308/.100, 1 for 10, three RBIs, three walks, three strikeouts, one steal

Entering camp, this trio of players was considered to be the players battling for the starting second base gig. None of the three players have separated themselves from the pack as of yet, though.

Castro has received the most playing time of the three and has shown flashes. He’s also struck out eight times in 20 plate appearances and has yet to draw a walk. Bae and Marcano both have yet to find their groove at the plate.

The two that don’t get the nod as the starting second baseman are both in play for a bench role on the roster when the Pirates break camp.

Backup Catcher

  • Jason Delay: .400/.500/.1000, 2 for 5, one home run, one RBI
  • Tyler Heineman: .125/.125/.125, 1 for 8, one strikeout
  • Kevin Plawecki: .143/.143/.286, 1 for 7, one double, one strikeout

Delay has been the best of the bunch in trying to serve as Austin Hedges’ backup, but the sample size is so small with all three of these guys that a lot still has to be sorted out.

Bench Bats:

  • Chris Owings: .273/.467/.636, 3 for 11, one double, one home run, three RBIs, four walks, two strikeouts
  • Drew Maggi: .500/.545/.900, 5 for 10, one double, one home run, three RBIs, one strikeout, one steal
  • Matt Mathias: .300/.462/.300, 3 for 10, three RBIs, three walks, two strikeouts
  • Cal Mitchell: .333/.333/.389, 6 for 18, one double, three RBIs, three strikeouts
  • Canaan Smith-Njigba: .182/.400/.182, 2 for 11, four RBIs, three walks, five strikeouts
  • Travis Swaggerty: .300/.364/.600, 3 for 10, one home run, three RBIs, one walk, two strikeouts
  • Miguel Andújar: .133/.188/.200, 2 for 15, one double, one walk five strikeouts
  • Ryan Vilade: .154/.154/.154, 2 for 13, five strikeouts
  • Marcano, Bae: stats listed above

Assuming Connor Joe has a bench spot locked up and one of the other bench spots will go to a catcher, there are likely two bench spots up for grabs on the Pirates’ opening day roster.

So far, Mitchell leads the club in hits this spring with six while Owings and Maggi both have performed well. Owings might have the inside track to a bench role as he has extensive experience at shortstop.

*Note: Mathias’ stats are his numbers with the Rangers


  • Jose Hernandez: 0-0, 9.00 ERA, 4er/4.0ip, seven hits, one walk, five strikeouts
  • Colin Holderman: 1-1, 9.00 ERA, 3er/3.0ip, four hits, three strikeouts
  • Yerry De Los Santos:: 0-0, 4.50 ERA, 1er/2.0ip, three hits, one walk
  • Caleb Smith: 0-0, 3.38 ERA, 1er/2.2ip, one hit, one walk, two strikeouts
  • Yohan Ramirez: 0-0, 10.13 ERA, 4er/2.2ip, four hits, three strikeouts
  • Dauri Moreta: 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 0er/3.0ip, one hit, one walk, five strikeouts
  • Tyler Chatwood: 0-0, 21.00 ERA, 7er/3.0ip, six hits, four walks, two strikeouts
  • Colin Selby: 0-0, 9.00 ERA, 2er/2.0ip, four hits, no walks, one strikeout
  • Rob Zastryzny: 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 0er/4.1ip, five hits, one walk, five strikeouts
  • Daniel Zamora: 0-0, 4.50 ERA, 2er/4.0ip, three hits, two walks, one strikeout
  • Angel Perdomo: 0-0, 3.00 ERA, 1er/3.0ip, two hits, one walk, two strikeouts

Seemingly, David Bednar, Wil Crowe, Duane Underwood Jr. and Chase De Jong have four of the bullpen spots secured, leaving plenty of spots still open.

Looking strictly at the numbers, Moreta and Zastryzny have opened some eyes early on for Pittsburgh. Hernandez and Holderman have both looked good for the most part as well, but both players were roughed up in Wednesday’s loss to the Orioles.


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