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Spring Training Preview: One Big Question Will be Answered Quickly

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Perhaps the most intriguing question of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ spring training camp should be answered quickly.

Center fielder Bryan Reynolds will meet with reporters Wednesday in Bradenton, Fla. That is the same day pitchers and catchers begin working out at Pirate City.

Reynolds will finally give his side of the story on why he requested a trade back in December after talks with the Pirates on a long-term contract extension stalled. The Pirates have not acquiesced to Reynolds’ wish and the 28-year-old remains with the team.

Is Reynolds still upset with the Pirates? Has he backed off the trade request? Would he be amenable to rekindling extension talks?

We shall find out on Wednesday.

Reynolds started in the All-Star Game in 2021. Last season, he batted .262/.345/.461 with 27 home runs in 145 games.

The Pirates already have Reynolds under contract at $6.75 million for this season in the second year of a two-year, $13.5-million contract. He is not eligible to become a free agent until after the 2025 season.

Reynolds might end up being one of the few holdovers in the Pirates’ starting lineup when they open the season on March 30 against the Reds. Plenty of changes were made after the Pirates went 62-100 last season and finished last in the National League Central for the fourth straight year.

General manager Ben Cherington brought outfielder Andrew McCutchen back to the organization during a busy winter in free agency that included signing catcher Austin Hedges and designated hitter/first baseman Carlos Santana. The Pirates also traded for Tampa Bay Rays first baseman Ji-Man Choi and Colorado Rockies first baseman/outfielder Connor Joe.

The pitching staff also received a boost. Left-hander Rich Hill, right-hander Vince Velasquez and lefty reliever Jarlin Garcia were all signed as free agents.

The Pirates will spend the spring acclimating those veterans while also looking at many top prospects. Among the youngsters who will be in camp are catchers Endy Rodriguez and Henry Davis and infielder Termarr Johnson, the Pirates’ first-round draft pick next season.

One of the more interesting competitions will be at second base. Rodolfo Castro was the most frequently used starter at the position at the end of the last season but he is expected to be challenged by rookie Ji Hwan Bae and Tucupita Marcano.

Manager Derek Shelton will also have to figure out how to divvy up playing time at first base between Choi, Santana and Joe. The outfield picture is also crowded with McCutchen, Jack Suwinski, Cal Mitchell and Joe all looking for at-bats, and Travis Swaggerty, Canaan Smith-Njigba and Ryan Vilade pushing to make the club.

Veteran Kevin Plawecki was signed as a minor league free agent Sunday to challenge Tyler Heineman for the backup catcher job behind Hedges.

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Shelton also promises there will be plenty of bullpen competition. David Bednar will be the closer after being selected to the All-Star Game last season, but no other relief roles are settled.

The rest of the squad reports to Pirate City on Sunday and begins formally working out the next day. The first exhibition game is set for Feb. 25 when the Pirates play the Toronto Blue Jays at LECOM Park.

The Pirates break camp on March 28, immediately after their game against the Minnesota Twins in Bradenton, and head to Cincinnati.

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