The Pirates made a flurry of roster moves today that make the roster picture for Opening Day quite a bit clearer. They sent Ryota Igarashi, Eric Fryer, Jake Fox, and Nick Evans all to minor league camp, which all but ensures Juan Cruz a bullpen spot to open the season. Since Cruz is an NRI, that means that someone will have to come off of the 40-man roster to make room for him before the season begins. It also pares the number of position players in camp down to 14. If we assume the Pirates will go north with 13 position players, I’d assume that Matt Hague will likely break camp with the team and either Yamaico Navarro or Josh Harrison will open the season up in the minors. That’s not necessarily a given, but we know that Garrett Jones needs a platoon partner and since Neal Huntington hinted that Pedro Alvarez will likely be platooned early in the year, too, then the club probably needs to take both Hague and Casey McGehee to Pittsburgh with them. Since Navarro has more experience as a shortstop, I’d give him the edge over Harrison for the final bench spot for now.
The other option is to take all three guys north, at least for now, since Charlie Morton will open the season on the disabled list. The Pirates won’t need a fifth starter until April 15th (or thereabouts) and Morton will be available then (he’ll start on April 9th with Indianapolis), so the Pirates could in theory get away with 11 pitchers until that point in the year. It seems much more likely to me that they stick with 12 pitchers, though, and keep a long reliever like Dan McCutchen on the roster when he otherwise might find himself in Triple-A. Given the strong possibility of a short start or, say, a Pittsburgh-in-April weather delay that could put stress on the bullpen, I’m guessing the Bucs will start the year out with eight guys in the bullpen, rather than an extra position player on the bench.