Well after the first week of spring training, the position players start reporting for spring training. And now that the position players are in Bradenton, the main focus of spring training is focused most of team chemistry. I will also go over anymore position battles that are arising.
Manager John Russell wants to use spring training as a bonding experience after the Pirates made seven trades last June and July. The Pirates have a fairly settled team considering they lost 99 games last season. Jeff Clement will try to make the conversion from catcher to first baseman, and if that fails, then RF Garrett Jones would shift to first and Ryan Church likely would move in as the starting right fielder.
--INF Ramon Vazquez underwent arthroscopic microfracture surgery on his right knee in mid-November, he revealed when he reported to spring training. The procedure was not as invasive as many of the microfracture surgeries NBA players have undergone in recent years, and Vazquez is expected to be ready for opening day.
--3B Neil Walker is going to work out at various positions this spring, including catcher. Walker was a catcher when the Pirates selected him in the first round of the 2004 draft but was switched to third base in 2007 while playing at Class AA.
He has spent the past two seasons as the starting third baseman at Class AAA Indianapolis, but 3B Pedro Alvarez, the Pirates' top prospect, is likely to begin the season at that level this year, and 3B Andy LaRoche is the starter in the major leagues.
--RHP Craig Hansen will throw off a mound March 10 for the first time since being sidelined by a rare nerve condition in his upper back last April. The Pirates' training staff has no timetable for when Hansen might be able to see game action.
--RHP Jose Ascanio will be examined by orthopedist James Andrews on Feb. 25 in Pensacola, Fla. Andrews operated on Ascanio's shoulder last October. Ascanio won't be able to pitch in games until at least early June.
--RHP Tyler Yates, who had a second Tommy John ligament replacement surgery on his elbow last year during the All-Star break, has progressed to playing long toss. He likely will be ready to pitch in games sometime in July.
Right-handed reliever Joel Hanrahan was found have a pronator-flexor strain in his pitching elbow. He may not be able to throw for a month and seems likely to begin the season on the disabled list.
"I felt good coming into minicamp and I probably tried to crank it up a little too much there," Hanrahan said. "I tried to psyche myself out and say the pain I felt wasn't really anything. I took a week off after minicamp. I didn't feel great but I felt like I could throw. But I know that I'm not doing myself or the team any good by trying to throw now. I've got to let it get better." While Hanrahan is out, Evan Meek will take over 7th inning duties.
The battle between Daniel McCutchen and Kevin Hart continue on, and it will take a good amount of spring training games before we know who will have that fifth spot. So, look for my second report next Friday, March 5.
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