BRADENTON, Fla. — Pirates manager Derek Shelton smiled the other day when someone asked if he was ready to name the opening day starter.
“Choke could be an arbitrary term with how long he throws,” Shelton said. “I think first of all to spend the camp in good health with our group. I’m not worried about (naming the starter).
This truncated spring training forces Shelton and pitching coach Oscar Marin to tread carefully as they assemble the rotation. Each starter will have four or five outings and likely won’t be stretched beyond five innings when the season begins on April 7. Pitch counts are being watched closely and will take on increased importance in the first month or so of the season.
“We’re going to be extremely careful,” right-hander Wil Crowe said. “We’re going to take it slow because the goal is (to reach) the end of the season, going through its longevity.”
Hey, maybe the Pirates could be the first team to use an opener.
“I didn’t think of that,” Shelton said with a chuckle. “But I’m sure they thought about it in Tampa.”
Last season, the Pirates used 17 starting pitchers, a franchise record. It will come as no surprise if they exceed that number this year.
“I think our rotation will always be smooth,” Shelton said. “It’s one of those things with the short build-up. We’ve got a lot of guys who could start and (we wouldn’t even consider them starters) just people who cover innings or throw different parts of the game. I think it will definitely be smooth.