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Pirates' skipper weighs staff cuts



Published: Thu, March 13, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



Lloyd McClendon soon must start cutting 35 players.

BRADENTON, Fla. (AP) -- With more than twice as many players as he needs, Pittsburgh Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon knows he has to start making decisions.

The six pitchers vying for the final spot in the rotation aren't making it easy.

"I'm probably at a point where I am getting a bit antsy about getting the roster cut down," said McClendon, who needs to drop 35 players by the end of the month to reach the opening-day limit of 25.

"We've got to get the numbers down. Right about now is the time. Things are a little too loose in our camp," McClendon said.

Perhaps nowhere more so than the No. 5 starters' job behind Kris Benson, Kip Wells, Josh Fogg and Jeff Suppan.

Contenders

In the past month, no one has emerged as the Pirates' probable fifth starter among left-hander Denny Reyes and right-handers Rolando Arrojo, Jeff D'Amico, Brian Meadows, Julian Tavarez and Salomon Torres.

"We all know what the situation is," Meadows said. "Obviously, everyone wants that job we're all fighting for and there is more of a spotlight on that situation than anything else in camp this spring."

McClendon came to spring training with most of the roster settled and few questions in his bullpen, which was a bright spot last season with the arrivals of Wells (12-14, 3.58 ERA) and Fogg (12-12, 4.35 ERA) and Benson's return from elbow surgery.

Over the winter, the Pirates signed free agents Arrojo, Amico, Reyes and Tavarez to minor league contracts and invited them to compete with Meadows and Torres, who finished last season in the rotation.

Veteran edge

D'Amico or Tavarez may have an edge as veterans who have enjoyed success in the major leagues in the past. But both have struggled on the mound and with injuries.

D'Amico is 0-1 with a 6.14 ERA in his first three starts and left his March 7 start against Cincinnati with lower back stiffness, which didn't appear to be serious. He'll likely start Wednesday against Tampa Bay.

Tavarez has a 6.75 ERA in his first four innings after sitting out with a strained right calf.

Meanwhile, Reyes (7.71 ERA) and Arrojo (9.00 ERA) have also done little to stake a claim for the job.

Meadows (4.70 ERA) and Torres (4.50 ERA) have fared better, but it's unclear if either will stay in the rotation.

Torres did well in five late-season starts, going 2-1 with a 2.70 ERA after being out of organized baseball for five years.




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