Pittsburgh Fans club reporter, George Von Benko is down in Florida looking over this years…
Pirates Spring Training Report
RHP Kip Wells got through the first week of spring training with no problems after his 2004 season was ruined by finger and elbow problems.
Wells beat Philadelphia in his first career Opening Day start but finished 5-7 with a 4.55 ERA in 24 games. He pitched just once in the last six weeks of the season with a sore elbow and was bothered throughout the season with numbness in the middle finger of his pitching hand.
RHP Joe Roa's bid to win the fifth starter's job took an early hit when he was unable to throw off a mound in the first week of spring training because of a sore lower back.
Roa is supposed to compete with LHPs Zach Duke and Dave Williams and RHPs Todd Ritchie and Ryan Vogelsong for the last spot in the starting rotation. Roa pitched exclusively in relief for Minnesota last season, going 2-3 with a 4.50 ERA in 48 games.
Ritchie's 6:21 was the best time in the mile run among all pitchers in camp.
LHP Dave Williams and RHP Ryan Vogelsong signed one-year contracts that will pay them $330,000 if they are in the major leagues. C Humberto Cota agreed to a one-year deal that will pay him $327,000 in the majors.
LHP Mike Johnston, a spring sensation as a rookie last year, and RHP Kirk Bullinger, a non-roster invitee, were slowed early in spring training in their bids to win two open spots in the bullpen. Johnston had tightness in his quadriceps, and Bullinger had a strained hamstring.
Johnston was 0-3 with a 4.37 ERA in 24 games with the Pirates last season, while Bullinger was 1-0 with one save and a 6.16 ERA in 27 games with Houston.
RHP Albie Lopez has been impressive early in spring training as he bids to return to the major leagues after being out of baseball last season.
Lopez lost 30 pounds over the winter, getting down to 240, before signing a minor league contract with the Pirates and being invited to spring training as a non-roster player. Lopez is competing for a bullpen job.
Lopez, 33, last pitched in the major leagues with Kansas City in 2003 and went 4-2 with a 12.71 ERA in 15 games.
1B Brad Eldred, the Pirates' minor league player of the year last season, showed his incredible strength during a batting practice session when he splintered his bat on a checked swing.
Eldred hit a combined .301 with 38 homers and a minor league leading 137 RBIs last season in a combined 130 games with high Class A Lynchburg and Double-A Altoona. The 6-foot-5, 268-pound Eldred is a long shot to make the major league club and will likely begin the season at Triple-A Indianapolis or Altoona.
INF-OF Rob Mackowiak has switched to No. 3 this season after wearing the football-like No. 59 during his first four major league seasons.
RHP Brian Boehringer, who became a free agent when the Pirates failed to exercise a $3 million option on his contract for this season, is still looking for work.
Boehringer was close to signing a minor league contract with Colorado, but the Rockies then backed off. A St. Louis native, Boehringer has been trying to get the Cardinals interested.
Boehringer, 36, was 1-1 with a 4.62 ERA in 21 relief appearances last season before undergoing shoulder surgery in August. Boerhinger said his shoulder is now completely healthy.
John Wehner, a former utility player with the Pirates, was hired as a color analyst for the team's television and radio broadcasts. Wehner will do road games this season because analyst Steve Blass plans to only do home games.
Wehner, 37, spent the last three seasons as the hitting coach with the Pirates' Double-A Altoona farm club. He played in the major leagues for 11 seasons with Pittsburgh (1991-96, 1999-2001) and Florida (1997-98), hitting .249 with four homers and 54 RBIs in 461 games.
Wehner got the broadcasting job over three other former Pirates players: Sid Bream, Mike LaValliere and Kent Tekulve. LaValliere and Bill Mazeroski, the Hall of Famer and former Pirates second baseman, are in spring training as special instructors.
Matt Winters was promoted from high Class A Lynchburg to Altoona to take Wehner's place. Brandon Moore, scheduled to coach at short-season Class A Williamsport this season, will now be Lynchburg's hitting coach.
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