With Lopez now being looked at as a relief candidate, LHPs Zach Duke and Dave Williams are being considered for the No. 5 starter's job along with RHP Ryan Vogelsong.
Duke, the Pirates' minor league pitcher of the year last season, placed himself squarely in contention by pitching five scoreless innings against Philadelphia in his first start of the spring. Duke has allowed four runs in 10 innings for a 3.60 ERA this spring. He is expected to pitch Thursday (March 24) in a minor league exhibition game.
Vogelsong entered the week with a 4.66 ERA in 9 2/3 innings, while Williams had a 4.85 ERA in 13 innings. Vogelsong, who spent most of last season in the Pirates' rotation, is out of minor league options and would be subjected to waivers if the Pirates tried to send him to Triple-A Indianapolis.
RHP Justin Reid pitched two scoreless inning Sunday (March 20) to get the save and lower his ERA to 1.29 in seven innings. However, that wasn't enough to prevent the Pirates from reassigning him to minor league camp. He figures to be a swingman at Triple-A Indianapolis this season as he has the ability to start and relieve.
OF Chris Duffy, a rookie who has yet to play above Double-A, has complicated the Pirates' center field position by having a fine spring in his first year on the 40-man roster.
Duffy entered the week hitting .370 in 27 at-bats and had emerged as a viable candidate in the center field battle that was originally between incumbent CF Tike Redman and INF/OF Rob Mackowiak. Redman was hitting .400 in 35 at-bats entering the week while Mackowiak was hitting a sizzling .459 in 37 at-bats.
LHP Mike Johnston's chance of making the Opening Day roster as a reliever is getting slimmer. He has not pitched since March 11 because of a blister on the middle finger of his pitching hand. Johnston allowed seven runs to Cleveland without retiring a batter in his last appearance.
RHPs Bobby Bradley and Ian Snell and INF-OF Jose Bautista -- three of the organization's top prospects -- were optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis as the Pirates cuts Sunday (March 20).
LHP Jeremy Harts, RHPs Brian Mallette and Justin Reid, C Paul Chiaffredo, INFs Cesar Crespo, Jose Leon and Jorge Velandia, INF-OF Howie Clark and OF Jon Nunnally were reassigned to the minor league camp.
Snell had a 4.91 ERA this spring, allowing two runs in 3 2/3 innings. Bradley gave up five runs in 2 2/3 innings for a 16.88 ERA. Both will start at Indianapolis, though some in the Pirates' organization believe they might eventually fit in better as relievers at the major-league level.
Bautista will play third base on a regular basis at Indianapolis after going 3-for-15 (.200) this spring.
Harts made only one appearance and pitched one scoreless inning while Mallette pitched three times and gave up one unearned run in 1 2/3 innings, and Reid allowed only one run in seven innings for a 1.29 ERA.
Chiaffredo was 1-for-3 (.333) in exhibition action, while Crespo was 2-for-12 (.167), Leon was 3-for-15 (.200) with two homers, Velandia was 3-for-11 (.273), Clark was 0-for-8 and Nunnally was 3-for-12 (.250).
Quick Pitch: 1.46 -- LHP Zach Duke's combined ERA last season with high Class A Lynchburg and Double-A Altoona. He is trying to make the jump to the major leagues as he is competing for the fifth starter's spot.