Pittsburgh Pirates Roster Report

RHP Jose Mesa is the only Pirate eligible for free agency. RHP Brian Boehringer can also become a free agent if, as expected, the Pirates decline to pick up his $3 million option for 2005 and buy him out at $300,000.

STARTING ROTATION: Injuries dragged down the Pirates' rotation late in the season as LHP Sean Burnett and RHP Kip Wells went on the DL with sore elbows Aug. 23. The Pirates went 20-35 and had a 4.76 ERA after Aug. 1. Burnett, a rookie, will miss most of next season after undergoing reconstructive elbow surgery in September, and the Pirates would like to add a veteran starter to stabilize the rotation.

RHP Josh Fogg (11-10, 4.64) had a strong second half after a miserable start to the season. Fogg doesn't have great stuff but competes well and finds ways to win.

LHP Oliver Perez (12-10, 2.98) was a revelation in his first full season as he had a string of dominant outings. Perez is already the Pirates' No. 1 starter at 23, and he has the talent to be one of the top starting pitchers in the game.

RHP Ryan Vogelsong (6-13, 6.50) struggled mightily after a great showing in spring training. Vogelsong has plenty of talent but needs to start showing consistency if he wants to have a long career.

RHP Kip Wells (5-7, 4.55) had a rough season after beating Philadelphia on Opening Day. Wells still has the potential to be a frontline starter but is at the point in his career where he needs to step up.

LHP Sean Burnett (5-5, 5.02) started strong after being recalled from Triple-A in May, then tailed off and eventually had reconstructive elbow surgery. Burnett will miss most of next season while rehabbing and can't be counted on until 2006.

BULLPEN: RHP Jose Mesa solidified what was a surprisingly good bullpen that had a fine 3.64 ERA despite losing its last seven decisions. However, the Pirates aren't likely to re-sign Mesa and will look for a low-budget closer on the free-agent market.

RHP Jose Mesa (5-2, 3.25, 43 saves) was ran out of Philadelphia after compiling a 6.52 ERA in 2003 but resurrected his career with the Pirates after signing a minor league contract as a free agent. Mesa has resurrected his career many times but the Pirates seem likely to look elsewhere, figuring they have gotten as much mileage as possible out of him.

RHP Salomon Torres (7-7, 2.64) turned out to be a workhorse in his first full season as a relief pitcher. Torres emerged as one of the better setup relievers in the league and could get a shot at closing next season if Jose Mesa is not re-signed.

RHP Brian Meadows (2-4, 3.58, 1 save) had a solid year as a middle man after being converted from starter to reliever in 2003. Meadows is a valuable pitcher for his ability to throw strikes and pitch effectively in various roles.

LHP John Grabow (2-5, 5.11, 1 save) got off to a fine start in his rookie year but struggled as the season went on. Grabow has the stuff to be an effective major league pitcher but needs to work on his command.

LHP Mike Gonzalez (3-1, 1.25, 1 save) had a dominant rookie season after being recalled from Triple-A in May. Gonzalez is a rare hard-throwing lefty who seems to have the stuff and makeup to eventually become a closer.

RHP Mark Corey (1-2, 4.54) yo-yo'd between the major leagues and Triple-A five times over the course of the season. He has a good curveball but needs to throw more strikes in order to hang on in the major leagues as a 12th pitcher on a staff.

RHP Brian Boehringer (1-1, 4.62) was ineffective in the season's first two months, then eventually had season-ending shoulder surgery. The Pirates hold a $3 million option on Boehringer for 2005 but almost certainly will buy it out for $300,000.

CATCHING: Jason Kendall had one of the best seasons of his fine nine-year career, but the Pirates would still be willing to trade him in a salary dump.

C Jason Kendall (.319-3-51, 11 steals) had one of his finest seasons both offensively and defensively. Kendall will likely be back for his 10th season as the starter in 2005, though they Pirates would love to dump the three years and $34 million that remain on his six-year, $60 million contract.

C Humberto Cota (.227-5-8) had a decent year as the seldom-used No. 2 catcher despite being bothered by a strained muscle in his side. He has some pop and is decent defensively, giving him a chance to have a fairly long career as a backup.

INFIELD: The Pirates appear set in the infield for at least two more seasons. Craig Wilson and Jack Wilson aren't eligible for free agency until after the 2006 season, Ty Wigginton has only two-plus years in the major leagues and Jose Castillo just finished his rookie season.

1B Craig Wilson (.264-29-82) acquitted himself well in his first full season as a starter, though he tailed off in the second half. Wilson has proved he can be productive if given the chance to play regularly, though it is wise not to overexpose him to good right-handed pitching.

2B Jose Castillo (.256-8-39) surprisingly made the club out of Class AA in spring training and had a solid rookie season. Castillo has some offensive upside and already is among the best in the league at turning the double play.

3B Ty Wigginton (.261-17-66) struggled mightily after being acquired from the New York Mets on June 30 in a trade for Kris Benson before heating up in the season's final weeks. Wigginton is a workmanlike player who appears capable of consistently putting together solid years.

SS Jack Wilson (.308-11-59) easily had the best season of his four-year career as he became the first Pirate to have a 200-hit season since 1977. Wilson has always been good defensively and is now emerging as a fine all-around talent with his increased offensive production.

2B/3B Bobby Hill (.266-2-27) split time with Jose Castillo at second early in the season but eventually settled into a utility role. Hill is an excellent pinch hitter and the Pirates will try him in the outfield in spring training next year to see if he can add versatility.

2B/3B/SS Abraham Nunez (.236-2-13) was asked to pinch hit 60 times this season, a sign that the Pirates lack quality depth on the bench. Nunez is a slick fielder at the middle-infield positions but struggles at the plate and likely won't be re-signed as an arbitration-eligible player.

1B/RF Daryle Ward (.249-15-57) resurrected his career with the Pirates after a nightmarish 2003 in Los Angeles. Ward has some pop and his left-handed batting stroke is tailor-made for PNC Park, though he tends to wear down when he gets regular playing time.

OUTFIELD: Jason Bay established himself as a strong NL Rookie of the Year candidate and Tike Redman is emerging as a solid player. Nevertheless, the Pirates would like to add another power bat, and right field would seem to be the logical position to do it.

LF Jason Bay (.282-26-82) had an outstanding rookie season despite missing the first month while recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. Bay has the look of a potential star with his ability to hit for average and power while playing above-average defense.

CF Tike Redman (.280-8-51, 18 steals) had a poor first half but finished strong in the second half. Redman has the potential to be an above-average player but needs to improve his plate discipline and tighten up his defense.

RF Rob Mackowiak (.246-17-75, 13 steals) got his first chance to play regularly, also seeing considerable action at third base, but faded badly after a strong first half. Mackowiak is better utilized as a utility player with his ability to play every position except pitcher and shortstop while providing power and speed.

LF/RF J.J. Davis (.143-0-3) had a lost rookie season as he was limited to 35 at-bats by inconsistency and injuries. Davis has plenty of power potential, but his immaturity and mental mistakes flummox Pirates management.

MEDICAL WATCH: RHP Brian Boehringer (arthroscopic right shoulder surgery, expected to be ready for the start of spring training), LHP Sean Burnett (reconstructive left elbow surgery, expected to be out until August), CF Tike Redman (surgery to remove cyst from near eyes, expected to be ready for the start of spring training), RHP Kip Wells (carpal tunnel release surgery on right middle finger, expected to be ready for the start of spring training).

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