Hackers Announce Alternative 2021 Training Site

The Pirates announced plans Monday for their alternate training site, where their minor leaguers will work while their season is suspended until May.

The club will use Heinz Field, home of the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers, as its clubhouse during the month of April. When the Pirates are on the road, PNC Park will be the practice site, while Charles L. Cost Field on the University of Pittsburgh campus will be used when the big league club is at home.

“The Pirates organization is extremely grateful to the Pittsburgh Steelers and the University of Pittsburgh for allowing our players and staff to use their first-class facilities for the first month of the season,” said general manager Ben Cherington in a statement. “It’s a great example of the unique bond each of the pro teams and Pitt share with each other, and part of what makes Pittsburgh such a special place.”

Cherington said the move will allow faster movement for roster changes between the alternate site and the big league club, and it will give the Pirates a facility upgrade for their minor leaguers.

“Especially not knowing if the alternate site is going to expand beyond April, we wanted to keep it in Pittsburgh, if we could,” Cherington said.

Last season, the Pirates used Peoples Natural Gas Field, home of Double-A affiliate Altoona Curve, as an alternate training site. Cherington said the venue change had nothing to do with Altoona; in fact, he said the move allows Altoona’s operations staff to set the stage for what they hope will be a return to action in May.

Notes on the list
The Pirates made a series of roster cuts on Monday with big implications for the Opening Day roster, which they plan to announce in the next 24 hours, according to Cherington.

Ahead of Monday’s 5-3 loss to the Twins, right-handed reliever Geoff Hartlieb was moved to Triple-A Indianapolis, while outfielder Brian Goodwin, infielder Wilmer Difo and right-handed Steven Wright were reassigned to camp of the Minor League. The bottom three are MLB veterans, but they were under Minor League contract.

After the game, the Pirates reassigned pitchers Chase De Jong and Chasen Shreve – who both competed in the contest – to the Minor League camp. Pittsburgh’s active spring training roster now has 29 players, meaning the club will have to cut it by five before Opening Day.

Goodwin was one of the key players competing for the starting position in center field, as well as the role of fourth outfielder. Anthony Alford, who suffered a broken right elbow last season, was seen as the leading candidate to start at centre, and this move signals that will be the case.

When Dustin Fowler was acquired from the A’s for cash considerations in the first week of spring games, it made the path ahead for Goodwin more difficult. Fowler is out of options, so a decision to send him to Triple-A would require a trip through the waiver wire. So despite Goodwin (.688 OPS in 14 games) passing Fowler (.531 OPS in 12 games) at plate, the Pirates went with the former Top 100 prospect.

Shreve’s reassignment signals that Sam Howard, who recorded a 2.45 ERA in camp, will likely make the roster as a left-handed option for the Pirates. De Jong, who made five spring appearances (three starts), is likely to be one of the first options to offer mass appearances. He allowed just three runs in 14 1/3 innings.

Shelton also confirmed that Michael Perez would be the Pirates’ backup receiver behind Jacob Stallings. Whether that means Tony Wolters will start the year on the roster, the cab team or the alternate site remains to be seen.

Brault and Ponce will start the year on the injured list
Cherington said two pitchers, Steven Brault and Cody Ponce, will not be available to start the season.

The news about Brault came as no surprise, as director of sports medicine Todd Tomczyk said Wednesday the left-hander won’t be pitching for a month and will need “at best” 10 weeks before see the action.

Ponce’s situation was much less clear until Monday. Cherington said in early March, Ponce threw an outfield outfield and the right-hander said something “didn’t feel right” in his forearm. The Pirates opted to play it safe with Ponce, who has remained active but is yet to throw a mound.

“He pitched – he never stopped pitching – but we were slow,” Cherington said. “He came off the mound. He threw another side today. But he is not ready for the season.

The Pirates will close their Grapefruit League slate with another game against the Twins on Tuesday, when JT Brubaker makes his final start of the spring. Steven Wright and Sean Poppen are also listed on Pittsburgh’s scheduled pitching order, and Matt Shoemaker will pitch for Minnesota. The action at Hammond Stadium will begin at 12:05 p.m. ET, and the action will be streamed live via webcast on Pirates.com.

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