BRADENTON, Fla. -- The next visitor in the Pirates' Spring Training camp will be the Grim Reaper -- as old-timers referred to the annual rite of cutting players. Before the weekend is out, possibly two sets of trims will reduce the 49 players still in big-league camp.
That number includes 21 pitchers, including five non-roster invitees, several of whom could be reassigned and/or released even prior to Friday afternoon's game against the Rays.
If the tentative lineup for that game is any indication, moves affecting position players could soon follow. Whether by coincidence or by design, that lineup is comprised almost exclusively of players on the bubble:
Alex Presley CF; Jose Tabata LF; Felix Pie RF; Brandon Inge 2B; Brad Hawpe 1B; Josh Harrison 3B; Michael McKenry C; Ivan De Jesus SS; Jeanmar Gomez P.
Of interest, Inge and Hawpe both can opt out of their Minor League deals on Tuesday if not placed on the 40-man Major League roster. Left-hander Jonathan Sanchez,who started Thursday night's game against the Orioles, gets to make the same decision this Sunday.
After this weekend, the Bucs will have only six games remaining in Florida. They will break camp and head north next Thursday.
McDonald brings solid reputation to Pirates
BRADENTON, Fla. -- John McDonald, the newest Pirate, wasn't yet in camp on Thursday. Safe to say, the veteran's reputation preceded him.
"He's a good teammate. Good attitude, hard worker," said A.J. Burnett, a teammate of McDonald's with the 2006-08 Toronto Blue Jays. "He brings a great glove to have around. My time with Johnny was good. He's a veteran guy who has been around both leagues, and brings a lot to the table."
Burnett's memories of the 14-year veteran may be a little faded, so it is notewrothy that his most recent manager described him in similar terms.
In fact, considering the D-backs spent much of the offseason chasing their manager's vision of a crew of hard-edged gamers, it was quite difficult for Kirk Gibson to see McDonald become the victim of infielder overcrowding.
Calling McDonald "the ultimate professional," Gibson said that if the Bucs were seeking a clubhouse mentor, they got the right man.
"Great leadership on and off the field," Gibson told MLB.com of the 38-year-old. "Really helped drive us to a different place as a team. Contributed a ton. I told him, 'I don't know how much longer you're going to play, but you have a great gift for the game and I know you have children, but please consider staying in the game after you're done playing.' I think he just has a great gift."
• Jose Contreras, recovering from Tommy John surgery, threw a 21-pitch simulated game on Wednesday, and reported feeling "great, no problems."
• Wandy Rodriguez's first post-Classic action came in a Minor League game on Thursday. He went 5 1/3 innings at Pirate City, throwing 89 pitches and allowing a run and three hits, while walking three and striking out two.
• The Pirates' inaugural Leadership Meeting, the first of what manager Clint Hurdle plans to be twice-monthly airing-out sessions with players, was convened prior to Thursday afternoon's workout. This one involved the entire clubhouse, but expectations are that a "focus group" of selected players will get the floor, and the manager's ears, during the season.
"Hey, that's all I've got. That's my thing." -- A.J. Burnett, when asked why he didn't come up with a new '13 slogan and instead passed out the same "Preparation for Domination" tee-shirts he gave teammates last summer.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.