Winter Meetings Notes, Day 3

A few notes from the final group of manager media sessions Wednesday...

Pirates second baseman Neil Walker has started his strength and conditioning program two weeks ago, and has completed all of his therapy after his season ended with a herniated disc in his back. Manager Clint Hurdle said he's "ready to go."

When asked about facing the prospect of a bullpen without Joel Hanrahan at some point, Hurdle did not identify specific candidates to step in as the Pirates' next closer. However, he did emphasize a preference for swing-and-miss guys in that role rather than a groundball pitcher. Just something to file away in case there's a point down the road where Hurdle chooses not to reveal a new closer.

On James McDonald and his inconsistent season where he was excellent in the first half before major regression in the second half.

"The conversation we've had and pretty much we both got to the same place with, is his focus going into the season was 'I need to do A and B well and we'll see where that takes me.' Well, he did that well we looked up at the end of the first half and said 'My goodness, look at this. If I can do C and D well now, I can take this to another level.' Sometimes the enemy of good is great. You want to be great, you be good for a long time and I think that's a valuable lesson James can take away from last season."

Hurdle also said that because of Travis Snider's leg injuries after he was traded to Pittsburgh, he was playing without a foundation the entire time he was in Pittsburgh. Both offensively and defensively, Hurdle is high on Snider's potential and believes that getting a full spring training with the Pirates could be beneficial.

Also in the Pirates' outfield, Starling Marte has been drawing rave reviews in winter ball. Additionally, Hurdle believes that the experience the young outfielder gained last season in his debut will help him make a more seamless transition out of spring training.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia would not name Ernesto Frieri or Ryan Madson as the team's closer. Scioscia said that it's easier when one guy emerges for that role, but that the Angels will "hold leads in a different way" if needed. Perhaps a decision will come down if Madson proves that he's healthy in March, but the undertones here pointed to another committee-type arrangement where Frieri, Madson and Scott Downs all have a varying number of save chances.

The outfield alignment has Mike Trout in left, Peter Bourjos in center and Mark Trumbo in right.

Scioscia referred back to Bourjos' offensive production, specifically in the second half when asked about his potential in that facet of the game. Defensively, the Angels believe that Bourjos is simply a better center fielder than Trout, although it's more a praise of Bourjos' combination of elite skills and polish at the position, rather than a knock on Trout's defensive ability.

Mariners manager Eric Wedge said that he was pleased with the progress that Jesus Montero and John Jaso made defensively last season, but with their potential use at DH (or even possibly first base), the Mariners have interest in acquiring a third catcher.

As for Justin Smoak, Wedge said that the improvement he showed in the final five weeks in the season came with changes to his hands and his overall approach, where he was more willing to drive the ball to all fields.

Erasmo Ramirez was named ahead of Blake Beavan when Wedge was asked about his rotation at the present time, but both are going to have to solidify their spots and make the club this spring. Wedge would not reveal where he believed the pitching prospects fit into the mix at this time (Danny Hultzen, James Paxton and Tijuan Walker).

Padres manager Bud Black said that Jedd Gyorko will be given a chance to show what he can do at second base during spring training. Likely because of their belief in him, the Padres appear to be comfortable with the rest of their middle-infield corps with Everth Cabrera, Logan Forsythe and Alexi Amarista in the tow.

Andrew Cashner, who was reportedly involved in a minor hunting accident recently, is in the mix for a rotation spot coming back from a lat injury. When naming his rotation, Black listed Edinson Volquez, Clayton Richard and Jason Marquis, while indicating that Eric Stults has a leg up for a spot and the fifth spot is likely a battle between Cashner, Casey Kelly, Robbie Erlin, Anthony Bass and Tyson Ross, with the final two candidates options in the bullpen if they are not a part of the rotation.

When asked about an expected workload for Kelly, Black made it clear that the expectations are below 200 innings and are ultimately going to be determined by health. Still, he suggested that up to 30 starts are possible, and it may be a mix of time at Triple-A and the big leagues. In closing a rather long-winded response, Black dropped the level to "at least 100 innings."

From Peter Schoenke:

Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez didn't have many answers about who the Braves may acquire to fill holes in left field, third base or the leadoff role but felt confident Martin Prado give the team flexibility. He mentioned that Prado was an option to hit leadoff along with Andrelton Simmons.

Gonzalez wouldn't commit to where B.J. Upton would hit in the lineup but mentioned the No. 4 or No. 5 spot saying he's a "middle of the lineup guy."

Gonzalez downplayed that the Braves had any injury concerns when trading Tommy Hanson, saying the motivation for the deal was that there was no reason for Delgado and Teheran to go back to the minors for a third year. He also mentioned Sean Gilmartin as a candidate for the rotation if necessary this spring.

Gonzalez expects Brian McCann to miss 10 to 12 games "and that's it," saying he's totally confident of his return from offseason shoulder surgery.

Brandon Beachy is doing everything he's supposed to do in his return from Tommy John surgery. "I expect him to be right on schedule" to return in 11-12 months.

Gonzalez said Tyler Pastornicky could be tried at second base or left field this spring in way in a "super utility role" that was similar to how Martin Prado has been used in the past.

Follow me on Twitter @DerekVanRiper.


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