"To say that Tom Gorzelanny has been just terrible is completely inaccurate," Jim Tracy said. "He's had a little trouble in the first innings of some games he's pitched."
Gorzelanny fully admits to his "first-inning woes," and Tracy showed no harm was done by calling off the 24-year-old's name when announcing his starting five before Sunday's game.
The list didn't come as a surprise to many: Zach Duke had already got the nod for Opening Day at Houston, and Ian Snell earned the same honor for the Pittsburgh opener. Gorzelanny and Paul Maholm were also givens, as the four had comprised 80 percent of last year's rotation and done well.
Tony Armas was the lone newcomer, having earned a spot in the group after landing as a free agent just two weeks before pitchers and catchers were due to report to Pirate City in February. The 28-year-old righty is a nine-year veteran of the Major Leagues, but has been hampered a bit in recent years by shoulder surgeries (one in 2003, the other in 2005).
Armas has done well so far in the preseason, posting a 1-1 record and 3.86 ERA through five outings (four starts). Only Snell has logged more Grapefruit League innings than Armas.
"I've seen him be very aggressive this spring," Tracy said. "I've seen him be very persistent early in the count and throw strikes, which is something that in the past, wasn't always that way."
To make room for Armas, righty Shawn Chacon was bumped to the bullpen. Tracy said Chacon's resiliency makes him an excellent weapon in the bullpen, where it's likely he'll fill the role of long reliever.
In order to arrange the rotation so that Snell will line up for the home opener, Tracy said Duke, Snell and Gorzelanny will throw in the three-game Houston series, while Maholm, Duke and Armas will work the next series in Cincinnati. Snell, then, will have an extra day off and have the honor at home.
"He's earned it," Tracy said.
Gorzelanny's grind: Including Sunday's 12-4 loss to Tampa Bay, Gorzelanny has had four rough first-inning outings. Gorzelanny shrugged it off, commenting that he was still fine-tuning some mechanics and that he would be ready for the regular season. Still, the fact that he was tagged for seven runs (five earned) over five innings and still lowered his ERA, to 9.45 is not a great statistic.
Tracy said the past speaks more than Spring Training at this point, and after watching Gorzelanny prove himself in 2006, the skipper's willing to look past a little Grapefruit League bruising.
"When you have an opportunity to draw on [the] history of a particular player, when you saw him performing when there's [a lot] at stake from one day to the next, I think you're mindful of that," Tracy said. "And he was very special on a number of occasions last year when he joined the club.
"[The message is that] you've struck your toe a little bit, you know what it is you have to do to fix it, so fix it, because you're good, and we need you."
McCutchen among cuts: Dave Littlefield warned against it earlier in the week, and the general manager held true to his word by sending talented outfielder Andrew McCutchen down to Minor League camp on Sunday.
The decision wasn't as a result of anything McCutchen did or didn't do on the field, but rather the Pittsburgh brass thinking it wiser to let their 2006 Minor League Player of the Year spend more than just one full season in the Minors. McCutchen advanced quickly through the ranks last year, playing at four different levels while hitting a combined .298 (221-for-741), with 36 doubles, eight triples and 19 homers.
"He was very impressive this spring," Littlefield said. "He certainly appears to have a bright future, especially with the plate discipline he showed and how well he played in the outfield."
McCutchen appeared in 18 Grapefruit League games this season, and maintained a .308 average (16-for-52), sixth-highest among those Pirates with at least 30 at-bats.
The 20-year-old looked just as impressive, if not better, with a glove in his hand. McCutchen played in both left and right fields and made several stunning plays at each position, routine catches included.
He remained optimistic Sunday morning about his path to the big leagues, which will likely lead him to Pittsburgh by season's end, if not sooner.
"It feels good to come up here and perform and show Jim Tracy and all the coaches that I can handle this level," McCutchen said. "Now, I'm going to get ready, get revved up for the season, and we'll see what happens from there."
Joining him for reassignment were pitcher Jim Brower and infielder/outfielder Yurendell DeCaster, which slimmed Pittsburgh's roster to 35.
Odds and ends: Josh Sharpless' consecutive scoreless innings streak came to an end after 6 1/3 innings (five outings) when Delmon Young singled in a run with two outs in the sixth inning on Sunday. Sharpless' ERA is now 2.08. ... Sunday's crowd of 5,785 represented the club record-tying sixth sellout at McKechnie Field this spring. ... Center fielder Chris Duffy was back in the lineup on Sunday after missing the previous two games with a stiff neck.
Up next: Pittsburgh will host Toronto at 1:05 p.m. ET on Monday at McKechnie Field. Maholm gets the ball in his third start of the spring. He'll face Jays right-hander Josh Towers.
Dawn Klemish is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less