Players to Watch at Pittsburgh Pirates' Black and Gold Game

By Vinny Gala
David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Pirates are set to open their 2014 Spring Training schedule today — sort of.  Several of the Pirates players will take part in the annual Black and Gold intersquad scrimmage game at McKechnie Field in Bradenton, Fla. For many of the participating players, this is their first chance to try to impress the Bucco coaching staff in game conditions. This would include prospects and past minor league players from the Pirates’ system, along with the their new acquisitions like Travis Ishikawa, Chris Dickerson and Jaff Decker. The same holds true for the fans.

On Sunday, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle released the lineups for the game, noted as follows:

Black Team
1.  Alen Hanson  SS
2.  Gregory Polanco  CF
3.  Chris Dickerson  LF
4.  Matt Hague  3B
5.  Travis Ishikawa  RF
6.  Nevin Ashley  C
7.  Chris McGuiness  1B
8.  Michael Martinez  2B
9.  Omir Santos DH

Scheduled Pitching Staff
Stolmy Pimentel (R)  – Starter
Andy Oliver (L)
Jay Jackson (R)
Zach Thornton (R)
Brandon Mann (R)
Matt Benedict (R)

Gold Team
1.  Jose Tabata  RF
2.  Jaff Decker  CF
3.  Andrew Lambo  1B
4.  Tony Sanchez  C
5.  Josh Harrison 3B
6.  Robert Andino  SS
7.  Chase d’Arnaud  2B
8.  Carlos Paulino  DH
9.  Mel Rojas Jr.  LF

Scheduled Pitching Staff
Joely Rodriguez (L) – Starter
Casey Sadler (R)
Jake Brigham (R)
Cody Eppley (R)
Elvin Ramirez (R)
Ryan Beckman (R)

Of these two lineups, there are a couple of players to keep an eye on — Gregory Polanco, who is figured to be in the Pirates’ plans at right field at some point this season, and Andrew Lambo, who the Pirates are hoping can form a semi-productive platoon with Gaby Sanchez at first base.  Another player to watch is Jose Tabata, who the Pirates have to be thinking that this is his chance (read: season) to make a move. They have to be growing tired of the “oh, he will be ready next season” mentality. For Tabata, this is as good a chance as any to make the club as the team’s starting right fielder.

Speaking of right field, this scrimmage does have the ability to create some momentum for the guys that are battling to make the team as the Pirates’ starting right fielder — guys like Jose Tabata, Travis Ishikawa, and even Andrew Lambo. This season, the right field position is open for someone to earn, rather than previous seasons when Hurdle had to make the decision between who was the best of the worst — Snider won that battle for part of the season, then Marlon Byrd arrived (and now departed via free agency).

For the most part, this intersquad “scrimmage” game shouldn’t be taken too seriously from a fan evaluation standpoint, especially from an offensive perspective. Sure, you can get excited if Gregory Polanco goes yard a couple times, but it’s important to keep in mind that the pitchers he will be facing are minor leaguers at best.

Vinny Gala is a Pittsburgh Pirates writer for Rant Sports.  Follow him on Twitter @VinnyGala.

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