Pirates tab Armas, Gorzelanny for rotation, cut McCutchen

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BRADENTON, Fla. - The Pirates today announced that Tom Gorzelanny and Tony Armas will fill out their starting rotation and assigned top prospect Andrew McCutchen to Class AA Altoona.

Gorzelanny entered spring training as a virtual lock for the rotation, but he had a 9.60 ERA through five appearances and did not fare as well as two other left-handers, Shane Youman and Sean Burnett, who were demoted Saturday.

Manager Jim Tracy was adamant he never wavered on Gorzelanny being part of the rotation.

"You do look at things in spring training. But, to say that Tom Gorzelanny has been completely terrible this spring is inaccurate. He's done some good things," Tracy said shortly before Gorzelanny started the Pirates' exhibition this afternoon against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays at McKechnie Field. "And he was very special for us in a number of games after joining our club last season."

Gorzelanny went 2-5 with a 3.79 ERA in 11 starts after a late June recall.

Armas entered spring training in a duel with Shawn Chacon for what was thought at the time to be one vacancy in the rotation. Armas had a 3.86 ERA, Chacon 2.31, but management chose Armas and relegated Chacon to long relief.

Tracy said Chacon's ability to pitch more often was key.

"They both pitched well, but we serve the ball club as a whole best this way," Tracy said. "Shawn Chacon has more resiliency to where he can bounce back and help us that way."

The other starters are Zach Duke, Ian Snell and Paul Maholm.

This is how they will set up, in order, for the Pirates' first two series: Duke, Snell and Gorzelanny will pitch in Houston. Maholm, Duke and Armas will pitch in Cincinnati. And Snell will have the home opener April 9 against St. Louis.

Tracy said Gorzelanny was moved ahead of Maholm because he matches up better with Houston. Gorzelanny is 0-3 with a 5.19 ERA against the Astros, Maholm 1-2 with a 6.53 ERA.

McCutchen was one of three players reassigned to minor-league camp, along with reliever Jim Brower and infielder Yurendell DeCaster. That left the number of players in major-league camp at 35.

McCutchen's assignment to Altoona was something of a surprise considering management had been weighing the possibility of starting him out with Class AAA Indianapolis.

General manager Dave Littlefield explained that, because McCutchen has spent only 25 games above Class A - all with Altoona at the end of last season -- the team felt that level was the better choice.

"I just think it makes sense," Littlefield said. "He spent a short time there last year. It's a very good environment, and he'll be comfortable having already been there. It will be his second full season in the minors. He'll start there, and we'll take it from there."

And how long might McCutchen stay in Altoona?

"The ball's in his court," Littlefield said. "That's the great thing about this. He's done a great job. We're very pleased with his progress. He's very advanced and performing well in all phases of the game."

McCutchen batted .308 - 16 for 52 - with a home run, three RBIs and a steal. He also was exceptional in the outfield.

"I think I had a terrific spring training," McCutchen said after being told of the cut. "I had a lot of at-bats, a lot of chances to play and ... to still hit above .300 and do well, it feels good to perform and show Jim Tracy and everyone that I can handle this level."

He showed no disappointment at being sent to Altoona rather than Indianapolis.

"That was my mindset coming in. I've just got to get revved up for the season, and we'll see what happens from there."

Brower and DeCaster were assigned to Indianapolis.

Also this morning, Littlefield said that second baseman Freddy Sanchez and reliever John Grabow could be placed on the 15-day disabled list - retroactive to time in spring training -- if their injuries do not improve soon. But it still has not been ruled out that one or both could start the season on time. Sanchez has a sprained right knee, Grabow an inflamed elbow.

More details in tomorrow's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.


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