Position battle for Bradenton 2013

The primary competitions for spots in the lineup and on the roster as seen by PG writer Michael Sanserino

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Corner outfield

Starling Marte, pictured at right, and Travis Snider appear to have the inside track to be Andrew McCutchen's wingmen this offseason. But their starting spots are not guaranteed. Both battled injuries toward the end of 2012, and the front office still has high hopes for Jose Tabata, who signed a six-year, $15 million deal in 2011. Tabata has had his share of injury issues. The Pirates also will take a look at Alex Presley, who played well in 2011 but struggled in 2012, and the newly acquired Jerry Sands, who can also play first base. Expect Garrett Jones to see some time in right field as well.

First base

As long as Garrett Jones is hitting, he will see the majority of time at first base. But he will continue to platoon with Gaby Sanchez. Jones has improved against left-handed pitching but not enough to take at-bats away from Sanchez. The Pirates also could take a look at Jerry Sands and Clint Robinson, both young players who are similar to Jones in their makeup.

Bullpen

Another spring training, another bullpen that Neal Huntington has to piece together. The general manager has been wildly successful putting together an effective staff of relievers, but this year is a bit trickier. The team parted with Joel Hanrahan this offseason and will turn to Jason Grilli to be its closer. That leaves Jared Hughes, Tony Watson and Mark Melancon to handle other late-innings work. The other spots are up for grabs between a handful of 40-man and non-roster players.

Starting rotation

There may or may not be an open spot in the Pirates' rotation heading into opening day. That all depends on how Francisco Liriano, who Friday officially signed with the team after an offseason of starts and stops in negotiations, heals from a broken humerus bone. If he is healthy in time, the rotation is essentially set at A.J. Burnett, Wandy Rodriguez, James McDonald, Jeff Karstens, pictured at right, and Liriano. If he is not healthy, that opens one spot for a number of young pitchers, including Jeff Locke, Kyle McPherson, Phil Irwin and Chris Leroux.

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