Pirates release Atkins; Olsen could start year on DL
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BRADENTON, Fla. -- The Pirates this morning granted an unconditional release to infielder Garrett Atkins, signed by the club as a minor league free agent in the offseason.
Atkins hit .129 (4 for 31) this spring with 11 strikeouts in 17 games.
The Pirates this morning also reassigned two relief pitchers to minor league camp -- the left-handed Justin Thomas and righty Fernando Nieve.
Thomas, who appeared in 12 games for the Pirates last season, pitched just 4 1/3 innings this spring with a 2.08 ERA.
Nieve was 1-1 with a 5.82 ERA in 7.1 spring innings.
Atkins, 31, spent parts of the past eight seasons in the major leagues, hitting .329 with the Colorado Rockies in 2006. Here in camp, though, he never regained that form.
"The determination was made to probably give him an opportunity to land somewhere else as early as we can," general manager Neal Huntington said. "It didn't look like it was going to happen here. ... I think he is working through options at this point in time. Part of him feels like there is still more to offer, part of him wants to evaluate [in the] big picture."
Atkins could try to catch on with another club or, at this point in his career opt to retire.
Atkins was not in the Pirates' clubhouse at McKechnie Field this morning; Nieve and Thomas were and received the news.
The club now has 41 players in its major league camp.
Pirates left-handed pitcher Scott Olsen is out of the competition for a starting spot within the Pirates' rotation, Huntington said, and the lefty "may even be out of the bullpen competition" for the time being.
There is a possibility Olsen, signed as a free agent in December, will start the season on the disabled list.
Olsen sustained a hamstring injury early in spring training, setting back his preparation timeline although Huntington insisted the pitcher has no arm trouble right now.
"He is not hurt, he is not injured, but he is also not where he wants to be, he is not where we want him to be," Huntington said. "We are going to take a deep breath and slow things down with Scott. The hamstring set the arm back a little bit despite our efforts."
What does that all mean in a practical sense to getting batters out?
"The ball is just not coming out of his hand the way it was pre-hamstring injury," Huntington said.
Olsen will be taken out of game action and the staff will work to build arm strength and confidence in the immediate future.
First Published March 21, 2011 8:28 am