Flu forces Snell to skip final spring start
Meek's recovery from bronchitis will affect roster decision
SARASOTA, Fla. -- Right-hander Ian Snell continues to be bothered with flu-like symptoms, and, as a result, had to be scratched from making Thursday's start against the Reds. It was to be Snell's final start of the Grapefruit League season.
What Snell's pitching schedule will be during the next few days will depend on how the right-hander is feeling when he shows up at the McKechnie Field clubhouse on Friday morning. Snell was scheduled to follow Paul Maholm and start the Pirates' second game of the year on Tuesday in St. Louis, which would have been on a normal five days' rest if he had pitched on Thursday.
If well enough on Friday, Snell will make a short outing in a Minor League camp, which will keep him enough on track to make that first regular-season start as scheduled.
If Snell is not healthy enough to get on the mound on Friday, the Pirates will then begin to look at the possibility of shuffling their projected regular-season rotation. Maholm and Snell are currently scheduled to be followed by Zach Duke, Ross Ohlendorf and Jeff Karstens, in that order.
"As of now, he's on track," manager John Russell said. "At some point, yeah, it could get a little dicey if he can't get out there."
The one thing working in Snell's favor is that he was more aggressive in his workload early in spring, which had him stretched out before anyone else on the pitching staff. His pitch count had already reached the mid-70s by the third week of Grapefruit League play.
"This World Baseball Classic [experience], where he got competitive early, may actually help him on that front," general manager Neal Huntington said. "He got to a pitch count relatively quickly. He's been in a competitive environment really quickly. And so missing [Thursday's] start probably shouldn't hurt him."
With Snell out, the Pirates used eight different relievers in the game. Jesse Chavez made the start.
The Pirates had hoped that reliever Evan Meek could return to the field on Thursday, but the right-hander continues to have a slow recovery from bronchitis, which followed a bout with the stomach flu. He is in a two-pitcher competition with Chavez for the final spot on the team, and the Pirates would like to make that last roster decision after seeing Meek pitch one more time.
That's largely because Meek hasn't pitched now in nearly two weeks. He was shut down because of a tired shoulder after his March 20 start and had just been cleared to return to the mound when he began fighting the two illnesses.
"Hopefully he'll be well enough," Huntington said. "We can't rush him out there and we can't force him out there. If he's sick, he's sick. His shoulder is healthy enough to where he's poised and ready to pitch in a game. It would be tough to option him because he doesn't pitch. But at the same time, it would be tough to put him on the club if he doesn't pitch."
The Pirates are hopeful that Meek will be well enough to pitch in Friday's game. If that's the case, Huntington said that the final cut would then likely be made after Friday's game, so that the final roster will be set before Saturday's Grapefruit League finale.
"I don't want make it appear that it is do-or-die for Evan Meek [when he pitches]," Huntington said. "It's more of, 'Where is he?' It's going to be tough to get a read on him, given that he has been sick for five days. It's not going to be an easy decision."
Meek has made 11 appearances this spring, nine of which were scoreless. He's allowed four runs in 10 1/3 innings.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.