BRADENTON, Fla. -- Pirates outfielder Matt Diaz is seeking approximately 120 volunteers to assist him in the construction of a new playground for the Boys and Girls Club in Winter Haven, Fla., next month.
The Matt and Leslee Diaz Foundation will host the community outreach event on March 15, which is the first of two off-days that the Pirates will have during Spring Training. The Boys and Girls club in Winter Haven serves about 450 children, but is in need of an updated playground set.
The Foundation is also still seeking additional funds to cover the cost of the project. A website (www.diazfamilyfoundation.org/community-build/) is set up for those seeking more information about volunteering at the event, or for anyone wishing to make a monetary donation.
Pirates' bullpen picture clearing up
BRADENTON, Fla. -- With Joel Hanrahan now officially entrenched as the team's closer, the Pirates can move forward in determining the rest of the bullpen's makeup in the six weeks leading up to Opening Day.
Hanrahan and Evan Meek have two of the seven spots locked down. And in listening to manager Clint Hurdle talk about Joe Beimel on Wednesday, it certainly seems as if the Pirates have every intention of making Beimel the team's primary left-handed setup man. Beimel, who is in camp under a Minor League contract, must still be added to the 40-man roster before the start of the season.
"We didn't go get him to try him out," Hurdle said. "We wanted to have a left-handed option that can bridge innings for us toward the back end of the game. He's going to play a significant role as well."
What remains to be seen is whether Beimel slides more into a lefty specialist role, or if his success against right-handed batters can improve from last year. Right-handed hitters batted .329 against Beimel in 2010.
Assuming Beimel does, indeed, take a bullpen spot, that leaves four remaining openings. Chris Resop -- given his success out of the Pirates' bullpen last year -- seems likely to take one. Jose Veras, who has 176 Major League appearances under his belt, appears another early favorite to earn a spot in the 'pen.
"He was a good get for us," Hurdle said of Veras, who signed a Minor League deal with the team in January. "[General manager] Neal [Huntington] was very aggressive to go get Veras. He's got a big arm."
Jeff Karstens and Brian Burres are among those who could fill the need for a long reliever. Charlie Morton and Scott Olsen could also enter the mix for that job depending on who doesn't make the season-opening rotation.
There are plenty of other relievers trying to make an early impression, too. Tyler Yates, Kevin Hart and Jose Ascanio are all out to prove they have fully recovered from arm surgeries. Justin Thomas, Chris Leroux, Sean Gallagher and Fernando Nieve all have the bonus of previous big league experience.
"I want these guys to have a clean shot," Hurdle said. "It's not always about the results in Spring Training, but it's about the quality of the stuff. I think we've got enough educated eyes around here to get a better read on that, rather than just the numbers as they play out."
Hurdle in no rush to name Opening Day starter
BRADENTON, Fla. -- Manager Clint Hurdle has no intention of making up his mind just yet as to who will be the Pirates' Opening Day starter.
The choice is certainly not clear cut, which is why Hurdle plans to let his starters pitch in some exhibition games before he lines up his rotation. Expect that rotation order to be set in the final few weeks of camp.
"We've got some candidates," Hurdle said. "I don't think anyone is out of it. Experience will come in as a factor. We have a few guys who could be worthy of it. You want a guy who doesn't get caught up in throwing against the other team's No. 1. There are a few elements we're looking for."
The Pirates open the season on the road in Chicago, and with the way the schedule is laid out, the club's No. 2 starter will earn the opportunity to pitch the home opener against the Rockies on April 7.
Of the four pitchers who have all but secured spots in the rotation -- Ross Ohlendorf, Paul Maholm, Kevin Correia and James McDonald -- Maholm and McDonald seem the likeliest candidates to get the ball on Opening Day.
Maholm, the longest-tenured Pirates pitcher on the roster, has the experience factor going for him, despite the fact that 2010 was a mostly forgettable season for the left-hander. McDonald, on the other hand, was the Pirates' most dominant pitcher late last season, even though he has made just 16 career big league starts. He came over from the Dodgers in a July 31 trade and posted a 3.52 ERA in 11 starts.
BRADENTON, Fla. -- Pirates outfielder Matt Diaz and infielder Pedro Ciriaco were first-time participants in Spring Training workouts on Wednesday. With the pair now officially in camp, only four position players have yet to report. They must all do so by Friday. ... Right-hander Jose Ascanio remains stuck in Venezuela while he awaits his visa. The Pirates were hopeful that Ascanio's passport would get to him on Wednesday, which means he would be able to travel to Florida on Thursday. ... Pirates president Frank Coonelly and former pitcher Kent Tekulve were among those who traveled down to Bradenton on Tuesday night after attending a viewing for Chuck Tanner in New Castle, Pa., during the day. A private funeral for Tanner, who died on Friday at the age of 82, was held on Wednesday. ... A group of 15 pitchers returned to the mound on Wednesday for their second bullpen sessions. Each hurler threw 40-45 pitches.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.