We’re at that time of year where non-roster invites function as flashbacks. Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports that the Pirates have signed outfielder Felix Pie to a minor league contract. The deal includes an invite to spring training and incentives based on plate appearances if he makes the major league club.
Pie, now 27, failed to make the Indians out of spring training this year before joining the Camden Riversharks of the independent Atlantic League. He eventually latched on with the Braves and batted .285/.338/.459 with six home runs, 51 RBI, 16 stolen bases and a .797 OPS in 96 games with Triple-A Gwinnett.
Pie owns a .248/.298/.374 batting line in the majors between the Cubs and Orioles. The former top prospect could have a chance at a fifth outfielder job with Pittsburgh.
This was a tough day to be a veteran outfielder trying to crack Cleveland’s roster, as the Indians sent Ryan Spilborghs to Triple-A and released Felix Pie.
Spilborghs signed a minor-league deal with the Indians after being non-tendered by the Rockies, but lost a camp battle with Aaron Cunningham to be the right-handed-hitting backup outfielder. He has 1,769 career plate appearances and is 32 years old, but Spilborghs has hit just .239 with a .679 OPS away from Coors Field for his career.
Pie was once a top prospect in the Cubs system, but couldn’t work his way into consistent playing time with the Orioles and had to settle for a minor-league deal with the Indians. He’s still just 27 years old and has a solid fourth outfielder skill set, but Pie has hit just .248 with a .673 OPS in 1,051 career plate appearances.
Cleveland has shifted Michael Brantley from left field to center field following Grady Sizemore’s latest injury setback, but now Brantley is hurting too.
Brantley is expected to miss at least the next 3-5 days with a hamstring injury and Jordan Bastian of MLB.com reports that “the Indians are taking a cautious approach to try to make sure that Brantley will be recovered in time for Opening Day.”
If he can’t make it back in time for the opener the Indians’ third-string options in center field include Felix Pie, Aaron Cunningham, and Ryan Spilborghs. And they’d also have to find a new leadoff man, although Brantley’s career .316 on-base percentage makes him a questionable fit in that role anyway.