Cartersville High graduate Sam Howard could end up being the only local professional baseball player to take part in official games this year, but even his situation with the Pittsburgh Pirates isn't …
Cartersville High graduate Sam Howard could end up being the only local professional baseball player to take part in official games this year, but even his situation with the Pittsburgh Pirates isn't cut and dry.
Howard was announced as part of the Pirates' 60-man player pool Sunday.
The pool is split into two groups — 40 players who will work out in Pittsburgh and 19 players (one more can be added later) who will work out at the team's designated alternate training site in Altoona, Pennsylvania. Howard is part of the latter group, referred to as the "taxi squad" on a roster list that was posted Sunday to Twitter by several Pirates beat reporters.
Considering Howard is a member of the Pirates' 40-man roster, his inclusion among the 59 players tabbed for the 60 total spots was expected, but his presence on the "taxi squad" list is a bit surprising.
Howard was claimed off waivers by Pittsburgh October 30, ending his time with the Colorado Rockies, who drafted him out of Georgia Southern in 2014. He was part of the Pirates' initial spring training roster but was optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis a week after the COVID-19 outbreak led to a league-wide shutdown in March.
Even still, the expectation would have been for Howard, 27, to be a part of the 40-player group assigned to work out at PNC Park instead of being asked to train at PNG Field, home of the organization's Double-A affiliate.
In his career, Howard has appeared in 24 MLB games — all out of the bullpen. He has a 2-0 record, a 5.87 ERA and 24 strikeouts in 23 innings.
With little left-handed pitching depth and an unprecedented break between spring training and the upcoming "summer training," Howard still seems likely to have a role with the big league club this season.
Only seven of the 59 players in the pool are LHP, two of them — Steven Brault and Derek Holland — are expected to start for the Pirates, according to MLB.com's Adam Berry. Three other lefties are listed among the 40 set to train in Pittsburgh, leaving Howard and one other as the lone southpaws scheduled to begin working out soon in Altoona.
While the Pirates listed 19 players on their "taxi squad" section, the actual taxi squad during the season will only consist of three players per road trip, per a report by MLB.com's Mark Feinsand. The report states that one of those players must be a catcher, but in theory, Howard could be a prime candidate to fill one of the other spots.
Then again, he'll have plenty of competition. The 40-player group will have to be trimmed to 30 ahead of the delayed Opening Day. Active rosters will be incrementally trimmed from 30 to 28 to 26 over the first month of the season, with players being sent to the alternate training site in lieu of an actual minor league team.
Bartow County currently has four other players in the Minor League Baseball system — Elliott Anderson (Kansas City Royals, parent club) Connor Justus (recently released by Los Angeles Angels), Luke Schiltz (Texas Rangers) and Anthony Seigler (New York Yankees). However, none were announced as part of the initial 60-person player pools for their respective organizations, leaving their summers in limbo.