BRADENTON, Fla. - Seven Altoona players will accompany the Pirates to Philadelphia for Monday and Tuesday night's exhibition games at Citizens Bank Park, which forced a change in the Curve franchise's typical opening-week events.
Instead of media day and Fanfest being held on Tuesday, they have been pushed back a day because so many players on the team will not be present.
Catchers Tony Sanchez and Ramon Cabrera, first baseman Matt Curry, shortstop Brock Holt, center fielder Robbie Grossman, right fielder Andrew Lambo and relief pitcher Ryan Beckman will be with the Pirates for today's exhibition game against Toronto in Dunedin, Fla., then will travel with the team to Philadelphia for the exhibition games.
"It's going to be fun," said Holt, who has never played in a big league ballpark during his pro career. "It's a good opportunity for all of us to get a chance to go up there and kind of just see what they go through on a daily basis up there. We get to stay in the hotel and fly on a plane and do all that stuff."
Fanfest will be Wednesday from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at The Casino at Lakemont Park and will include food and drinks, plus a chance to meet the players. Tickets are $11 for members of the Curve Booster Club, $12 for non-members, $6 for kids ages 6-12 and free for kids 5 and under.
Fanfest tickets will not be sold the night of the event and must be purchased ahead of time at Peoples Natural Gas Field or by calling 877-99-CURVE.
New roster limit
Double-A roster limits will increase from 24 to 25 players this season, thanks to approval from Major League Baseball owners.
The change is one that minor league farm directors have wanted to see made for several years.
"These guys have been very concerned about the wear and tear on players," Eastern League president Joe McEacharn said of the farm directors' desire to up the roster limit.
Having an additional player available can be especially important in the EL, where many games are rained or snowed out early on, forcing teams to play multiple doubleheaders at some point.
It also helps teams of National League affiliates, Curve manager P.J. Forbes said, because the strategy of games calls for more pinch hitting and double switches.
"It gives us a lot when it comes to National League games, and we have a lot of National League games early," Forbes said.
"We do have a lot of priority guys, so there won't be a whole lot of shuffling of the lineup, per se, in terms of guys in and out. The good thing about National League games is you always can run guys in there in pinch-hit roles, double switches and everything to keep guys fresh."
The Curve's opening-day roster is set, barring any changes up above in the Pirates' system, and the final two roster spots are going to reserve infielder Kelson Brown and reserve outfielder Adalberto Santos.
Outfielder Anthony Norman and infielder Greg Picart had been playing with the Double-A team in recent days and appeared to be set to make the roster. Instead, they will remain in Bradenton for now and will be fill-ins wherever they are needed in the system during the season.
Michael Dubee, one of the Curve's top relief pitchers the past three seasons, has been released by the Pirates. He had a 2.91 ERA for Altoona in 2009, helped the team win the EL title with a 2.24 ERA in 2010 and posted a 3.27 ERA last season.
Despite his Double-A success, Dubee never got much of a shot in Triple-A as he pitched just one game in 2010 (0.00 ERA) and four in 2011 (9.53 ERA in 5 2/3 innings).