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By Zane Heiple
Pirates’ 2010 All Star Evan Meek
Part Three of this five-part series will focus on the men charged with the task of coming out of the bullpen and finishing the game for the Buccos, the relief pitchers.
Joel Hanrahan:  Hanrahan is a former second round draft pick of the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2000.  His time with the Dodgers was all in the Minor Leagues.  After the 2006 season, he signed with the Washington Nationals as a Minor League free agent.  He made his Major League debut on July 28, 2007 against the New York Mets and he would become Washington’s closer in the latter part of the 2008 season.  Joel came to Pittsburgh in a trade along with Lastings Milledge for Nyjer Morgan and Sean Burnett in June of 2009.  2010 was his first full season with the Pirates and he struck out 100 batters in 69.2 innings of work.  This spring, Hanrahan has given up eight runs on eleven hits while walking five and striking out 13 batters.  Pirates’ fans will see Joel coming out of the bullpen in the ninth inning with the game on the line, as Clint Hurdle named him the team’s closer earlier this spring.
Jeff Karstens:  This will be Jeff’s fourth season with the Pirates since coming over from the New York Yankees in a trade that also included Jose Tabata, Ross Ohlendorf, and Daniel McCutcheon for Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte in July of 2008.  Karstens was a 19th round draft pick of the Yankees in 2003.  He made his Major League debut with New York in August of 2006.  While with the Buccos, Karstens has been used mostly as a spot starter or as a long relief pitcher out of the bullpen, which is the role he will be responsible for in 2011.  For his career, he has gone 11-26 and posted a 4.95 ERA.  He hopes that his Spring Training numbers will carry over to this regular season, since he has gone 2-0 with a 1.54 ERA in five games.
Evan Meek:  The only Pittsburgh Pirates’ all star in 2010, Meek will come out of the bullpen to set up Joel Hanrahan for the save in 2011.  Evan is a former draft pick of the Minnesota Twins in 2002.  He spent the first three years of his professional career in the Twins’ Minor Leagues, before playing for the San Diego Padres and Tampa Bay Rays Minor League teams the following two years.  The Pirates selected Meek in the Rule 5 Draft from the Rays in 2007.  He made his Major League debut on April 2, 2008 against the Chicago Cubs.  He had his best season in 2010 as first being the set up man for Octavio Dotel, and then splitting the closer role with Joel Hanrahan after Dotel was traded.  For his career, he is 6-6 with a 3.02 ERA, 119 strikeouts and four saves.  Spring Training has seen him post a 4.26 ERA with five strikeouts and three walks.
Chris Resop:  This will be the first full season with the Pirates for Resop.  He was drafted by the Florida Marlins in the fourth round of the 2001 draft.  His Major League debut was in 2005 and he continued to play for the Marlins until he was traded to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in 2006.  At the end of the 2007 season, he was signed off waivers by the Atlanta Braves.  In May of 2008 the Braves sold his contract to the Hanshin Tigers of the Japanese Central League.  The Braves resigned Resop before the 2010 season.  The Pirates claimed him off waivers in August of 2010.  For his career, he has gone 3-3 with a 5.63 ERA and had 52 strikeouts.  Spring Training has seen him post an ERA of 2.92 with 14 strikeouts and three walks in 10 games.
Jose Veras:  Signed by the Tampa Bay Rays as an undrafted free agent in 1998, this will be his first season in a Pirates’ uniform.  Released by the Rays in 2004, he was signed by the Texas Rangers in 2005 and spent that year in Triple-A.  The New York Yankees signed him in 2006 and made his Major League debut in August of that year.  In 2008, he was a strong part of the Yankees’ bullpen and earned the set up roll that year.  In 2009 the Cleveland Indians acquired Jose for cash.  2010 saw him return to Florida, this time with the Marlins.  He arrived in Pittsburgh in January and signed a Minor League contract with the Pirates.  His strong spring of two runs allowed on 11 hits with 10 strikeouts, and six walks with a 1.50 ERA in 10 games helped earn him a spot on the Opening Day roster.
Mike Crotta:  This will be his first season in a Pirates’ uniform and will make his Major League debut when he is first summoned from the bullpen in 2011.  Crotta was a 17th round pick out of Florida Atlantic University in 2006 by the Pittsburgh Pirates.  During his time as a professional baseball player, Mike has spent time in all five levels of the Pirates’ Minor League system.  Scouts say that he is a groundball type pitcher that does not have overpowering stuff, but has shown improvement under the new coaching staff.  This spring, he has a 1.46 ERA in 10 games with two strikeouts and four walks.
Garrett Olson:  With Joe Beimel starting the season on the DL, Olson earned a bullpen spot by being the only left-handed option Pittsburgh had left.  After the Pirates claimed him off waivers from the Seattle Mariners on March 18, Garrett saw limited action in a Buccos’ uniform this spring.  He posted an ERA of 8.10 in three games of work with one strikeout and two walks.  Olson was the 48th overall draft pick of the 2005 draft by the Baltimore Orioles and made his Major League debut on July 4, 2007.  Traded to the Chicago Cubs during the offseason in 2009, he was there for only ten days before being traded with Ronny Cedeno to the Mariners.  With a career record of 13-21, an ERA of 6.20, and 189 strikeouts, Olson will need to show vast improvement early in the season if he hopes to stay on the big league roster once Beimel returns from the DL.
Up next in our series, we will take a look at the Pittsburgh Pirates’ outfield.
And…
As Always…
Let’s Go Bucs!