Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Update on the Spring Training

The Pirates parted ways with Garret Atkins. That is the beginning of getting a bench set.

The Pirates also have indicated Scott Olsen will start out on the DL which gives Morton the 5th spot. He has come close to earning it, but he will be a disaster. Since it is mental fortitude that is his problem, it will be hard to see how he does except in real games.

We have seen enough now to learn that the Pirates would be battling Baltimore for last in the American League East. They are 1-1 with the Astros.

We also can plainly see that Doumit should spend all of his time focusing on corner outfield and First base because he is awful behind the plate. Two pass balls so far this spring. Still not good at throwing runners out.

You would like to see more from Tabata and Walker, but they will probably be fine.

Lyle Overbay has been even better than hoped for. Let it stick around, please.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

What direction will the Pirates go

I think the Pirates will be showing us a lot when they set their final roster. Let us just run through some options. In all of these scenarios we are going to assume that Doumit is not able to be traded as their appears not to be a market for him.

So, we have on the bench for sure Doumit and Diaz as the platoon with Jones. That leaves us three bench spots. Here are the realistic candidates for those spots. This leaves at least a hole in the middle infield, and gives the Pirates 4 outfielders.

Jason Jarmillo - a young catcher who is out of options, and will be lost if he does not make the team. Okay defensively, but has never shown any real offensive potential. No power at all.

John Bowker - a 1B and corner outfielder who is also out of options. He has some power potential, but is not all that good a contact hitter. He has too many strikeouts and not good enough OBP.

Josh Rodriguiz - middle infielder who was acquired in the Rule 5 Draft, so we will lose him if we do not put him on the team all year. Some potential, but is not going to be an all-star or a game changer. But could be a serviceable guy.

Josh Fields - a guy with limited experience but can play either corner and a little of the corner outfield spots.

Pedro Ciriaco - a lanky middle infielder who is out of options. Young and very fast, but he has yet to show he can consistently hit the ball. His projections for this year based on his AAA stats show a .260 hitter. Good defense, but offense is lacking. They are starting to try him in the outfield.

Corey Wimberly - a super utility guy who is on a minor league contract and thus can probably stick around the system. Has some experience, but is not going to hit. Very fast and could bring some stolen bases.

Andy Marte - a young, but getting a second chance corner infielder who is on a minor league contract and thus will not be lost. However, he is showing some potential and hitting very well.

Steven Pearce - a Pirate bred corner infield prospect who can play corner outfield as well. Hints of power, and was beginning to show he can hit at the major league level last year before his injury. Does have an option left, so does not have to make the team to stay.

So the Pirates can go a couple of different ways. Do they try to maximize this year by filling needs? Do they try to keep as many of these people as possible? Do they go with experience and power two big needs for this ball club? Let us look at some examples.

If they are trying to go with keeping as much young talent as they can keep Rodriguiz, Jarmillo, and Bowker or Ciriaco.

If they want to maximize pinch hitting then they will probably keep Bowker, Pearce, and Wimberly. Jarmillo is not ruled out here as it would greatly free up Doumit.

If they are looking for power on the bench then the choice is Bowker, Pearce or Marte and Ciriaco.

If they want to keep those who performed well in Spring then the choice looks to be Jarmillo, Marte, and Ciriaco.

What we are seeing is that with the departure of Atkins and the trying of Ciriaco in the outfield that the Pirates are starting to tend toward the young talent. Fields appears on the outside. Wimberly appears on the outs. Pearce appears headed for the minors. So the decision now seems to be between Ciriaco and Rodriguiz and what to do about Bowker and Jarmillo. That is four guys with three spots. I assume that means they are going to lose one of these guys. The question is which one? When they make the decision it will say something about what the Upper Management thinks is going to happen this year.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Spring Training Notes

Things continue along and the Pirates are 6-8 at this point. Not all that good. But, some good news came out of this latest disaster. Meek and Hanrahan blew a 4-1 lead. Not good. But the good thing is the Malholm pitched well. Cory Wimberly got his first hit of the spring. It will be interesting to see where he goes from here. Matt Diaz is on a roll and McCutchen is hitting better now as well. These are overall good things.

Defense continues to be a worry. 4 errors in the latest game.

Andy Marte is making a real case to get on this team. He is even getting pinch hits now. The Pirates pitchers are now hitting. I like the approach Hurdle is taking. Aggressive on the base paths, and getting everyone ready now.

Lincoln is looking better than Morton, although both had so-so outings. Lincoln recovered in his to only use 6 pitches in the second inning. Morton is always getting into trouble. It is going to stink watching him blow games this year.

Karstens pitched okay. Errors hurt him.

We will see where the Pirates go, but right now, I am feeling only okay about the team.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

More Spring Training Thoughts

Today the Pirates lost to the Blue Jays. The only real bright spot was Pedro Alvarez who went 2 for 3. McDonald struggled. Resop struggled. Daniel McCutchen did not allow any runs, but struggled nonetheless. Hanrahan was good and that is about all of the good news we can give.

There were some things of note. Pedro Ciraco played second base again. His numbers continue to impress, and we are seeing less and less of Josh Rodriguiz. Steven Pearce got in the game in Right Field. Which was very interesting considering Andy Marte played First Base showing how he can do both corners. Marte drew a walk, so he continues to hit .375.

The PIrates continue to struggle with runners in scoring position. Going 1 for 6 today, which is really good for them. They did have a 0 for 11 earlier this week.

The Pirates pitching had been the story of Spring Training before these last two games. Hopefully Ross Ohlendorf can get them back on track.

The Pirates did cut four guys from camp. The only notable name among them is Sanchez. He was cut probably because he needs consistent reps, and the major league camp is no place for him to get it. The Pirates still have Brown in camp and an actual competition involving Jarmillo in his attempt to make the team. That is after Doumit and Snyder, who both are going to need to get into regular season shape. It just would not be fair to Sanchez or Jarmillo for the future franchise catcher to stick around. Jarmillo is currently hitting decent, and that has to continue for him to make the team.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Spring Training Races

If Charlie Morton won round 1 of the Lincoln/Morton battle for the 5th spot, Lincoln won round 2. Morton went out and gave up two hit and a run in the first inning. But on the positive side he rebounded from that and threw two more perfect innings. Usually Morton gives up runs in bunches. Limiting it to one run is a positive sign. After all the big question for him is his mental toughness, not his stuff. Lincoln pitches three perfect frames recording another strike out and facing the minimum. Although it bears noting again. Morton has this spot locked up.

Scott Oleson has come out against being the bullpen. He also noted that the Pirates had not talked to him about the bullpen, which means I think he will start the season in AAA as a starter. He has that ability with options left. This also frees up a spot to keep Ascino. Thus the pen will probably be: Hanrahan, Meek, Resop, Biemel, Veras, Ascino, and Karstens. Biemel did get good news on the MRI. So, only one lefty in the pen.

Cory Wimberly continues to get a lot of playing time. He played at second today after spending the last few games in the outfield, but he has failed to get a hit yet. It is starting to look bad for his chances. This means that guys who can play both corners are moving up. Josh Fields, Garrett Atkins, and Steven Pearce (who is working out at third) look like real possibilities. Fields is hitting awful. Pearce is too new to 3B to get a chance. Thus, it looks like Atkins might get the final spot. Although Andy Marte is hitting .375 with a couple of doubles including today's hits that were off Joe Blanton not some AAA guy. So don't rule out a straight up 3B guy just yet since the Pirates do have Jones as well as even Doumit to be 1B. John Bowker is not hitting, nor getting any time at first. I think his chances are going away as well.

Sanchez got a hit today, a double. Good to see him get some time. D'Arnaud is getting a lot of AB's. I don't think it says more than just how incredibly short the Pirates are on middle infield help.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Two more wins and a loss

The Pirates split their split squad games. Malholm was shaky, but no real worries. We got to see Josh Rodriguiz, who was robbed of a drive to the wall. He did help make a DP. Overbay and Atkins both hit well in their separate games. Rudy Owens had another subpar outing. The single most interesting thing other than seeing Mel Rojas Jr. get into a game was the obvious fact that Steven Pearce has no chance of making this team. Instead of letting Overbay play 1B in one game and Pearce in the other, they sent Pearce to the same game with Overbay, which limited Pearce to one AB. In the other game Atkins and Fields played and each got significant ABs. Not a good sign for Pearce. Karstens did throw a nice two innings.

Today's game was a win with great pitching. McDonald got 5 ground ball outs and looked good. Resop pitched well as did Aaron Thomson for two innings. McCutchen recovered from his last bad outing by getting two good innings in. Getting McCutchen the starter level work was interesting. Maybe he will be in the rotation at Indy. I kind of figured they were going to put him in the pen. And most importantly, Moskos got a save. Again probably against AAA guys, but he is looking good so far. Another nice point is Hurdle is still running. Even Chris Snyder tried to steal. Everyone got caught today, but hey, I like the approach. This is where we practice the stealing.

Bad news. The Pirates have shut down Joe Biemel with elbow problems. Some are saying it could lead to Tommy John surgery. Hopefully not, but an MRI is scheduled. This would make the bullpen situation rather interesting. Add in the fact that Scott Oleson is complaining about the idea of a bullpen job. He does have options, so perhaps they are not considering putting him in the pen. That would open up a spot for Tony Watson and even now Moskos as with no Biemel and no Oleson the Pirates are fresh out of left handed pen guys. I guess Thomson could fit into a lefty in the pen role, but still no late inning guy.