Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Bucs Rock; Holdzkom to Indy, Worley to Pen; Lineup & Notes

Pedro hit two long flies, including a grand salami, while Josh Harrison, Starling Marte, Tony Sanchez and Pedro Florimon also went long as the Bucs rolled over the Phils (good choice, AJ) 18-4. The most excitement came when a fourth inning quick pitch to Sean Rodriguez led to some yapping and an inning later, to some on-field milling about by the players. The only collateral damage came when coaches Rick Sofield and Juan Samuel were ejected. Clint was bounced in the sixth when he griped over a ball-strike call. Guess everyone is getting bored of the camp routine by now.

Pedro Alvarez 2014 Bowman series

Today's Game: The Bucs travel to Lakeland to meet the Tigers at 1:05 with Vance Worley on the hill against David Price. Detroit, btw, will be the Pirates Home Opener foes on April 13th.

Today's Lineup: Jordy Mercer SS, Neil Walker 2B, Cutch CF, Corey Hart 1B, Jung-Ho Kang 3B, Francisco Cervelli C, Sean Rodriguez RF, Mel Rojas Jr LF, Worley.
Today's Bench: Andrew Lambo, Pedro Florimon, Tony Sanchez, Wilkins Castillo.
Today's Pitchers: Antonio Bastardo & minor league guys.

The clock winds down; the only decision left is to choose among Lambo, Florimon and Jaff Decker for the 25th man spot. Florimon has been closing fast; he's out of options (Lambo & Decker can be sent down) and the Bucs don't have a true glove man on the pine right now. It'll be an interesting call.

  • John Holdzkom was sent to Indy along with Rob Scahill, while Blake Wood was assigned to minor league camp. Holdzkom's option made either him or Jared Hughes the likeliest to go, and Hughes is a ground ball guy, something lacking in the Bucs power bullpen. Big John also had some control issues, and the staff will work on that and adding a second pitch to his arsenal. Stolmy Pimemtel used up another of his nine lives for the time being, tho there is still a bullpen cut to go. Melancon, Watson, Bastardo & Worley are in; Liz & Caminero are all but in, and leaves one spot.
  • As first reported by Bill Brink of the Post Gazette, Jeff Locke has won the fifth starter spot, bumping Vanimal to the bullpen.
  • Clayton Richard can opt of his contract today, so we'll see what happens on that front.
  • Ex-Pirate farmhand Andy Oliver pitched yesterday, as did Upper St. Clair's Kevin Slowey. The Phils also have lefty Joely Rodriguez, traded for Antonio Bastardo, on their 40-man roster; he's on their AAA roster after a strong spring.
  • Steeler coach Mike Tomlin was at McKechnie for the game. Maybe he came to watch center Maurkice Pouncey throw out first pitch.
  • The Reds released Paul Maholm; he wants to remain a starter and lost out trying to claim a spot in the Cincy rotation.

3/31:Opening Day Thrillas; Bell Released; Young Signed; Bigbee & PNC Park Born...

  • 1887 - RHP Chester “Chick” Brandom was born in Coldwater, Kansas. Chick tossed from 1908-09 for the Bucs, getting into 16 games and going 2-0-3 with a 0.94 ERA. The Bucs were loaded back then, and he was sent back to the minors despite that shiny record. But he may have a greater claim that his Bucco stint. David Hill, in a Rumbunter post, said that a 1908 picture of Chick shows him delivering a knuckleball, and that would make him the first known practitioner of that pitch, predating guys like Eddie Cicotte. 
  • 1895 - OF Carson “Skeeter” Bigbee was born. He played eleven years for Pittsburgh, his only MLB club, from 1916-26, and hit .287 lifetime. His best seasons were 1921-22, when he batted .323 and .350, scoring 213 runs over that span and leading the NL in singles both years. 
Carson Bigbee 1922 - The Sporting News Collection
  • 1945 - The Pirates traded OF Vince DiMaggio to the Philadelphia Phillies for P Al “Lefty” Gerheauser. Both were near the end of their playing days; DiMaggio hung up the spikes after the ‘46 season and Gerheauser won just seven more games in three years. 
  • 1984 - C Gene Tenace ended his 15-year career when he was released by the Pirates in spring training. He had hit .177 for the Bucs in 1983 as a 36-year old. 
  • 1988 - The Chicago Cubs traded minor league LHP Mike Curtis to the Pirates for RHP Mike Bielecki. Bielecki turned into a journeyman pitcher, working 14 years in MLB while Curtis never got out of AAA, ending his career as an Indy league pitcher. 
Mike Bielecki 1986 Fleer series
  • 1997 - The Pirates lured FA 1B Kevin Young back to Pittsburgh from KC with a $400K contract. He would sign two more deals with the Bucs worth $28M over the following six seasons before retiring after the 2003 campaign. 
  • 2001 - PNC Park hosted its first MLB baseball game when the Pirates and Mets played an exhibition. The game was a sellout as the Mets won 4-3. The Mets won the next day’s spring game too, 3-2, notable mainly because Aramis Ramirez hit the first HR in the park’s history.
  • 2002 - “Operation Shutdown” OF Derek Bell was released, telling the media he would sail into the sunset on his yacht rather than compete for a starting spot. His voyage as a ballplayer, tho, was scuttled as he never appeared in another MLB game. 2003 - Pittsburgh helped the Reds christen Great American Ballpark. Cincy played second banana for the yard’s opening act; the Bucs won 10-1 behind homers from Reggie Sanders, Kenny Lofton and Jason Kendall, all banged in a six-run second inning. 
  • 2008 - In an Opening Day shootout at Turner Field, the Bucs beat the Braves 12-11 in twelve innings. Damaso Marte and Matt Capps blew a 9-4 ninth inning lead, capped by a fly ball dropping between LF Jason Bay and CF Nate McLouth with two outs to tie the score. Pittsburgh reclaimed the lead in the top of the 12th on a Xavier Nady three-run bomb, but Atlanta almost tied it again with two runs in their half before Franquelis Osario nailed down the save. The X-Man had four hits while McLouth, Freddy Sanchez and Ryan Doumit had three to prime a 17-hit attack.
Xavier Nady 2007 Upper Deck series
  • 2014 - Neil Walker blasted a tenth inning, 3-2 changeup from Carlos Villanueva deep over the Clemente Wall to give the Bucs and Bryan Morris a 1-0 Opening Day win over the Cubs at PNC Park. Francisco Liriano and Jeff Samardzija started the game, leaving it for the bullpens to decide. It also marked the first use of expanded replay, which had been rolled out in the Arizona Fall League, when Cubs manager Rick Renteria challenged a double play in the top of fifth inning. The original call on the field of out at first was confirmed by replay.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Kang Goes Yard In Bucco Win; Decker Hurt; Lineup & Notes

Pittsburgh whipped the Braves 4-2 in dramatic fashion, with Jung-Ho Kang's two-run shot in the ninth providing the winning margin. Kang had two hits and three RBI, so that little week-long time out seems to have been right on time. Pedro Florimon's sac fly brought home Austin Meadows, who had tripled, with the Bucs opening tally. All the in-the-mix pitchers - Stolmy Pimentel, Radhames Liz, John Holdzom - tossed passably, though Big John had a plunk and walk in his frame while Liz was touched up for a homer.

Andrew Lambo went 0-for-4, and it may be that the final roster spot will come down to him or Florimon. Jaff Decker, who had an impressive spring, was helped off the field with a calf strain, picking about the worse possible time to get hurt with camp breaking later this week.

Pedro Florimon stayin' alive (Dave Arrigo/Pirates)

Today's Game: The Pirates play their last spring home match at McKechnie Field against the Phils. It begins at 1:05 and will be webcast on pirates.com. Mark Melancon will get to start so that he gets to see some regular-season batters; we expect Vanimal to follow.

Today's Lineup: Josh Harrison 3B, Gregory Polanco RF, Starling Marte CF, Neil Walker 2B, Pedro 1B, Tony Sanchez DH, Jordy Mercer SS, Francisco Cervelli C, Sean Rodriguez LF.
Today's Bench: Wilkins Castillo, Jung-Ho Kang, Pedro Florimon, Andrew Lambo.
Today's Pitching: Vance Worley, Antonio Bastardo, John Holdzkon, Adrian Sampson.

The days of the 15-man bench are done as guys get their fielding routines down at their at-bats up. Ditto for the pitchers; it's time to get in some innings.

  • Jaff Decker told reporters that he doesn't believe his calf sprain is anything more than a tweak. He plans to throw and soft-hit today, but no running.
  • Today is the Pirates last spring game at Bradenton. They have three more games on the road, break camp Thursday and play two with the Phils at Citizen's Park (why never PNC?) over the weekend before the April 6th Opener at Cincinnati.
  • Hunter Strickland, the fireballer who the Giants claimed from the Bucs in 2013 and became a 15-minute story during last year's pennant race, has been sent to AAA Sacramento.

3/30: B-Days for Van Haltren & Rhynes; Rincon Purchased; Deacon Phillippe Passes On

  • 1866 - OF George Van Haltren was born in St. Louis, Missouri. He played briefly for the Pirates in 1892-93, hitting .325 but deemed expendable because of a deep outfield. A borderline HoF player, Van Haltren was sold to the New York Giants, where he spent the next decade putting up a .321 BA. 
George Van Haltren (1909 cartoon by Harry Murphy/Sunday Oregonian)
  • 1899 - IF Hal Rhynes was born in Paso Robles, California. He began his career in Pittsburgh (1926-27) and hit .258. He was a .250 batter in his seven MLB years and a minor league lifer, spending 20 years on various farm clubs. 
  • 1952 - Deacon Phillippe passed away. The RHP tossed 12 seasons (1900-11) for the Bucs with a 168-92 record and 2.50 ERA, winning 20 games six times and never suffering through a losing season. He won three World Series games against Boston in 1903, beating Cy Young in the opener and tossing five complete games. Toward the end of his career, he worked six shutout innings in the 1909 Series against Detroit. In 1969, Pirates fans voted him as Pittsburgh's top all-time right handed pitcher.
Deacon Phillippe (photo via South Dakota Sports Hall of Fame)
  • 1997 - The Pirates purchased LHP Ricardo Rincon from the Mexico City Reds. In 1997-98, he went 4-10-18/3.17 for the Bucs, and was then traded to Cleveland for Brian Giles in one of Pittsburgh’s better baseball deals.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Bucs Romp; Notes & Lineup

The wind blew out, the wind blew in, and in between the gusts the Bucs took an 8-3 win from the Jays. Charlie Morton gave up a pair of homers, but he had the bad luck to toss with the wind whistling toward the fences (altho the first dinger needed no help) and gave up three runs in six innings of work. Gregory Polanco homered for the second time, Neil Walker had three RBI and the Pirates pounded out six extra-base hits; even prospect Reese McGuire got into the act with a double.

Gregory Polanco heating up (photo Mike James/Baseball America)

Today's Game: The Bucs take a trip to Lake Buena Vista to meet the Braves, with Stolmy Pimentel getting the starting nod. The game starts at 1:05 and will be broadcast by 93.7 The Fan.

Today's Lineup: Josh Harrison 3B, Jaff Decker LF, Starling Marte CF, Corey Hart DH, Jung-Ho Kang 2B, Andrew Lambo 1B, Wilkins Castillo C, Pedro Florimon SS, Austin Meadows RF.
Today's Bench: All minor leaguers, topped by Reese McGuire.
Today's Pitchers: Antonio Bastardo, Radhames Liz, John Holdzkom, Blake Wood.

Big game for Stolmy. He's out of options and so far this spring, he's not given the Pirates much reason to keep him on the active roster. Don't expect a long outing; he's still considered bullpen material. It's also a test day for guys looking to claim that 25th spot, with Decker, Lambo and Florimon all starting. A couple of pedigree pups get off the porch today as Meadows gets the call in the outfield and McGuire is on the bench.

  • AJ Burnett worked six innings at Pirate City in a minor league game yesterday, giving up a pair of unearned runs and whiffing seven, tossing 96 pitches. His control was much sharper - he walked one -  as he rounds into shape for April.
  • A couple of food-for-thought tidbits: Rob Biertempfel of the Trib notes that the Bucs haven't had back-to-back Opening Day starters at first since Adam LaRoche (2007-09) while David Laurila of Fangraphs, in a notes column, wonders if catchers (and we'd add coaches) shouldn't take Spanish classes instead of putting all the onus on the Latino players.
  • The Pirates broke the spring attendance record at Bradenton's 93-year-old McKechnie Field yesterday when 6,300+ spun the turnstiles, bringing the attendance to 99,450 fans for 14 games with one more contest to go. The old record was 93,433 fans set in 2013, the first season that McKechnie Field seating was expanded from 6,600 to 8,500. It is a little misleading; last year's average was 7,587 fans per game compared to 7,104 warm bodies this campaign.
  • Ol' Bucco Ross Ohlendorf was assigned to minor league camp by the Rangers.

3/29: Bob Steele, Mike Kingery B-Days

  • 1894 - LHP Bob Steele was born in Cassburn, Ontario. Steele hurled for the Bucs from 1917-18, when they had some fairly poor clubs. He was 7-14, but his ERA was 2.87. Pittsburgh sold him to the Giants during the 1918 campaign, and 1919 was his last big league season. He did make the record books (albeit Canadien) when he tossed a no-hitter for the Moose Jaw Robin Hoods against the Calgary Bronchos (sic) in the Class D Western Canadian League in 1913. 
Bob Steele in 1913 as a Moose Jaw Robin Hood (photo via W. Canadian League)
  • 1961 - OF Mike Kingery was born in St. James Minnesota. Mike closed out his 10-year MLB career with the Bucs in 1996, signing on as a $750K free agent at the age of 35. He became their part-time center fielder, hitting .246 before retiring to Minnesota to raise his family and begin the Solid Foundation Baseball School.
Mike Kingery - 1996 Fleer Ultra series

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Bucs Win, Lineup & Notes

Gregory Polanco homered and so did Tony Sanchez as the Bucs defeated the Twins 4-2 yesterday. Jung-Ho Kang tripled and scored; Starling Marte and Jaff Decker had RBI doubles. Jeff Locke gave up both runs over 5-2/3 IP. It was a short game; a Florida rainstorm brought it to a halt in the eighth inning after Blake Wood and Antonio Bastardo got what would prove to be the final four outs.

Jung-Ho Kang - the transition hasn't been easy (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)

Today's Game: The Bucs face the Blue Jays at McKechnie in a 1:05 contest with Charlie Morton taking the ball. The game will be aired by 93.7 The Fan.

The Lineup: Jordy Mercer SS, Gregory Polanco RF, Cutch CF, Neil Walker 2B, Corey Hart 1B, Andrew Lambo LF, Francisco Cervelli C, Sean Rodriguez 3B, Morton P.
The Bench: Jaff Decker, Wilkins Castillo, Tony Sanchez, Pedro Florimon, Jung-Ho Kang and a minor league group led by Reese McGuire.
The Pitchers: Mark Melancon (Happy B-Day!), Jared Hughes, Rob Scahill and minor league guys led by Zack Dodson.

The innings are getting tougher to come by for the players remaining on the major league roster. Clint's working in the regulars and making sure the bench guys get a couple of swings before camp breaks. Decisions still loom for the fifth starter, the last player on the bench and the bullpen composition, so the games still are meaningful for a handful of fringers.

  • The Pirates are featured on tonight's "30 Clubs in 30 Days" on MLB Network at 7PM.
  • Neal Huntington says Pedro Florimon is still in the hunt for the final bench spot. That says something about wanting a late-inning glove guy on the bench and the versatility of the players that have already won spots on the pine.
  • Justin Sellers still has an Achilles problem and Chris Stewart is slowly getting back into action with a hammy issue.
  • Commissioner Rob Manfred visited camp today. Notably, he gave the Bucco ownership & FO lots of love and backed off his stance of looking into defensive shifting.

3/28: Mark the Shark, Chief Yellowhorse, Bryon Morris B-Bays; Sisk, Cannizaro, Solomon & Heaton Traded; Cum Posey Dies

  • 1898 - RHP Moses “Chief” Yellowhorse was born in Pawnee, Oklahoma, appropriately enough as he was a full-blooded Pawnee. His MLB years were 1921-22 and spent in Pittsburgh, where he went 8-4 with a 3.93 ERA, but suffered three different arm injuries that ended his career. He was one of the first, if not the pioneer, full-blooded Native American to play MLB ball. It wasn’t all peaches and cream; he once drilled Ty Cobb between the eyes in an exhibition game for insulting him, though he was quite a fan favorite during his short time in Pittsburgh.
Chief Yellowhorse 1922
  • 1946 - Cumberland “Cum” Posey, who owned the Homestead Grays from 1911-46, died in Mercy Hospital from cancer. He was part-time player until 1929, and managed until 1937. Posey was a big-time owner, and his teams played regularly in Forbes Field and Washington DC’s Griffith Stadium. The Grays won eight Negro League pennants and three World Series titles under his hand. 
  • 1969 - The Pirates traded RHP Tommie Sisk and C Chris Cannizzaro to the San Diego Padres in exchange for OPF Ron Davis and IF Bobby Klaus. Sisk was on the backside of his career while Davis and Klaus never become big-time performers, but Cannizzaro became an All-Star in 1969 for the expansion Padres (albeit with a .220 BA) and had a 12 year career that ended after 1974. 
  • 1980 - RHP Buddy Solomon was traded by the Atlanta Braves to the Pirates for minor league player Greg Field. Solomon worked 1980-82 for Pittsburgh, going 17-15-1 with a 3.58 ERA before being traded at the deadline to Chicago for 3B Jim Morrison. He died young in a car accident in Macon, Georgia, at age 34, in 1986. 
  • 1985 - RHP Mark Melancon was born in Wheat Ridge, Colorado. Melancon came to Pittsburgh in 2013 from the Red Sox as a versatile back-ender, working both as set-up man and closer, and earned a spot on the ‘13 All-Star team. Mark the Shark took the closers job full time in early 2014, saving 33 games in 37 chances. In two seasons, he’s picked up six wins, 49 saves and 40 holds from the Bucco pen while posting a 1.65 ERA (1.86 FIP) in 144 appearances. 
Mark the Shark - 2014 Topps series
  • 1987 - RHP Bryan Morris was born in Tullahoma, Tennessee. Acquired in the Jason Bay trade, he was part of the Bucco bullpen from 2012-14, going 13-8 with a 2.61 ERA before being dealt to Miami. The change of scenery did him good. Morris was other worldly in his Marlin stint, posting an 0.66 ERA (although with a 3.03 FIP). 
  • 1989 - LHP Neal Heaton was traded by the Montreal Expos to the Pirates for RHP Brett Gideon. Heaton worked four years for the Jimmy Leyland playoff teams of the early nineties and made the All-Star team in 1990. He was out of the MLB after the 1993 season and is now a pitching instructor for the private All Pro Sports Academy in Bellport, NY.
Neal Heaton 1991 Fleer Ultra series

Friday, March 27, 2015

Bravos Beat Bucs; 12 Pared From Roster; Lineup & Notes

Neil Walker went 2-for-4 with a double and a HR, Josh Harrison went yard, Jordy Mercer had three knocks and Cutch two more, but it wasn't enough as the Braves beat the Bucs 7-5 yesterday. Atlanta scored twice in the ninth (and had another cut down at home) after going seven innings without scoring. Vance Worley was tagged for five first-inning runs, then adjusted on the fly and blanked the Braves over the next five innings, retiring 13 in a row at one point. His adjustment was just to work away; they were teeing off on pitches on the inside half. Clayton Richard put up a pair of goose eggs before tiring in the ninth and being charged with the Bravo's final tallies.

Josh Harrison has been rockin' steady all spring (2014 Topps series)

Today's Game: The Pirates go to Fort Myers to take on the Twins with Jeff Locke on the hill. Once again the game will be on webcast only at pirates.com.

Today's Lineup: Josh Harrison 3B, Gregory Polanco RF, Starling Marte LF, Tony Sanchez C, Pedro 1B, Jung-Ho Kang SS, Jeff Decker CF, Sean Rodriguez 2B, Locke.
Today's Bench: Andrew Lambo, Pedro Florimon, Wilkins Castillo and a flock of minor league hands.
Today's Pitching: Antonio Bastardo, John Holdzkom, Rob Scahill.

Kang is back in action after a time-out to work on some hitting. Decker is getting some time too; he's a dark horse to break camp, but is putting some pressure on Lambo, who is having another not so memorable spring. So we'll see what the FO reads into Florida's small sample sizes.
  • This morning, the Pirates reassigned Deolis Guerra, Gorkys Hernandez, Charlie Leesman, Brad Lincoln, Steve Lombardozzi, Brent Morel, Gustavo Nunez, Deibinson Romero, Jose Tabata, Sebastian Valle & Josh Wall to minor league camp. Bobby LaFromboise was optioned to Indy.
  • Stephanie Apstein of SI previews the 2015 Pirates.
  • Tyler Waite of Fansided compares the Pirates with the other elite squads in the NL.
  • The Sporting News ranks Clint as a Top Ten manager. Interestingly, they have him just behind Lloyd McClendon.
  • Ya think Nick Leyva was lost coaching at third base? AJ Cassavell and Paul Casella of Sports on Earth would beg to disagree.
  • Monica Gagnier of The Pittsburgh Business Times takes a look at fan value, using the Pirates ticket Cost Per Win as her beacon.

3/27: Blass, Cangelosi, Burwell & Marte

  • 1895 - RHP Bill Burwell was born in Jarbalo, Kansas. Burwell pitched but one year for the Pirates, going 1-0/5.23 in 1928, but later served as a Pirate coach and scout (1947–1948; 1958–1962). Burwell was acting manager of the Pirates for the final game of the 1947 season, after player-manager Billy Herman resigned, and beat the Cincinnati Reds, 7-0. He was the pitching coach for the 1960 WS champs, and as a minor league assistant, he helped develop Vern Law by teaching him how to change speeds and throw a change-up. 
Bill Burwell via SABR
  • 1975 - The Pirates released RHP Steve Blass, who went from Game Seven World Series winner in 1971 to a pitcher who had no idea where the ball was going once it left his hand, a condition that to this day is known as the “Steve Blass disease.” Blass is now a Pirate ambassador and member of the broadcast team for Root Sports. 
  • 1987 - OF John Cangelosi was traded by the Chicago White Sox to the Pirates for RHP Jim Winn. Cangelosi became a useful bench piece for the Bucs, spending four seasons in Pittsburgh, while Winn worked two more years in the show.
John Cangelosi 1989 Score series

  • 2002 - The Pirates sent LHP Damaso Marte and minor league IF Ruddy Yan to the Chicago White Sox for RHP Matt Guerrier. The Bucs would get Marte back a few years later and while Guerrier never tossed for the Pirates, spending two seasons in AAA. He ended up with an 11-year MLB career that’s still going (maybe - he’s an unclaimed FA in 2015).