Friday, March 6, 2015

Bucs-Yankees Tonight: Lineups & Game Notes

Arrrgh! Another day of pitchers winning the battle, as the Pirates dropped a 2-1 decision to the Bronx Bombers. The Buc score came when Jaff Decker singled in Willie Garcia, who had a pair of knocks. Charlie Morton made his debut, tossing a pair of scoreless frames, as did Frankie Liriano. Charlie had some control issues and tossed 39 pitches as he tries to round into playing shape after labrum surgery. And hey - guess who's back: Garrett Jones! He's in pinstripes now, and went 2-for-2, doubling in a run off Mark Melacon (a bloop, but it still counted).

Willy Garcia (Bowman Chrome Prospect series 2014)
Today's Game: The Bucs return the favor, visiting the Yankees at George Steinbrenner Field in Tampa. It's the Pirates first night game, beginning at 7:05 and broadcast by 93.7 The Fan. Jeff Locke (7-6, 3.91) goes against Chris Capuano (3-4, 4.35). For the Yanks, it's the second game of the day as they visit the Phillies in the afternoon.

Lineup: Sean Rodriguez 3B, Francisco Cervelli C, Jordy Mercer SS, Neil Walker 2B, Jose Tabata LF, Pedro 1B, Tony Sanchez DH, Mel Rojas Jr. RF, Jaff Decker CF.
Bench: Deibinson Romero, Sebastian Valle, Justin Sellers, Pedro Florimon, Brent Morel, Willie Garcia, Keon Broxton, Alen Hanson, Gift Ngoepe, Steve Lombardozzi, Elias Diaz Wilkin Castillo, Gustavo Nunez (guess they wanted to fill the bus).
Pitchers: Jeff Locke, Charlie Leesman, Arquimedes Caminero, Adrian Sampson, Collin Ballester, Blake Wood, Angel Sanchez, Wilfredo Boscan.

Jeff Locke (Charles LeClaire/US Presswire)
  • Clayton Richard got his first look yesterday, and pitched a scoreless frame. He gave up a hit, then promptly picked the runner off for a clean inning of work.
  • Sean Rodriguez has shown a surprisingly good glove at second during camp, so he looks like he'll provide more than a corner option from the bench.
  • Corey Hart took grounders yesterday and is on track to play some ball next week after taking three stitches in the foot a couple of days ago.
  • Speaking of freak camp injuries like Hart's, Josh Harrison's tweaked ankle and Jeff Locke's bout with a bug, the Giants just were hit with a major blow. Hunter Pence's arm was broken when he was hit by a pitch yesterday; he's expected out 6-8 weeks. 
  • Mark Klaas of the Kent Reporter has a piece on hometown prospect Reese McGuire. 
  • SS Cole Tucker and C Connor Joe, the Bucs top draft picks last year, were both hors de combat in 2014, with Tucker having off-season thumb ligament surgery while Connor missed his first pro campaign due to back woes. Both have mended and should be good to go this year.

3/6: Cap'n Willie's B-Day, Maz & Arky Voted Into Hall

  • 1863 - RF/1B John Coleman was born in Saratoga Springs, NY. He was an Allegheny in 1886 and then played with the Pirates from 1887-88 and again in 1890. For beginning his career as a pitcher, he did OK with the bat, putting up a .266 BA in his Pittsburgh days.
  • 1940 - 1B/OF Wilver Dornell Stargell was born in Earlsboro, Oklahoma. Pops played his entire 21-year MLB career (1962-1982) for the Pirates. Captain Willie hit .282, with 2,232 hits, 423 doubles, 475 HR and 1,540 RBI. His teams captured six NL East division titles, two NL pennants and two World Series (1971, 1979). Stargell was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1988.
Willie goes long in Game #7 of the 1979 World series (photo by Associated Press)
  • 1973 - In an spring exhibition game against the Bucs, the Twins’ Larry Hisle, in most (but not all) historians minds, became the first DH in MLB history. He did a good job, too, hitting two HR and collecting seven RBI. It was the first year the rule was in effect, and five teams used a DH that day, which is why there’s still some debate over who the first guy actually was.
  • 1979 - SS Clint Barmes was born in Vincennes, Indiana. The slick fielding, stick-challenged infielder joined the Buccos in 2012 when he signed a two-year, $10.5M FA contract. He  returned in 2014 for $1.5M, although he was hurt much of the year and during the off-season signed with the San Diego Padres.
  •  1985 - SS Arky Vaughan was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee. Vaughan batted .318 with a .406 OBP over a 14-year career with the Pirates (1932-41) and Brooklyn Dodgers. He was inducted on July 28th. Earlier, in 1981, Lawrence Ritter and Donald Honig included him in their book The 100 Greatest Baseball Players of All Time. Twenty years later, in his 2001 New Historical Baseball Abstract, Bill James rated Vaughan as the second-best shortstop in MLB history, behind fellow Pirate and mentor Honus Wagner.
Arky Vaughan via Deadball Era
  •  1996 - RHP Jim Bunning was elected into the Hall of Fame. Most of his 17 year career was spent with the Tigers and Phillies, pitching in Pittsburgh from 1968-69 and earning 14 of his career 224 wins. He was inducted on August 4th. The pitcher-turned-politico was one of five players to throw a no-hitter in both leagues, with Cy Young, Randy Johnson, Nolan Ryan and Hideo Nomo.
  • 1999 - 1B Kevin Young signed the richest contract in Pirate history, a $24M, four-year deal that was made possible by anticipated revenues from the team's soon-to-be-built stadium. The deal called for a $500,000 signing bonus and salaries of $5.5M in 2000, $6M in 2001, $5.5M in 2002 and $6.5M in 2003. That carried him to the end of his 12 year career, with all but one campaign spent as a Pirate. He rejoined the team in 2015 as a special assistant of the baseball operations staff.
  • 2001 - 2B Bill Mazeroski was voted into the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee. He was inducted on August 5th, tearing up during his speech and tucking his handwritten notes away, saying "I think you can flush these 12 pages down the drain." The Pirates retired his number, built him a statue, and every October 13th fans meet at the Forbes Field wall to celebrate his home run, selected by ESPN as the “Greatest Home Run of All Time.”
Maz in the middle (Corbin-Bettmann Image Collection)
  • 2007 - The Bucs signed Cuban righty Yoslan Herrera to a three year/$1.92M deal. He made it to the show in July, 2008, and in five starts, he went 1-1/9.82. The Pirates released him during the 2009 offseason, and he was out of baseball after another year. Herrera did rebound though, pitching for the LA Angels in 2014 and moving on to Japan this season.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Blue Jays Stop Bucs: Today's Lineup & Camp Notes...

Well, can't win 'em all. The Pirates dropped a 4-1 decision to Toronto in the rematch as the bats dried up. Pittsburgh's only run was unearned as Jordy Mercer scored on a wild pitch. Good decision by Jordy there, but the base running wasn't all smooth sailing.

Josh Harrison thought a Francisco Cervelli drive to the gap would fall; it didn't, and Josh was doubled off second. Pedro was thrown out at home on a grounder; he was sent on contact. What would a Pirate game be without a TOOTBLAN or three?

El Toro continued his opposite field ways with a line single over third; we'll see if he can make consistent hard contact going to the left side this year. He sees enough pitches away; the key will be whether he can both look opp field and still turn on pitches in and over.

Tomorrow's Game: New York Yankees at Pittsburgh, 1:05 PM, 93.7 The Fan. Francisco Liriano (7-10, 3.38) starts against Esmil Rogers (2-0, 5.72).

Lineup: Jose Tabata LF, Gregory Polanco RF, Cutch DH, Starling Marte CF, Andrew Lambo 1B, Jung-Ho Kang SS, Chris Stewart C, Sean Rodriguez 2B, Justin Sellers 3B.
Bench: Willie Garcia, Jaff Decker, Mel Rojas Jr., Deibinson Romero, Gustav Nunez, Tony Sanchez, Alen Hanson, Brent Morel, Gift Ngoepe, Steve Lombardozzi, Wilkins Castillo, Pedro Floriman, Elias Diaz, Keon Broxton (sheesh, these home games!)
Pitching: Frankie Liriano, Mark Melancon, Tyler Glasnow, Clayton Richard, Deolis Guerra, Jeremy Bleich, maybe Charlie Morton.

Cutch, Starling and El Coffee get their first ensemble outing of the spring, sorta (the original lineup had JT as the DH, but was changed on game day).

The three amigos strike the pose (photo: Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
  • Josh Harrison left after being caught off second base. He was favoring his left ankle, the one that caused him so much aggravation last season. Early reports are that he rolled over on it, with more news tomorrow after he sleeps on it. (EDIT - he said today is was minor, and not nearly as severe as last year's injury, but is being held out today as a precautionary measure.)
  • Obviously there's still an emphasis on working inside. Bucco hurlers have notched three plunks in the first two games.
  • The Pirates inked the 21 players on the 40 man roster who have who have less than three years service time, a pro forma move as there is no negotiating.

3/5: Teke, Foxy and Cutch...

  • 1947 - RHP Kent Tekulve was born in Cincinnati. The rubber armed reliever pitched 12 years for the Pirates (1974-85) with a record of 70-61-158/2.68, and appeared in 90 games twice, making 722 Pittsburgh outings for 1,017-1/3 IP. He saved three of the four wins against the Orioles in the 1979 World Series, and Teke & Mike Marshall are the only pitchers to make 90 appearances three times during their career. Tekulve is now a Root Sports analyst, special spring instructor and a heart transplant recipient.
Teke slingin' it (photo: Pirate promo shot)
  • 1996 - “Foxy” Ned Hanlon was selected to the Hall of Fame. He played and managed for the Alleghenys, Burghers and Pirates (1889-91) but his glory years were as skipper of the Baltimore Orioles and Brooklyn Superbas. Noted as a keen tactician, he came up with innovations still in play today such as the hit-and-run, double steal and “Baltimore chop.” He was inducted on August 4th.
  • 2012 - Andrew McCutchen signed a team-friendly six-year, $51.5 M contract extension with the Pirates, with a $14.75M option for 2018, carrying him through his age 31 season. And they’re already clamoring for an extension...
Cutch (photo: ESPN/USA Today)

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Bucs Win Opener; Today's Lineup & Notes...

The Bucs took their Grapefruit League opener from Toronto yesterday 8-7. Pedro had a big day with 4 RBI, including a three run shot the opposite way. Jung-Ho Kang and Elias Diaz also homered.   Jaff Decker added a pair of hits, including a two-run double.

Stolmy Pimentel and Ryan Beckman had tough afternoons (although Beckman hung on for the save). Ryan is just getting a taste, but Stolmy has a job on the line, and he would be well served to find the strike zone sooner as opposed to later. Casey Sadler worked the two scoreless frames for the win.

Our only take: we'd like to see El Toro turn on a couple of balls; PNC Park is not very kind to guys who take their pokes at left.

Bye-bye ball. (photo: David Arrigo/Pirates)

Todays Game: 1:05 at McKechnie Field, with no radio or TV, but a webcast on The match up is Gerrit Cole (11-5, 3.65) vs. Marcus Stroman (11-6, 3.65).

Lineup: Josh Harrison 3B, Francisco Cervelli C, Andrew Lambo DH, Pedro Alvarez 1B, Jordy Mercer SS, Neil Walker 2B, Steve Lombardozzi LF, Mel Rojas Jr. CF, Willie Garcia RF.
Bench: Brent Morel, Wilkins Castillo, Alen Hansen, Deibinson Romero, Gift Ngoepe, Keon Broxton, Jaff Decker, Elias Diaz, Jose Tabata.
Pitchers: Gerrit Cole, Vance Worley, Radhames Liz, Tony Watson, Jared Hughes, Antonio Bastardo, John Holdzkom.

First team infield, scrubberinos in the outfield. It looks like Clint is going to give his bubble guys a looks all over the field; versatility is definitely the bench theme this year.

  • Not unexpected: Russ Martin chatted with the Pirate press gang and had nothing but nice things to say about Pittsburgh, even about the FO. He cited the fifth year of his Toronto offer and a chance to go home as factors in play with leaving (and, of course, the compensation).
  • Kang made a couple of nice plays in the field, being in the right place at the right time thanks to a shift. That's one Pirate ploy we weren't certain he would pick up right away (we sorta doubt it's used much in the KBO), but so far, so good in that aspect.
  • The Bucs played their first game with a running clock as MLB's "pace of play" rules kicked in. The teams didn't have a problem, though the game went 3 hours plus - fifteen runs and a passel of spring-time player switches being the main culprits.
  • Corey Hart is expected to return to action Monday after cutting his foot in a hot-tub slip.
  • Not so with ex-Pirate closer Joel Hanrahan. He needs a second TJ surgery and hasn't pitched since 2012; the baseball gods haven't been very kind to Hanny since he left town.

3/4: Clyde, Mel Sr., The Fort, Jimmy & Barry Have a Meeting of the Minds...

  • 1917 - C Clyde McCullough was born in Nashville. Clyde had a long MLB career, catching for Pittsburgh on a semi-regular basis from 1949-52 and batting .258. He was a Cub at heart. The Bucs got him from Chicago and he returned there later, spending 12 of his 16 campaigns in the Windy City. 
  • 1918 - RHP Mel Queen Sr. was born in Maxwell in nearby Fayette County. After starting out with the Yankees, he worked for Pittsburgh from 1947-48, then from 1950-52. Queen’s Bucco record was 19-36 with a 5.33 ERA. His son, Mel Jr., pitched for several seasons in MLB and went on to have a long and storied career as the Toronto Blue Jays’ pitching coach.
Mel Queen Sr. 1952 via Out of the Park Developments
  • 1985 - C Mike “The Fort” McKenry was born in Knoxville, Tennessee. He was a back-up catcher for the Bucs from 2011-13, and was a popular player with several clutch hits on his resume. Overall, though, he hit just .226 as a Pirate and returned to his original team, the Colorado Rockies, as a free agent in 2014. 
  • 1991 - In Pittsburgh’s most famous manager meltdown, Jim Leyland was caught on camera as he blasted Barry Bonds at camp following a media spat. The redacted version of Leyland’s message went something like “I’ve kissed your (bleep!) for three (bleeping!) years here and I’m sick of this. If you guys don’t want to be here then get the (bleep!) out!”
Leyland has his say in 1991 image via You Tube

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Bucs v Jays, Lineup, Game Notes, Cumpton Hurts Elbow & More

Lineup: Jaff Decker CF, Sean Rodriguez 2B, Gregory Polanco RF, Starling Marte DH, Pedro Alvarez 1B, Jung-Ho Kang SS, Jose Tabata LF, Deibinson Romero 3B, Tony Sanchez C, Casey Sadler P.
Bench: Andrew Lambo, Alen Hanson, Gift Ngoepe, Mel Rojas Jr., Brent Morel, Elias Diaz, Willie Garcia
Pitchers: Stolmy Pimentel, Bobby LaFromboise, Rob Scahill, Brad Lincoln.
Radio/TV: MLB Network, 93.7 The Fan
Gametime: 1:07 PM

Casey Sadler gets the call (photo via Pittsburgh Pirates)

It's the Grapefruit League opener at the Jay's camp in Dunedin (the Bradenton Opener is slated for tomorrow; same clubs), and will be televised by MLB Network. The only familiar Toronto face will be Russ' Martin, although Joey Bats was a Bucco once upon a time and Todd Redmond came up  through the Pirate system.

Sadler had a very solid season at Indy (11-4, 3.30 ERA) but was roughed up in his handful of Bucco appearances last year, so he has a point to prove in camp. Kang gets a second showing after yesterday's three frames resulted in an 0-for-1 at the dish and 1-for-1 in the field. El Coffee, Starling and Pedro are the starters to crack today's lineup and fill up the middle of the order.

  • Tim Williams of Pirates Prospects reports that Brandon Cumpton will be sent by team docs to see Dr. James McAndrews after suffering elbow pain during live BP. You're never too deep in pitching...
  • As Travis Sawchick of the Trib points out, much of the to-do about Kang taking over for The Kid at second is certainly premature at least. The Pirates signed him for left side duty; their needs and Jung-Ho's skill sets make him a better fit for the team at SS/3B.
  • The Bucs are expected to trot out their starters tomorrow against the Jays at Bradenton. 

3/3: Yaller Phelps, Debs Garms, Neal Heaton, Trent Jewett

  • 1879 - C Ed “Yaller” Phelps was born in Albany, NY. Phelps was on the 1902 and 1903 National League pennant-winning clubs and played in the 1903 World Series, serving as a back-up catcher during his five year Pittsburgh career (1902-04, 1906-08). He hit .247 as a Bucco. 
Ed Phelp 1903 studio shot by George Burke
  • 1940 - The Boston Braves sold OF Debs Garms to the Pirates. With 358 at bats for Pittsburgh, he led the NL in hitting with a .355 average. At the time, there was no minimal at-bat requirement. League prez Ford Frick said the title was unofficial and 100 games was enough (Garms got into 103). In 1950, the NL made 2.6 AB’s per scheduled game the magic qualifying number (it's now 3.1). The veteran was sold to St. Louis after the 1941 season, where he would finish his career in 1945. 
  • 1960 - LHP Neal Heaton was born in South Ozone Park, NY. He pitched for Pittsburgh from 1989-91, making the All Star team in 1990 after a 9-1 start. Heaton, who had battled tendinitis, credited the 1990 success to a new pitch, a knuckle change. The league apparently caught on; he finished the year at 12-9. As a Pirate, his line was 21-19 with a 3.46 ERA. 
Neal Heaton 1992 Donruss series
  • 1964 - Coach Trent Jewett was born in Dallas. Jewett was a catcher on the Pirate farm before continuing on as a coach in the organization. He managed the Triple-A Nashville Sounds from 1998 to 2000, was the Bucs third base coach from 2000-02, then returned to managing AAA Nashville and Indy until 2008 when he skipped to the Nat system. In 2013, he joined Lloyd McClendon as bench coach for Seattle.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Scrimmage (Bucs Win 2-1...Or Is That Lose?), Camp Notes

Well, the first scrimmage news happened a couple of hours before the game. The platoon tag team of Pedro Alvarez and Corey Hart were scratched from the lineup, replaced by Andrew Lambo (who can certainly use the work) and Brent Morel. El Toro took BP, so he's OK; Hart is down for a few days after the first freak accident of the spring - he cut his foot in the whirlpool, and it took three stitches to close the cut.

As far as the game, the Black won 2-1 behind Andrew Lambo's RBI knock and a JT sac fly, which is big news as he's had six of those in his 1,724 big league plate appearances. Gregory Polanco went 2-for-3 and scored the Gold run. Seven of the game's nine pitchers tossed a shutout inning; oddly enough, Adrian Sampson was one of those to surrender a tally, but he still got the win. Give ya' more, but that's all we know - no radio, a bunch of second bananas and two Pen trades kinda minimized the scrimmage reporting.

Minor league skippers Dean Treanor (Indianapolis) and Tom Prince (Altoona) managed the squads, a nice little reward for the pair.

Pitchers announced for the Grapefruit League's opening three days are:
  • Tuesday (3/3 - 1:07 PM; MLB Network TV, KDKA Radio) against the Toronto Blue Jays: Casey Sadler, Stolmy Pimentel, Bobby LaFromboise, Rob Scahill, Brad Lincoln, Arquimedes Caminero and Josh Wall. 
  • Wednesday (3/4 - 1:05 PM; stream) v the Blue Jays: Gerrit Cole, Vance Worley, Radhames Liz, Tony Watson, Jared Hughes, Antonio Bastardo and John Holdzkom. 
  • Thursday (3/5 - 1:05PM; KDKA Radio) v NY Yankees: Francisco Liriano, Charlie Morton, Clayton Richard, Mark Melancon, Jeremy Bleich, Deolis Guerra and Tyler Glasnow.
  • If you think Jung-Ho Kang's transition will be easy, remember that task #1 is to win over his teammates. After all, he's here to take someone's job, and hasn't had the benefit of coming through the system to bond with the current clubhouse gang, as Bob Rossi of the Trib points out in his camp article.
  • Bill Mazeroski, Bill Virdon, Manny Sanguillen, Kent Tekulve, Omar Moreno  - can't say that the Bucs don't push tradition with their spring training coaching staff.
  • Five Pirates have been named to's Top 100 list. MLB Network will be featuring the selections this week (schedule linked above).

3/2: Chick Robitaille, Frank Colman, Abie Abrams, Don Schwall

  • 1879 - RHP Joe “Chick” Robitaille was born in Whitehall, New York. He spent his two year MLB career as a Pirate (1904-05), going 12-8 with a 2.56 ERA.
Chick Robitaille 1905 (photo: Chicago Daily News via Library of Congress)
  • 1918 - 1B/OF/PH Frank Colman was born in London, Ontario. He played for the Bucs at the start of his career (1941-46), getting just 373 PA and hitting .233. In 1947, Frank’s career ended with the Yankees when a leg injury followed by surgery finished his MLB playing days. 
  • 1924 - OF Cal “Abie” Abrams was born in Philadelphia. He spent 1953 in Pittsburgh as the starting RF, hitting .286 with 15 HR, and was traded early in 1954 to Baltimore for P Dick Littlefield. Abrams hit .269 over his career, but drew 304 walks to just 290 whiffs and ended up with a .386 lifetime OBP. 
Abie Abrams 1953 Bowman series
  • 1936 - RHP Don Schwall was born in Wilkes-Barre. After an All-Conference basketball career at Oklahoma, he won the AL Rookie of the Year honors in 1961 with the Red Sox, beating out teammate Carl “Yaz” Yastrzemski. He settled into journeyman status and was converted to the bullpen later in his career by the Bucs. He was a Pirate from 1963-66, going 22-23-4 with a 3.23 ERA.