Well, you're not gonna win many games when you're held to four hits, and that's what Todd Wellemeyer and the Card pen did to the Bucs tonight. Wellemeyer went into the eighth inning, and the 29-year old journeyman gave up just a pair of singles while running his record to 4-1 with a 3.27 ERA.
Paul Maholm struggled, but it was just 2-0 after five. He gave up three straight hits to open the sixth, and in either a vote of confidence for Maholm or lack of confidence in the middle-inning relief, John Russell stuck with him. Two sac flies later, it was 4-0 and that was the ballgame.
As much as Maholm danced between the raindrops, he could have gotten out of the sixth without a nick. We suspect that two of the hits that got by SS Luis Rivas would have been gobbled up by vintage Jack Splat...OK, even Brian Bixler.
Most nights, his performance would have been good enough to keep the team in the game. Not tonight. They made a couple of plays - Rick Ankiel reached over the fence to rob Adam LaRoche on one dazzler - and Pittsburgh didn't. C'est la vie.
They'll be right back at it this afternoon as the Bucs and Cards decide the series on get-away day.
On the Pirate front: The Bucs called up catcher Raul Chavez, 35, to take Ryan Doumit's spot today.
Chavez has a .212 batting average and 4 HRs in 169 career MLB games, last playing for the Baltimore O's in 2006. He hit .306 with 3 home runs and 13 RBIs at Indy. Chavez is a good defensive player with a reputed rifle for an arm. He's thrown out 33 of 81 guys that ran against him in the bigs, a 41% gun-out rate.
He was added to the 40-man roster, and now it's filled again. Didn't take long.
Jack Wilson is going to Indianapolis tomorrow to begin his rehab instead of Altoona because of rainy weather and soggy field conditions there. He'll play four games with Indy before his calf is poked and probed by the medicos on Monday.
Wilson said that because of the long layoff, he'd anticipate needing at least a week to 10 days of game action, so he's not at all likely to be ready to make the jump from Indy to Pittsburgh after playing this weekend. He may head to Altoona next week.
The Pirates completed a deal with Tampa to reclaim RHP Evan Meek. The Pirates will send the Rays cash. Tampa was under the gun as its' 40-man roster was filled, and apparently Pittsburgh was the only team with any interest in Meek - and that includes Tampa.
On the old Pirate front: The WPIAL announced its' second Hall of Fame class yesterday, and Dick Groat of old Swissvale High was named to it. He was a three-sport jock in high school who went on to big things in basketball and baseball.
He played hoops at Duke in the 1950s, where his number was retired. Groat was twice an All-American and was voted as the Helms National Player of the Year in 1952 after averaging 25.2 points per game.
He put in a year with Fort Wayne of the NBA before entering the service and then joining up with Branch Rickey's Bucs (he signed a deal with them after his college graduation) following his discharge.
Oddly, he didn't play baseball at Duke. But he played roundball and baseball at Fort Belvedere and led the base to Army championships in both sports.
Groat made his rep as a shortstop, spending nine seasons with the Pirates, winning a NL MVP, a batting title, and the 1960 World Series as a Bucco. He and Billy Maz formed one of the more lethal DP combos known to baseball, and he was a terrific hit and run guy, batting out of the two hole behind Bill Virdon.
Groat won another World Series in 1964 with the Cards and was a NL All-Star 5 times. In a 14 year MLB career, he had a .286 batting average with 2,138 hits, 39 HRs, 829 runs, 707 RBIs, and 352 doubles in 1,929 games.
It's nice to see the region recognize its' own.
On the ex-Pirate front: Reds SS Jeff Keppinger was placed on the 15-day DL today because of a fractured left kneecap. He was hitting .324 with 3 HRs and 21 RBIs for Cincy so far this season.
He fouled a pitch off of his left leg in the second inning of yesterday's Marlin game, but hung in until he was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the fourth. An X-ray revealed the fracture, and an MRI exam was scheduled for today to determine the full extent of the injury. (EDIT - 4 to 6 weeks out is the prognosis.)
Keppinger was part of the 2004 Met deal with Kris Benson, going to NY for Jose Bautista, Ty Wigginton, and Matt Peterson. The 28 year old may end up the best of the bunch.
The Mets have announced that 34 year-old RHP Nelson Figueroa was DFA'ed with another pitcher, Jorge Sosa. They've been replaced by call ups RHP Claudio Vargas & RHP Matt Wise. Figgy was 2-3 with a 5.12 ERA for the Mets. He pitched for Pittsburgh in 2003-04.
On the draft front: From Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com:
Pittsburgh Pirates: Pedro Alvarez, 3B, Vanderbilt
Yes, that's right. I'm putting it in print. The Pirates have said they would spend more money in this draft and take the best available player. If that's the case, then Alvarez is the guy, despite a broken hamate bone in his hand that took away more than a month and has made it somewhat slow for him to regain his timing and power this spring.
Alvarez can flat-out hit and will hit for power while staying at third and getting to the bigs in a hurry. In other words, he's exactly what the Pirates need. But there is a difference between spending more money and meeting the possible bonus demands of a Scott Boras advisee. If the Pittsburgh braintrust decides that leap can't be made, or that Alvarez's hand is a true concern, there are other options.
Both Tim Beckham (HS SS from Georgia) and Buster Posey (C - Florida State) will get serious consideration if passed on by the Rays. If the Bucs decide that pitching is the best way to go, Brian Matusz (LHP - U of San Diego) profiles as a front-of-the-rotation starter as does University of Missouri right-hander Aaron Crow.
This fits in with previous predictions that the Bucs will be looking hard at Alvarez or Crow. We still think the brass will go with an arm, but let's face it - they could throw a dart at the names of the top half dozen prospects and find a player they can use. Matusz is the top pitcher on the board according to most gurus.
Other highly rated hurlers are Andrew Cashner, RHP, TCU; Shooter Hunt, RHP, Tulane; Tanner Scheppers, RHP, Fresno State (EDIT - he was just reported as suffering from a stress fracture of his shoulder, and that should drop him down some); and Cody Satterwhite, RHP, Mississippi, who's considered the biggest stretch of the group.