Wednesday, May 21, 2008

When's bobblehead night...?

The Brew Crew came to Pittsburgh staggering, but they'll leave swaggering.

The Pirates spanked 11 hits of Brewer ace Ben Sheets, but except for Xavier Nady's solo shot, only one Buc runner reached third base and Sheets earned a complete game, 4-1 victory tonight. Pittsburgh has now fallen into the Central cellar, at least until the results of the Cincy-LA game are in.

Nady's blast tied it in the fourth, but Ian Snell gave up a pair the next inning thanks to an error and single sandwiched around Ryan Braun's triple. Milwaukee never looked back.

Pittsburgh is in a stretch of 22 straight Central division games that could define the season, and are off to a 3-5 start.

After drawing 11,000 last night, the Pirates played in front of 8,800 this evening. It may be fewer tomorrow. But hey, the weekend will rock, even if the Buccos don't - there are Zambelli fireworks Friday night and a Matt Capps bobblehead give-away Saturday. Ya gotta give the fans some reason to come out.

On the draft front: Dejan Kovacevic of the Post-Gazette wrote that the Bucs are down to a handful - and maybe a just a pair - of players to call on June 5th.

One is Florida State catcher Buster Posey, who was named ACC player of the year after batting .471. But the feeling is that Tampa Bay is leaning towards picking him. The Rays need a catcher, and he's the top gun available.

The other four on the Pirates' wish list are Vandy third baseman Pedro Alvarez, Georgia HS shortstop Tim Beckham, San Diego State LHP Brian Matusz and likely Missouri RHP Aaron Crow.

The baseball gurus suspect they're debating the merits of Alvarez or Beckham, both great matches for Pirate needs.

Alvarez, 20, hit .338 with 7 HRs and 25 RBIs. He's almost major-league ready, too. He is represented by Scott Boras and will be looking for huge bucks. He's also recovering from a broken hand, and how that affects the process is yet to be seen. Some think it may have sapped some of his power.

Beckham, 18, is a senior at Griffin HS and is thought by many to be a five-tool shortstop. He's batting .500 with 5 HRs and 13 RBIs. He's committed to Southern Cal, so he hasn't hired an agent yet. The question is what kind of deal will it take to lure him away from the Trojans and next year's draft? Still, this isn't a strong draft, and it'll be hard for him to move much higher on the board.

It's an interesting hand that the brass had dealt to them this year. You can expect Doug Mientkiewicz to play a lot of third this season. The word - and the lineup card - indicate that the Bucs have finally tired of waiting for Jose Bautista to blossom. Neil Walker has been struggling at Indy, and Alvarez could just leapfrog over him to claim the hot corner in Pittsburgh.

Jack Splat's time on the DL has shown how really thin the Bucs are up the middle. He's signed through 2009 with an option year, and Beckham could be ready by the end of that deal, maybe teamed up with 2B prospect Shelby Ford, who's hitting .286 at Altoona now.

Wilson should still have some value then (although he's talked of retiring after the contract's done.) The Pirates could have made a nice haul moving him this year if they had someone to take his place. The thought of Beckham and Andrew McCutcheon together in the batting order must have the suits salvitating.

Kovacevic's scenario seems pretty sound to us.'s
Jonathan Mayo still thinks the Buc's will draft Alvarez, due in a large part because he believes that Beckham is going to the Rays. He likes Posey and Matusz here, too.

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