Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Blow 'em up...

It's only one more loss out of many we've seen, but it's time. Blow them up and bring in some players. There are too many black holes in the lineup for a handful of guys to carry and too many back of the rotation/bullpen arms on the staff. Too often they look as if little leaguers have absorbed the fundamentals of the game more than they have.

We thought the Bucs would be competitive this year, and they still may be. There are some pieces here and sparsely scattered throughout the system. But there's a world of difference between competitive and championship. Forget .500 and get to work on a team built for a pennant.

On the minor league front: Chris Hernandez was promoted from AA Altoona to AAA Indianapolis yesterday. He had a better than 7:1 K:BB over 20-2/3 innings with a 2.61 ERA, .195 BAA and 0.87 WHIP. Hernandez had a 4-0 record and 4 saves in 14 appearances. The 27 year old righty could get a look as a middle reliever if the bullpen in Pittsburgh should falter later in the season, according to RotoWire.

On the draft front: John Perrotto of the Beaver County Times has chimed in with his draft day prediction:

"Though it smacks of Moses breaking one of the 10 commandments, Coonelly has given the Pirates’ front office to go-ahead to draft who they think is the best player when they select second behind Tampa Bay on June 5.

The players the Pirates are considering include Vanderbilt third baseman Pedro Alvarez; Tim Beckham, a high school shortstop from Georgia; San Diego left-hander Brian Matusz; Florida State catcher Buster Posey and South Carolina first baseman Justin Smoak.

None of the five will come cheap and Alvarez, who is being advised by superagent Scott Boras, is said to be seeking a major-league contract worth at least $8 million.

Alvarez is the guy the Pirates want and appears they will get as Tampa Bay is leaning toward picking Beckham or Posey.

This time, the Pirates won’t make the same mistake. Alvarez will be their man, they will sign (him) and he could very well be their starting third baseman next season."

He also rubs a little salt in the wound by reminding the Pirate nation of the guys the past Bucco suits have considered and then passed on:

Georgia Tech catcher Matt Wieters last year, Tampa Bay's Scott Kazmir and B.J. Upton in 2002 (the excuse - they were high school players), and Stanford left-hander Jeremy Guthrie. They actually drafted the Boras-represented Guthrie in the third round of the 2001 draft, but never signed him. He was the Oriole's opening day pitcher this year.

If you're wondering if the Bucs can shore up their lack of depth up the middle in this year's draft, don't hold your breath. With a couple of exceptions, the middle infield is thought to be pretty pedestrian this year, and several of the top young guns are projected to end up in different positions by the time they reach the show because of size or range issues.

With the MLB draft being televised live for the second straight year, each club has been asked to send at least one team ambassador to Orlando, to represent the organization.

Chuck Tanner has long been one of the faces of the Pirates franchise, while Steve Blass is currently one of the voices for it. The team has selected the pair to be the club's spokesmen at the draft. Good choices, we think. Now if the draftees are only as good as the drafters...

On the ex-Pirates front: Salomon Torres tops the Brewer's bullpen staff with 28-2/3 innings pitched so far this season. He's had eight outings of at least two innings in his 22 games this year. Solly's record is 3-1 with a save and an ERA of 3.14.

He was a Pirate from 2002-2007, appearing in 358 games with a 26-28 record and 26 saves. Torres was traded to the Brew Crew during the off season for Marino Salas and Kevin Roberts after a spat with management over his baseball camp.

Jeff Suppan is slated to start Thursday for the Brew Crew. He's 2-3 with a 4.78 ERA, and shares the team innings pitched lead with Ben Sheets at 52-2/3. He has a 14-15 record overall in his second campaign with Milwaukee.

Suppan pitched in Pittsburgh in 2003, going 10-7 with a 3.57 ERA and netting the Bucs Freddie Sanchez and Mike Gonzalez from the Boston Red Sox in one of Littlefield's better deadline deals.

Jason Kendall is the Brewer's starting backstop, hitting .269 in 40 games. A first round draft pick of the Bucs in 1992, he played here from 1996-2004 and led the team in career games caught while batting .306. His salary was then dumped on Oakland, and Pittsburgh got Mark Redman and Arthur Rhodes back.

He's done a nice job behind the dish, throwing out 16 of 34 base stealers, a 47% caught stealing rate (Ronny Paulino, by comparison, has only tossed out 20%.) Kendall's allowed 3 passed balls, one less than Ryan Doumit.

Padre GM Kevin Tower threw a hissy fit after San Diego's last loss and threatened to bring up a new group of players, en masse, to rejuvenate the team. Brian Giles could be on the list to go, according to MLB Trade Rumors.

Giles is hitting .311 and has a .403 OBP, but hasn't smacked over 23 dingers since leaving Pittsburgh, although his power numbers would look a lot better away from Petco. He earns $9M this year and has a $3M buyout for '09. He can block trades to eight teams and gets a $2M increase if dealt, and that could be a deal breaker.

But if the Padres are seriously looking to remake their lineup, he'd be an attractive player to dangle.

Giles was sent to SD late in 2003 for Ollie Perez and Jay Bay after 5 seasons as a Buc. Pittsburgh got him in 1999 from the Tribe for Ricardo Rincon - hey, not of all our deals were terrible. Giles hit 169 HR's and drove in 524 runs, never hitting under .299, during his Pirate years and made two All-Star games.

Infielder Abraham Nunez, 32, agreed to a minor league contract with the New York Mets and was assigned to Class AAA New Orleans. Nunez spent from 1997-2004 in Pittsburgh as a utility man, batting .238 in 630 games. He played another year for the Cards and for the past two seasons in Philly.

On the "Stan the Man" front:
It took long enough, but on Sunday St. Louis dedicated Stan Musial Drive, renaming the street in front of Busch Stadium in honor of the franchise's greatest player. Musial, 87, was born in Donora. He's in the Hall of Fame after a 22-year career with the Cards, batting .331 lifetime with 475 homers and having both scored and drove in over 1,900 runs. Stan was indeed the Man.

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