Saturday, June 7, 2008

First inning funk...

This one hurt. Tom Gorzelanny walked two of the first three batters he faced, and a couple of hits and a sac fly later, it was 3-0 D-Backs before the Bucs came to the plate.

But Gorzo put up 6 goose eggs after that, giving up only three more hits, and the Pirates used Jay Bay and Nate McLouth muscle to tie it up, 3-3. John Grabow, usually money in the bank, was nicked for a lead-off homer in the ninth to give 'Zona the lead. Did the Bucs have any ninth inning mojo left in them?

Ryan Doumit led off with a single, and Luis Rivas ran for him. After Jason Michaels squared up twice without getting a good bunt down, the Bucs took the sign off and he popped out. After that, John Russell, to his credit, gave Rivas the green light against a battery that had pretty poor luck at stopping the steal.

But this time, the baseball gods smiled on them. Rivas got a good jump and looked like he got his hand in under the tag, but the ump rang him up on a bang-bang play, and that was all she wrote.

But make no mistake - it wasn't the failed steal that cost Pittsburgh its final shot at the game. It was the failed bunt. Fundamentals, my dear Watson.

That and another miserable start. Who knows - if Pittsburgh games started in the second inning, they may be in first place.

And the first isn't the Pirate's worst inning. It's the sixth, when high pitch counts finally catch up to them. A slow start isn't just Pittsburgh's problem - the first is the highest scoring inning in the NL. We guess it takes a few pitches for the arm speed to match up to the bat speed of the Senior Circuit.

On the Pirate front: With Jack Wilson and Ryan Doumit back at the same time, the Pirates had their Opening Day lineup intact for the first time since April 3 last night. Long time coming, it seems.

On the minor league front: Rich Donnelly, player devo aide, on the Pirate farm system, as told to Dejan Kovacevic of the Post Gazette:

"When I first got here, I thought the system was pretty much bare and had no talent, from what I'd heard," Donnelly said. "But, in spring training and as I went around to all the clubs, I was really impressed. We do have talent here.

"We don't have a lot of top-tier position players, but we have players," Donnelly said. "Overall? Yes, we need an upgrading depth-wise. I think we have players at every level, but we need more depth."

Donnelly was a Pirates coach in the late 1980s and into the mid-1990s. He later plied his trade with Florida, Colorado, Los Angeles and Milwaukee.

>Andrew McCutchen was named Class AAA Indianapolis' player of the month for May. The center fielder hit .304 and stole 12 bases that month. McCutch is 18-27 in that department so far this year.

He's hitting .294 with 15 doubles, 8 HRs, 25 RBIs and a .381 OBP.

>RHP Ty Taubenheim (4-8, 4.71) pitched eight scoreless innings, giving up 4 hits. He struck out 4 and walked 1 in one of his better outings as an Indian.

>Altoona won 1-0. RHP Yoslan Herrera (3-6, 3.61) put up 8 goose eggs and allowed 4 hits. He struck out six without a walk. RHP Evan Meek (2.77) pitched two scoreless innings of relief. 2B Shelby Ford (.302) had the game winning hit.

On the draft front: What does the Pirate selection of Pedro Alvarez say about Neil Walker?

With Walker playing third for Triple-A Indianapolis, the assumed progression was that he would transition into being the team's everyday third baseman within the next year.

But if the Pirates are able to sign the Vandy junior this summer, it's not an unrealistic expectation that Alvarez could be ready for MLB by 2010 or even toward the end of the '09 season.

"Walker is still a quality prospect in our system," GM Neal Huntington said. "We're excited about his development and excited about his role in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization moving forward. The bottom line is we can never have enough talent."

One thing that's certain is that play time is over for the former number one pick - it's put up or shut up time for him.

>The Bucs picked up local son Scott McGough, from Plum High school, in the 46th round. The slim 18 year old RH plays SS.

>Dave Mackall of the Tribune Review has all the area kids, both high school and college, that went in the 2008 draft: Local Picks.

>The Pirates also selected several players who are sons of former pro athletes.

In the eighth round, the Bucs took Jeremy Farrell, the son of Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell, who is a former big league starter. The Pirates selected former first baseman Rafael Palmeiro's son, Jeremy, in the 22nd round. Both Farrell and Palmeiro were drafted as third basemen.

The Bucs' 17th-round pick, outfielder Jaron Shepherd, is son of former big leaguer, Ron Shepherd. Plum shortstop Scott McGough, son of former Cleveland Indians pitcher Tom McGough, was taken in the 46th round.

And for Pittsburgh Steelers fans, the Bucs' 12th-round selection, first baseman Calvin Anderson, is son of former Steeler Fred Anderson.

> A couple of ex-Bucs had their kids picked, too. Rod Scurry, RHP from the University of Nevada-Reno, was the 31st round selection of the Rockies. He's Hot Rod's kid, a Bucco number one pick in 1974 and lefty bullpen arm from 1980 - 1985.

James Tunnell, OF, was chosen in the 43rd round by the Padres. He's Lee's son, a RHP who was in Pittsburgh from 1982 - 1985.


WilliamJPellas said...

Yep, Neil Walker is definitely on notice with the drafting of Alvarez. I've been of the opinion for some time now that Walker's injured wrist was much worse than we've been led to believe. Whether it's due to injury or (real or imagined) underachieving, it looks like the writing's on the wall for him. If he has a future in Pittsburgh, it will probably be at another position besides third base. Then again, some scouts think Alvarez won't last at the hot corner, and that he profiles as a first baseman. So, maybe we'll have them at the corners by 2010. We'll see.

As for LaRoche, I've had more than enough of his act. He's a little better than average when he's going good, which he isn't right now. In general, I don't like dead pull, streak hitters---which is what LaRoche is. Is it worth it to put up with utter stinkola for two thirds of the season in exchange for a scintallating one third of the season? I don't think so, but that's me.

Ron said...

It's pretty obvious the league's figured out how to defense LaRoche, Bill, that's for sure. That's why we believe he has to elevate his stroke and get balls, no matter how well hit, out of the infield. We'd like to see him come around, not only for the team, but to give him some value as it seems fairly apparent that he has no intention of inking another Pittsburgh contract.
Walker leaves the Pirates with some flexibility. As you noted, they can, and may have to, move Alvarez across the diamond. That leaves Walker as the only guy on the MLB horizon to play 3B in the Bucco system. They're designing that same sort of flexibility for Pearce.
And if he loses at the musical chairs, well, Atlanta and Oakland to name a pair keep reloading by moving prospects to other teams. It'd be nice to have the same depth in our system.
Take Ronny Paulino, for example. Now Pittsburgh can't send down many underachievers; there's no one in the organization to take their place. Paulino's bad luck was that the suits brought in someone that could be a back-up, and that was all put in motion by Doumit winning the job without a fight from Paulino. That's another reason depth is important - it gives the team alternatives for players that don't produce.
Competition is a good thing in sports, and the Pirates have lacked it internally for way too many years.