Sunday, June 8, 2008

The heat is on...

The Bucs rode a huge fourth inning and 5-2/3 pretty strong innings from Phil Dumatrait to take one from the D-Backs this afternoon, 6-4.

Pittsburgh put up a five spot in the fourth, turning five hits (3 were doubles) and a walk into runs, the key blow being Jay Bay's two-out, two run, two sacker. The Pirates could have really iced it the fifth, but a botched bunt turned into a DP, killing a potentially game breaking inning.

Dumatrait gave up a pair, and the bullpen sweated it out through the heat to stagger to the win. Five relievers gave up 3 hits and 3 walks in the final 3-1/3 innings, but had enough of a cushion to hang on at the finish line.

Matt Capps picked up the save, his 14th in 14th chances. The Mad Capper threw a couple of change-ups today, a pitch he's been working on to augment his heat. Look for a little more off speed stuff from him in the future, just enough to keep the hitters guessing and give the lefties a little something to worry about.

Dumatrait is now 3-3 with a 3.44 ERA, and the Bucs have won 6 of his 8 starts. Amazing what a change of scenery and a little confidence will do for a pitcher.

He said "I really didn't feel that good. I didn't have good off-speed stuff today and I had to rely on the fastball. I kind of relied on my defense and they picked me up today."

And that's how a thrower learns to become a pitcher.

On the Pirate front: Xavier Nady missed another game for the Pirates because of what the team described as inflammation in his lower left leg. So much for the groin tweak. This may bear watching - maybe what Jack Splat had is contagious. (EDIT - Wilson's in the clear; it's Nady's ankle that's bothering him.)

As reported by the Post Gazette, he lobbied to play, but it only makes sense, given his injury history, to let him rest his wheel.

>Jose Bautista has hit .436 since John Russell let him out of the doghouse 13 games ago, and he's only booted one ball in the past 36 games. If Joey Bats can give Pittsburgh a little production at third, the whole lineup looks different. And he needs to. He tends to carry his at bats in the field with him.

>After a couple of days, Ian Snell was still feeling a little stiff but should be fine after taking a line drive to his lower left back and left elbow in the third inning of Friday's game.

He's scheduled to go Wednesday against the Nats.

>Ronny Paulino's visit to Indy may have as much to do with his pitch selection as his bat. With Paulino behind the dish, batters hit .304/.471 slugging, compared to Ryan Doumit's .264/.384 and Raul Chavez' .278/.395.

Runs per inning doesn't favor him either - he gave up .68, Doumit .52, and Chavez .43. Over nine innings, the runs per game break down to Paulino - 6.12, Doumit - 4.68, and Chavez - 3.87. Quite a difference, no?

And while fielding percentage is fairly even - Doumit and Chavez have more passed balls than Paulino, who actually has the best % - Paulino had a 23% throw out rate for steals, Doumit 38%, and Chavez 44%. Both Doumit and Chavez have picked runners off; Paulino hasn't. To us, that says more about keeping your head in the game than it does about arm strength.

Now Chavez' stats are skewed because he missed the Matty Mo era, but in this case, the numbers don't lie. Paulino was sent down as much to learn game management as to rediscover his lost stroke. Physically, he catches an OK game and showed improvement over last season. But his game prep still needs a lot of polishing.

>On June 1, 2007, Matt Capps stepped into the closer's role for Pittsburgh and has been nearly perfect since.

He's converted 93.9 percent (31 of 33) of his save chances, which is tops in the NL and second only to the Yankees' Mariano Rivera (41 of 43, 95.3 percent) during that span. This season, Capps is a perfect 13-for-13.

>Bryan Bullington has languished in the pen since his call-up on May 29th. He hasn't worked since starting at Indy on May 25th. But the Bucs aren't too worried - they told the Tribune Review's Rob Biertempfel that BB's future is in the bullpen, not as a starter.

"Van Benschoten is our sixth starter," GM Neal Huntington said. "We don't feel as strongly about keeping Bullington stretched out as we do with Van Benschoten."

>Sean Burnett hasn't worked since June 1st, as the Pirate starters have finally been going deeper into games. After a rough start, he's been unscored on in 3 of his last 4 outings, going 5-1/3 innings with 5 hits, 1 earned run, 4 Ks and 1 walk. Burnett's ERA has dropped to 6.75. It was 9.39 before that stretch.

On the minor league front: C Ronny Paulino's Indy debut was smashing. He hit 2 home runs and went 5 for 5 with a double and 3 RBIs. The down side is the Indy pitchers gave up 13 runs and lost. 3B Neil Walker hit his 7th home run and went 3 for 5 with a double, raising his average to .233.

>Brad Lincoln takes the hill for Hickory again today. He's 3-1 with a 2.01 ERA, and his heater has been timed in the 90-94 MPH range. His rapid recovery from TJ surgery is one of the bright spots for Pittsburgh this season.

On the draft front:WTM's Player Profile Page has the dope on most of the Buc's 2008 selections. Check it out.

>Three of the high school players the Bucs selected, according to Dejan Kovacevic of the Post Gazette, fell to them because of potential contract demands: OF Robbie Grossman, expected to go in the top two rounds but taken in the 6th; RHP Andrew Gagnon, taken in the 10th round but wanting 5th round money; and 3B Zach Wilson, taken in the 26th round.

All have the advantage over the Bucs because if they don't sign, it's off to college and a chance to improve their leverage in future drafts.

>He also adds that 2nd round pick Tanner Scheppers has minor labrum damage, and the Pirates will monitor his condition before deciding if he's worth the big bucks he's seeking.

He wants paid according to his pre-injury ranking as a top ten player. The Pirates may just throw him back in the pond if an acceptable deal can't be reached and take a compensatory pick, even though the 2009 draft is considered to be fairly weak at this point.

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