Sunday, June 29, 2008

A dollar short...

Make a play, win a game. Xavier Nady was trying to do that when he uncorked a throw to third that not only missed the sack, but the whole zip code. A run scored, the hitter advanced to third and later scored on another single.

That's the way you lose 4-3 games. (Not to pick on Nady; Pittsburgh had a pair of runs gift-wrapped by the Rays.)

Actually, it was reassuring to see the X-Man back in right, starting a day game after a 13-inning night game. We were curious as to how well his sore wing would hold up.

Gorzo wasn't all that, but he was around the plate, using both sides of the dish, and like Ty Taubenheim the night before, bore down when he got into a jam. He had a season high 8 K's as he took a baby step towards returning to 2007 form.

Andy Sonnanstine pitched seven effective innings, junk balling between 65-85 MPH and completely flummoxing the Bucs. Then Troy Pericival closed the Pirates down in the 9th. He was throwing 91-92 MPH, and looked like the reincarnation of Bob Feller after the Buc bats were slowed down by Sonnanstine.

The competition now heats up. The next 14 games are against Central Division foes, with the Yankee make-up thrown in. The Pirates are 11 games behind Chicago.

The top two wild card teams are St. Louis and Milwaukee, and they're 8 games out in that race. At the halfway point of the season, they're running out of time to make hay.

On the Pirate front: Denny Bautista has a contusion on his right forearm, but he wasn't placed on the DL although his arm was still swollen yesterday. "If everything continues to progress the way we think it will, we should be able to use him by Monday," John Russell told the Tribune Review.

> The Pirates today recalled reliever Romulo Sanchez from Indy. Sanchez had a 2.85 ERA and four saves in 25 appearances for Indianapolis. We are confused as all heck by now and have completely given up on trying to figure out who or why.

> In the latest round of musical chairs, Nyjer Morgan was sent back to Indy. If Chris Duffy keeps tearing it up at Altoona, we wonder how long it'll be before Trent Jewett has three MLB-ready CF's on his roster?

> Jeff Andrews told George Van Benko of this about the Pirate pitching woes: "I'm spinning my wheels and manager John Russell is spinning his wheels. Unless they want to take the ball and throw it over the plate, there is nothing in the world that we can do to them."

"If they're trying to throw the ball and be perfect and trying to nibble on the outside, we can try to cajole them into doing it and say, 'Come on and throw strikes.' We can give them all the catch words, but until they, in their hearts, want to throw the ball over the plate and compete, we can't do a thing."

Pretty telling stuff on the mental make-up of the staff.

> Taubenheim was the ninth different pitcher to start a game for the Pirates this year, and it's only June. Last year, 10 different pitchers started a game for the Bucs.

> The official diagnosis on Frankie Osoria is that he suffers from bursitis in his right ankle.

On the hot stove front: The rumors concerning the Yankees and Damaso Marte won't go away. They know the Pirate's price, and the ball is in their court if they want him this year instead of waiting to see if he hits the market in 2009.

On the minor league front: C Steve Lerud homered in his Altoona debut last night.

> RF Jamie Romak hit his 13th home run and went 3 for 4 with three RBIs. He's hitting .301 for Lynchburg.

>The blue print for the Buc's new suits became pretty obvious in the draft - go for the bats. It looks to us as if they'd like to cast the team in a more of an AL mold, with big sticks and power arms. That's natural, given their background, but should make some longer-term Pirate minor leaguers a little nervous.

> BTW, don't write off Jimmy Barthmaier quite yet. The Pirates think he has MLB stuff, and aren't about to throw him under the bus like the Reds did to Phil Dumatrait. Barthmaier has spent very little time above AA and is still considered very much a work in progress.

> Why did the Buc's roll the dice on Tanner Scheppers? After facing Joba Chamberlain, Scott Kazmir and Edison Volquez in three consecutive series, is it any wonder they have pitcher envy?

On the ex-Pirate front:
The Reds signed 32-year-old journeyman Rob Mackowiak to a minor-league contract. He was sent to AAA Toledo. Mack started the season with Washington and hit .132 in 58 bats before his release.

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