Monday, June 30, 2008

We had 'em all the...oooops.

Second and third, one out, up by one in the ninth. Can't score. Junior goes yard in the bottom of the ninth. Walks off. *ouch*

On the Pirate front: Paul Meyer of the Post-Gazette and Rob Biertempfel of the Tribune Review both report that for the first time in 52 years, a Pirate pitcher will bat somewhere other than ninth.

Paul Maholm, starting against Cincinnati, will bat eighth, with Jack Wilson batting ninth. The GW rues the day Tony LaRussa joined the NL Central.

John Russell told the Trib: "That puts Jack in a situation where if he gets on, we've got the top of the order coming up. It just adds a little more offense and maybe gets a few more guys on base for Jason (Bay) and Ryan (Doumit)."

The last time a Pirate pitcher batted higher than ninth was Sept. 3, 1956. Bobby Bragan had his pitcher bat seventh for 20 straight games. The last Bucco hurler to bat from somewhere other than the bottom of the order was George "Red" Munger, who batted seventh, with Hank Foiles and Bill Mazeroski behind him.

> CF Nate McLouth was a late scratch from the Pirates' lineup tonight because of a sore left knee. Russell said he made the move because McLouth had fouled several pitches off his knee in recent days and also banged it up on a slide yesterday.

> Perhaps unnoticed, but a key to Ryan Doumit's mashing: his eye. The 27-year-old has struck out just 21 times in 156 at-bats this year compared to 59 Ks in 259 trips to the dish a season ago. His strikeout rate has fallen from 23.4% to 13.5%. Hit the ball more, get more hits. Pretty simple.

> The Pirates list John Van Benschoten as Wednesday's starter, with crossed fingers. If his right shoulder acts up, they'll turn to Yoslan Herrera or Bryan Bullington. Ah, nothing like the pitcher du jour.

> GM Neal Huntington has made 13 roster moves since Wednesday, beginning with the Denny Bautista trade, to keep fresh arms on tap. Busy dude - and we'd imagine Jeff Andrews has to look twice at the scorecard to figure who's in his bullpen on any given night.

> The Pirates pushed back Phil Dumatrait's return date back a couple of days to July 7. Ian Snell is still supposed to come back July 8, his first day off the DL.

> CF Chris Duffy, rehabbing at Altoona, must come off the DL Friday. He can still play in the minors, but the Pirates have to return him to a now full 40-man roster.

> Wonder if the Pirates nailed up a hoop to the bullpen? Denny Bautista is 6-7, Romulo Sanchez and TJ Beam are 6-5, and JVB is 6-4. Pretty good front line, hey? But can they pitch?

> Can the Pirate's improve on their first half of play? Only if the pitching shapes up. The Buc's starting ERA is over a run higher than the league norm. Even if Adam LaRoche and Freddie Sanchez find their strokes, you can't expect much more out of the attack. The fielding has been OK since Jack Splat's return.

So that leaves only one place to pick up the slack. Gorzo, Ian, are you ready to rumble through the dog days?

The Pirates, btw, are at 38-43, three games ahead of their record at the halfway point last season, when they were 35-46.

On the minor league front: Indy 3B Neil Walker hit his 13th home run, a three-run shot, in a 6-5 loss.

> At Altoona, 2B Shelby Ford hit his second home run of the year. It was the game winner as the Curve won 6-5 in 10 innings. He's batting .319 so far this season.

On the draft front: LHP Justin Wilson of Fresno State, the CWS champs, hopes to get his pro career started soon, now that the Bucs can talk turkey with him. They weren't allowed to negotiate with the fifth round pick while the college playoffs were still in progress.

Wilson, 8-5 with a 4.34 ERA, became Fresno State's ace after teammate Tanner Scheppers injured his shoulder, and was the winning pitcher in the 6-1 victory against Georgia that clinched the CWS.

He doesn't feel his workload in college will hinder him in getting back on the mound quickly. "I think I ended up with like 118 innings or 120, but my arm feels great and fresh and ready to play baseball," Wilson said to "I don't think there is a problem with me going out and playing a little bit more."

Scheppers is recovering from slight damage to the labrum in his shoulder and is expected to begin an independent throwing program early next month. Once the Pirates are convinced he is healthy, and they do think he will recover fully, talks will heat up.

No word on Pedro Alvarez, as both the Buc's and Boras have taken a vow of silence on the give and take going on with his contract.


WilliamJPellas said...

With the way McLouth has been struggling over the past 2 to 3 weeks, I wonder if his knee isn't more banged up than they (or he) are letting on.

On the minor league front, WHEN are they going to promote Jamie Romak to Altoona? What are they waiting for???

Ron said...

A good question, Will, and we've been wondering, too. Look what a bum knee did to Jay Bay last year. But the Bucs say he should be ready to play tonight, so we'll see.
Romak's hitting the ball quite sweetly, but Altoona has a couple of guys in LF Joel Pacheco and RF Bill Corely that are squaring up OK, too. Romak's advantage is age - he's 23, while the other two are 25. We suspect that once the picks are in and evaluated that there will be quite a bit of movement in the minor leagues for Pittsburgh.