Thursday, June 12, 2008

Til their arms fall off...

Cruising along with a 6-1 lead against the depleted Nats after 5 innings, the Bucs were looking to have an easy get-away day. No such luck.

Gorzo faded, Sean Burnett got toasted (although in his defense, it's hard to take a ten day break from pitching and be any kind of sharp), and memories of the series opener were becoming more and more vivid.

But Pittsburgh hung on, thanks to a huge K by Tyler Yates and Damaso Marte's first save in a Pirate uniform, and the Bucs took the series with a 7-5 win.

The bats won today, led by Ryan Doumit's two hit, three RBI day - with another homer - and bench riders extraordinaire Chris Gomez and Doug Meintkiewicz, who had a pair of hits, too, along with Nate McLouth. Jason Michaels drove in the insurance marker with a pinch-hit double.

Is it just us, or has Mientkiewicz become the Pirate version of down and dirty Pittsburgh Penguin sparkplug Jarkko Ruutu?

Give the unorthodox John Russell some credit, too, for putting Doumit behind the plate today when the book said he should sit. And Doumit, too, for catching two games in the scorching heat within 20 hours. It's great to be young, we've heard.

We're guessing that Raul Chavez will catch tomorrow at Camden Yards and Doumit will DH after that workload, especially with the O's LHP Brian Burres on the mound. The other Baltimore hurlers scheduled are Radhames Liz and Daniel Cabrera, both RHPs. But Russell has surprised us many times before, sooo....

The Buc bullpen is in desperate need of a deep game from one of the starters. The five amigos seem like they've pitched every day, and Russell has shown great reluctance, probably wisely, to expose Burnett or Bryan Bullington in a close game.

The word is that Marino Salas has regained his nastiness at Indy, and may come up soon to replace the well-rested Bullington, who's finally gonna get some innings in the Indian rotation.

They need to do something before the pen suffers from collective chronic fatigue. (Bullington was sent down today; expect Salas to join the big club again tomorrow.)

On the Pirate front: For those of you that remember Adam LaRoche exploding last June, think back on this: on this date in 2007, LaRoche had a batting average of .211.

>The interleague stretch has the potential to be a make or break time for Pittsburgh, even after their recent mediocre 11-11 showing against the division.

The Cubs will be missing Alfonso Soriano for 6 weeks with a broken wrist, and the Redbirds will go 3 weeks without Sir Albert, who has a strained calf, and also put RHP Adam Wainright on the 15-day DL with a sprained finger on his pitching hand.

If the Bucs want to seriously hang around, there's no time like the present to make a move. They have everyone healthy; the Central leaders will be without their top guns until July. They play in Baltimore tomorrow, the start of 15 straight games against the AL.

Pittsburgh is 57-94 in interleague play, and a particularly horrid 20-54 on the road. Must be that designated hitter thing that fouls up Pittsburgh, hey?

On the hot stove front: Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports says that unlike in past seasons, the Pirates are not under pressure to move salary.

Left-handed reliever Damaso Marte is their only potential free agent of significance, and the team could offer him arbitration after declining his $6 million option and potentially keep him under club control.

The best guess, then, is that the Pirates will operate strategically, trading either Bay or Nady but probably not both as they await the arrivals of Andrew McCutchen and Steve Pearce. They also could move a reliever and certainly a starter in the right deals.

He adds that Bay for Matt Kemp is a possibility if LA continues to struggle. He's the most attainable of the hitters under contract beyond this season. He is not yet 30, ranks 12th in the NL in on-base/slugging percentage and qualifies as a bargain at $5.75 million this season and $7.5 million in '09.

Even so, the Dodgers probably would require the Pirates to expand the deal rather than trade Kemp for Bay straight up — and the Pirates have pitching to spare.

On the draft front: The Pirates today signed SS Benjamin Gonzalez, (7th round), LHP Chris Aure (15th round), RHP Brian Leach (25th round), and CF Edwin Roman (27th round).

Gonzalez and Roman played for the Puerto Rican Baseball Academy. Both are speedsters with great gloves and wiffle-ball bats.

Aure is the highest-drafted Alaskan since Chad Bentz was taken in the 7th round by the Montreal Expos in 2001. He pitched for North Pole HS. Leach threw for Southern Mississippi and was 2-4 as a junior.


WilliamJPellas said...

I've been wanting to see Marte get the occasional save opportunity since he came here. Really dunno why he's rarely been used in closing situations, as he has more than 30 career saves. Overspecialization (Marte is purely a setup man in the eyes of Pirates management even though he's closed before---why???) has really hurt baseball, in my opinion.

Ron said...

We think that might have been a Jim Tracy/Dave Littlefield obsession, Bill.
We checked - Capps has 35 career saves; Marte has 31. And since he's been used against all comers this year, Marte's splits are RH - .238; LH - .237. In other words, identical success against righties and lefties.
Capps splits are more traditional: RH - .217, LH -.250.
But as you mentioned before, there's a little baseball bias against LH closers. After all, MLB is a right-handed world, and that's probably why Marte is tagged with a set-up role. But we'd be comfortable with him closing, too, especially if he gets to kep working against the RH batters. Now he sees about 2-1 righties; Capps sees about a 50-50 split.

WilliamJPellas said...

Ron, you forgot Tony LaRussa, the Evil Genius Of Overspecialization! ;-) Years ago there were more lefthanded closers, as you know. I don't think Sparky Lyle's managers ever thought twice about putting him in there in save situations, and Grant Jackson hit double figures in saves for us at least a couple of times under Chuck Tanner. No reason Marte couldn't close from time to time---though Capps is rightly The Man here, I'd think Russell would be comfortable going to Marte.

WilliamJPellas said...

BTW, regarding Kemp, I don't see where the big advantage would be for us. If he's already making $5 mil this year and $7.5 next and then is a free agent, how is that any better than keeping Bay for about the same dollars through the end of his deal, or offering Nady arbitration and paying him similar dollars in 2009? If we trade Bay and/or Nady, it needs to net us a return of young players whom we would control for at least 2 full seasons beyond this one, and ideally for longer than that. I really like Kemp, he's a good ballplayer, but he doesn't make sense for us economically speaking.

Ron said...

Yah, Bill we couldn't agree more - unless the Pirate brass aren't blowing smoke and intend to be competitive contract wise. Then we get younger and add some pop.
We'll have to see how that plays out. But if they are on a budget, and we have to assume they are, for sure the team should aim for a couple of guys they control for probably a four season minimum.