Friday, March 27, 2009

10 Days To Go...

Ten days to go before the Bucs kick it off with a four game set at St. Louis, and there are still some story lines yet to finalized...

-- Virgil Vasquez will take the hill tonight to claim his stake in the unlikely battle with Jeff Karstens for the fifth spot, with Jason Davis hovering as a spot starter/long guy.

-- What Ian Snell will the Pirates have in 2009? The 2007 version would be nice; the 2008 edition pretty much guarantees another dismal year for a young and not-so-settled staff.

-- Will the Bucs land Will Ohman? Sean Burnett hasn't proven to be any more than a LOOGY so far this spring, and Donnie Veal has been great or terrible, with no in-between. John Grabow and Ohman would be a nice, veteran set of lefties behind the rotation.

-- Can Evan Meek stick this time around? He had a leg up until he went down with a sore shoulder; his next couple of appearances should write his ticket to either PNC or Indy.

-- When will Phil Dumatrait return, and will he be Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde?

-- Andy Phillips is supposed to be ready to play this weekend. If he hits the field tomorrow, he'll have eight games left to convince the suits that he's a better choice than Brian Bixler, Luis Cruz, or Rox trade bait Jeff Baker for utility dude.

-- Craig Monroe has to stay strong down the stretch to hold off Jeff Salazar and Steve Pearce. We expect he will, given his production and right-handedness.

-- Ditto for Nyjer Morgan, except he has to show something and in a hurry, we assume. The poor hitting (.186) wouldn't necessarily be a deal-buster at this point, but without the patience to draw a walk (.242 OBP), well, we'll see how that accountability thing works this year.

-- Robinzon Diaz or Jason Jaramillo? One can hit the ball; the other can catch a game. And both are looking better than Ronny Paulino. The ex-Pirate was supposed to make 36-year old Chris Coste expendable in Philly; instead Paulino is the one on the block.

-- What LaRoches will show up when the games count? Can Adam overcome the April blues, and will Andy look like the can't-miss prospect he was touted to be or revert to his sad sack 2008 showing?

-- Andrew McCutchen, Jose Tabata, Shelby Ford, and especially Pedro Alvarez have shown that the Pirates do have a little organizational depth and a reason to believe in the future.

-- Garrett Jones and Brian Bixler are having nice springs, and will probably get stockpiled at Indy as the insurance policies for potential down-the-road deals involving Adam LaRoche and/or Jack Splat.

-- Tom Gorzelanny's fall from grace is astounding to us. We have to wonder if he'll screw his head on straight at Indy or if his days as a Pirate are done.

-- The Bucs are carrying 40 guys; they have a week and three days to get it pared down to 25. We'd expect some cuts to come this weekend. And as other teams trim their rosters, will any pitching fall into the Pirates lap?

Six weeks of camp gone, and still more questions than answers.

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