Thursday, March 12, 2009

Big Country Holding On to the Dream

* Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post reports today that Brad Eldred is opening some eyes in the Nat camp.
"He beat the Houston Astros with a walk-off, two-run homer Monday, then crushed a three-run homer to the opposite field off New York Mets right-hander John Maine on Tuesday.

Eldred spent last season with the Class AAA affiliate of the Chicago White Sox, for whom he hit 35 homers and drove in 100 runs in just 427 at-bats. He also struck out 144 times, and he's stuck behind a slew of Nationals veterans capable of playing first base -- Nick Johnson, Dmitri Young, Adam Dunn and Josh Willingham among them."
Big Country is on the wrong end of a numbers game, but still carries a thunderous stick.

The 29-year old slugger hit .199 for the Pirates in two roster visits in 2005 and 2007, pounding 14 HR and 30 RBI in 236 at-bats. More noticable were his 93 strike outs, a 42% K rate. His career minor league line is .263-157-495 in 2,257 at-bats, with 698 whiffs (31%).

Svrluga also reports a bit of conditional Washington love for newly signed Kip Wells, whom the team is hoping has a come-back year under the tutelage of his former pitching guru Spin Williams.

* The wind was blowing straight out today, and Craig Monroe loved it. The big guy walloped three home runs - and two were really tagged - with 4 RBI as the Bucs took a 6-4 win home today against the Twins. Ryan Doumit and Nate McLouth went yard, too.

Virgil Vasquez went three scoreless innings, giving up two hits, as he tries to join the fray for the "fifth man in the rotation" competition. Craig Hansen and Tyler Yates continued their unscored-upon spring streaks, and Jesse Chavez and Chris Bootcheck put up zips.

Denny Bautista gave up a homer, and Sean Burnett gave up three runs when he allowed a two-out, two-run single to Drew Butera.

The Pirates meet the Phillies at Clearwater tomorrow for a 1:05 p.m. game. Zach Duke will start for the Bucs, followed by Daniel McCutchen, Matt Capps, Brian Slocum and returning Canuck WBC lefty Dave Davidson.

* Hey, it's Dan McCutchen day in the media. Jen Langosch covers the righty for, while John Perrotto at Pirate Report focuses on his shared Oklahoma background with skipper John Russell. The GW even covered him Friday as "The Other McCutchen."

* Rob Biertempfel of the Tribune Review does a piece on Ross Ohlendorf, trying to rediscover his change-up now that he's starting instead of bullpen fodder.

* The beat guys are looking hard at the pitching battles in camp. Dejan Kovacevic of the Post Gazette writes of the looming decision for the last spot, so far being contested between Evan Meek and Chris Bootcheck, while John Perrotto of the Pirate Report checks out how the rotation is shaking out.

* DK also mentions that Andy Phillips has missed a few days with a stiff back, the result of a misstep after a bus ride to Saturday's game at Fort Meyers. He may be back for the weekend.

* Jen Langosch in her blog adds that Phil Dumatrait was shut down because of shoulder soreness, and may miss a couple of weeks before he's ready to pitch BP again. We're sure he'll start the year on the DL now, but GW has to wonder if his arm is a blowout waiting to happen after this latest setback.

She also reports that Shelby Ford jammed his wrist and will be out for a few days, too.

* The Altoona Curve are jumping on the Steeler bandwagon. Linebacker LaMarr Woodley will be da man at Blair County Ballpark for the team’s home opener on Thursday, April 16 against the Erie SeaWolves and will toss out the ceremonial first pitch.

* And then there were eight, as the WBC keeps rolling along. The next round will pit the US, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, and Holland in one pool while the second grouping will have Cuba, Japan, Mexico, and Korea go at it. The two winners from each bracket advance.

The four survivors play single game eliminations on Saturday and Sunday, March 21-22, and the two left standing go for all the marbles on Monday, March 23. Then it's MLB, all the time.


WilliamJPellas said...

I'll tell you something about Brad Eldred: when I saw him in Louisville two years ago---after the Pirates sent him back down to Indianapolis---I was really impressed. He looked to be in top shape, he wasn't moping or jaking it, he moved quite well around the first base bag for such a big man, and of course when he runs into one, it goes and goes and goes.

It's a shame he had the broken wrist just as he should have been in position to get a full season as the Pirates' first baseman. If he hadn't been hurt, we probably would never have acquired Adam LaRoche---not that Adam has turned out badly, but he certainly doesn't have the power that Eldred does.

I still think Eldred would hit 35 home runs with his eyes closed if someone would take a deep breath and give him 450 at bats. The only question would be whether he would otherwise hit enough to justify the enormous number of whiffs he would surely rack up. With his power, if he could manage even a .240-ish batting average, he'd be a real asset. I'm thinking, a poor man's Adam Dunn.

Ron Ieraci said...

Yah know Will, I always thought that he was the second coming of Dave Kingman. And King Kong lasted 16 MLB seasons.

Funny how careers work out, hey?

WilliamJPellas said...

Roger that. The bottom line, for me, is that Eldred has SERIOUS power. There is no question about that whatsoever. Why no one will take a longer look at him, I don't know. The Dave Kingman comparison is another good one.

Ron Ieraci said...

Sabermetrics hate guys like Eldred; that's all I can come up with, Will.