Friday, March 20, 2009

Deja Vu All Over Again

Well, it was to be expected that the Buccos would get taken to the woodshed by the BoSox today - it was an away game at Fort Meyers, so all the Red Sox would be there while the Pirates sent a busload of B-squadders to more or less compete.

The final was 11-4, and the highlights were a three-hit day by Robinzon Diaz (.500), who added a double, 2 RBI, and a run scored, and two more knocks from Craig Monroe (.311). And Brandon Moss returned to action, going 1-for-4 and looking like he'll be in shape for opening day.

But that pitching...Jeff Karstens went three innings, giving up 4 runs and 3 walks; Donnie Veal walked 4 in 1-2/3 frames, and Denny Bautista, Evan Meek, and Sean Burnett, who gave up three tallies in his inning of work, were all roughed up. Ross Ohlendorf was banged around in yesterday's minor league game.

So the bullpen, which had been so stellar in the early part of camp, is now springing leaks galore. And the starters? Remember last year's complaint that the rotation was set without any competition? Well, the first game isn't until April 6th, and as it stands now, your five starters are annointed. The more things change...

But we think that if there isn't a seachange for the better from the Pirate arms - and the team's record will depend mightily on their work - that there will be some change.

It won't come from free agency; Pedro Martinez is the only guy out there that would help, and his price and self-value seem to preclude any Pittsburgh interest. And there's no one on the near horizon skyrocketing in the Pirate system.

In the next coupla weeks, though, teams will be faced with cut downs. There are some interesting arms that could pop loose, maybe as trade bait, maybe as guys without an option left.

Cory of the Pirate Revolution mentions the Rays' Jeff Niemann, and there are other possibilities to join the list, like the A's Chad Gaudin, the Indian's Anthony Reyes, the Twins' Philip Humber, the Angels' Shane Loux, the O's David Pauley, and they're not alone.

So we think this year will be different. After last season's bitter lesson about pitching depth, we don't believe the Pittsburgh suits will sit still for a repeat performance. Hopefully, the staff will answer the bell for 2009. If not...


WilliamJPellas said...

I read the bit about Niemann, and he is definitely an intriguing arm who could realistically come here. As you say, there are at least a handful of serviceable-or-better arms that will be cut loose by deeper, better teams around MLB. There is no doubt that one or more of them would look very good in black and gold in 2009.

Meanwhile, I'm becoming very concerned about Sean Burnett. While I was definitely thrilled to see him make it all the way back last season, and as much as I think he had a better season in '08 than his numbers indicated, he's getting knocked around at an alarming rate this spring. I know Kerrigan was messing with his mechanics, and of course Burnett's arm is held together by paper clips and chewing gum, anyway. I bet the suits will think twice about dealing Grabow if Burnett is hurt and/or ineffective.

Ron Ieraci said...

Yah, Will, the draft helped jump start the process of filling in for position players, but there's still a huge gap in pitching talent in the upper levels.

So just like they reached out for Tyler Yates last season, we think that they'll still be in the market for a young back-ender this time around.

That ten-man starting competition sure fizzled this year; the only answer is to keep bringing in arms until someone earns a spot through performance, not necessity.

WilliamJPellas said...

Well, I wouldn't say it fizzled completely. There was still more competition this spring than there was last spring---though I'll grant you, that's not saying much! Still, we're headed, ever so slowly and painfully, in the right direction. Let's hope the suits stay the course and keep on keeping on with The Plan.

Ron Ieraci said...

Oh, there was more competition, Will. I guess it shows how long it takes to stock MLB caliber arms in a system when your picks don't work out over a span of a few seasons.

And I sent you some Vince Lasheid clips. He was a City sports icon for three decades or so.