Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Finding 25 Good Men Isn't That Easy...

-- Jeff Karstens didn't help his own cause this afternoon, allowing five runs in 5-2/3 innings against the Twins. He gave up 10 hits, walked two, and struck out two. Karstens also got nine fly-ball outs, indicating that he again had trouble keeping his pitches down in the zone. His spring ERA is now 6.17.

The Twins won, 12-8, and no Bucco hurler exactly covered himself in glory. Matt Capps faced six batters; four scored. Craig Hansen and Chris Bootcheck were nicked for runs, too. Jesse Chavez alone escaped unscathed, yielding a hit in 1/3 inning.

The Pirate youngsters did most of the damage. 2B Jim Negrych had two hits and three RBI; 2007's fourth round draft pick, 20-year old OF Quincy Latimore, had two hits, with a triple and two runs scored; and last year's third rounder, SS Jordy Mercer, walked and scored.

Jack Splat had a two-run homer and Ramon Vazquez added a pair of hits and a tally.

The Pirates face the Red Sox tomorrow at McKechnie Field. Paul Maholm will start for Pittsburgh, and he'll go against Josh Beckett.

-- To add a little drama to the Pirate bullpen situation, the Pirate beat writers report that Evan Meek just doesn't have the flu, but bronchitis. Bad timing for both Meek and the Bucs.

So the Pirate pitching dilemma continues. The question isn't who to cut, but who deserves to stay. And there may not be a dozen that earned a ticket north judged on their spring performance. With a week to go until the games count, you'd like your pitching to fall into place, not disarray.

-- The rumor mill in Florida, from beat writer Joe Fisaro on his Fish Pond blog:

As reported, Robert Andino is on the Pirates radar, and the Marlins are talking Brian Bixler as a possible return. Given Bix's spring, that deal is unlikely. The Pirates might try to wait out Florida and pick Andino up on waivers if he doesn't make the cut or get dealt elsewhere.

The Fish are also looking for a lefty to balance their bullpen, and Sean Burnett is an arm that might interest them, according to Fisaro.

-- Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports says that the Pirates are in the mix for the Ray's RHPs Jeff Niemann or Jason Hammell, along with the Rangers, Nationals, Indians, Padres, Brewers and Rockies.

They're both out of options, and are available, if the price is right, because of the depth of Tampa Bay's highly-regarded AAA staff, led by David Price. But the Rays won't give them away; they could keep both and cut Lance Cormier if the offers aren't up to snuff. Nice situation to be in, hey?

-- Rosenthal adds that the Rockies could end up keeping Jeff Baker as a right-handed pinch-hitter rather than trading him. Apparently no one, including the Pirates, have made an offer they like yet.

-- Jason Stark of ESPN picks a variety of All-Money Ball teams. In his "All-Future Markets" team for up-and-comers, he includes Pirate ranch hands Shelby Ford ("Watch out, Freddy Sanchez"), Pedro Alvavrez ("Pirates still buzzing about his 550-foot BP homer this spring") and Andrew McCutchen ("Why do you think Jason Bay doesn't work here anymore?").

-- In a related piece, Jen Langosch of MLB.com has an article on the Indy club, which she believes may have seven potential position-playing Pirates on the roster now or shortly in the future: Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker, Shelby Ford, Brian Bixler and Steve Pearce, with Pedro Alvarez and Jose Tabata joining later in the year. Langosch likes Robinzon Diaz and Garrett Jones as well.

She may be wildly optimistic, but hey, it's nice to see actual young talent in AAA instead of waiver wire guys and old vets. And we did notice that she avoided mention of any pitchers.

-- Langosch also says that the Pirates are leaning heavily to keeping former #1 pick Daniel Moskos in the rotation. They're working on his mechanics, trying to get a return to college form for the hard-throwing lefty by eliminating some head movement. He'll start at Altoona.

-- GW caught the end of "Baseball Today" on ESPN when he got home from work, and they were doing the Central Division previews. They picked the Cubs first, natch, and the Bucs last - with 62 wins! The only Pirates they showed any love for were Nate McLouth and Pedro Alvarez. The previews will be on their website Thursday.

-- Yahoo!Sports has a breakdown of the Pirates strength's and weaknesses as they embark on the 2009 season.

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