Sunday, March 15, 2009

Today's Battles and Tomorrow's Warriors

* The Bucs were blasted by the Yankees B team yesterday, 13-10, in a game that wasn't as close as the score (Pittsburgh scored five runs in the ninth).

What's interesting in the results is how the starting rotation, with the caveat that there are still three weeks of camp left, is beginning to come together.

Ross Ohlendorf (0.96 ERA) went 4 innings of no-hit ball, and looks pretty solid behind Paul Maholm (1.00 ERA), Ian Snell (WBC), and Zach Duke (1.86 ERA). But what happened to the rest of the field?

Jimmy Barthmaier (18.69 ERA) and Daniel McCutchen (11.37 ERA) appear to have pitched their way back to minor league camp, and Tom Gorzelanny (7.50 ERA) and Jeff Karstens (6.75 ERA) have been lackluster, to be generous. Oddly, both claim to be pleased with their stuff, and say they're just suffering from the bumps associated with spring training, working on different pitches and command issues.

Phil Dumatrait just began tossing again, but he'll be on the DL to start the season. Virgil Vasquez and Jason Davis have had their moments, but they're Indy insurance policies.

Well, the Bucs are better off than they were a year ago. But even if Joe Kerrigan can walk on water, it speaks volumes to the organizational gap in pitching talent Dave Littlefield left as his legacy. The Pirates' best young arms are buried deep in the lower levels of the system, and Pittsburgh is still lacking in the NL arms race.

(Jen Langosch of looks at the rotation generally in Pirates Need Pick-Me-Up From Pitchers.)

* The Pirates visit the Rays in Port Charlotte today for a 1:05 p.m. contest. It's the first of back-to-back games between Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay.

The Pirates moved Jeff Karstens up a day in the pitching rotation in order to get him off the day that Paul Maholm was pitching, according to Jen Langosch in her blog. Karstens and Tom Gorzelanny will now both be pitching on the same day for the rest of the spring. Head to head for the fifth spot? We like it.

Jason Davis and Tyler Yates are also both scheduled to take the mound. The game will be broadcast on 104.7 FM.

* A couple of guys have taken a look at the Pirates' farm hands. There's no doubt the suits have strengthened that area; now the depth is considered mid-pack instead of bottom feeders, and it could be a couple of drafts away from nudging into the top third.

John Perrotto of Pirates Report features Farm System Making Progress while Jonathan Mayo of offers Ten Pirate Prospects To Watch and Pirates Regime Offers Promise.

Rob Biertempfel of the Tribune Review takes a quick look at the fast track the Bucs' Big Three of Pedro Alvarez, Andrew McCutchen, and Jose Tabata are on in his notes Talented Trio Ticketed For Minors.

* Chuck Finder of the Post Gazette highlights Perry Hill, Bucco infield coach. Among the tidbits are how Hill uses golf tees to position his players and has the infielders start warmups on their knees to speed up and soften their hands.

* Team USA got clobbered by Puerto Rico yesterday, 11-1. The game was called in the seventh, thanks to a ten run mercy rule, just like your local little league uses to protect its sad sack teams. Ramon Vazquez went 1-for-4 with a double and two runs scored; he's hitting .250 in the WBC. John Grabow pitched a perfect inning with two K's, and has been unscored on in limited work.

* If you're still in a lather about the lack of a cap in MLB circles, prepare to say "I told you so" after looking at the spreadsheet of Final Payrolls 2002-2008 put together by Maury Brown, who runs the Biz of Baseball. The rankings won't surprise you, though the gap between the Evil Empire and the rest of the league may.

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