A few thoughts on the 2009 Pirate camp:
-- Whatever happened to the bright career of Tom Gorzelanny? From 14-10 with a 3.88 ERA in 2007 to 6-9 with a 6.66 ERA last year and a quick demotion to Indy in 2009. Did he get overused, maybe injured, and ruin his mechanics under Jim Tracy? Did he get an attitude that carried over into his preparation?
Whatever the problem, his sudden fall from the heights put a big hole in the already pitching-weak Pirate plans to move forward.
-- Nate McLouth, Ryan Doumit, and Paul Maholm all showed signs of building on last season's success this spring, and are locked in with long-term deals. That's an encouraging sign for the future of the team's direction both on and off the field.
-- Andrew McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez shone in their MLB auditions, as did Jose Tabata, Shelby Ford, Brian Bixler, and Jim Negrych to a lesser degree. For a team in transition, having these guys on track is a necessity, and they all look like they can handle the show so far.
-- Andy LaRoche had a great camp. The way he, Brandon Moss, Craig Hansen, Ross Ohlendorf and Jeff Karstens perform this year, their first shots at being regular MLB contributors, will dictate the moves the suits will have to make down the road and the timetable for becoming a respectable franchise once again.
-- What version of Zach Duke, Ian Snell, and Phil Dumatrait will show up in 2009? Duke seems to have established himself as a fairly dependable back-ender, but Snell and Dumatrait need to perform nearer their sizeable potential for a thin Pirate staff to carry the team in 2009, especially with an erratic bullpen and diminished attack to back them.
-- Do Steve Pearce, Neil Walker, and Brian Bixler have a future with Pittsburgh? 2009 won't be the telling year, but 2010 will be.
-- The suits showed they have a decent eye at building a bench this year after mostly striking out last season. Can they do the same with the bullpen?
-- Will Bob Nutting provide the purse to string together a series of good drafts and compete in the Latin and international market? If attendance takes an early hit this year, we'll get the answer sooner rather than later.
-- Adam LaRoche, Freddy Sanchez, and Jack Splat will all be making $8M or better in 2010 and are all likely short-term Bucs. With McCutchen due up this year and Alvarez and Tabata knocking on the door, the 2010 team will be a lot more reflective of the future Pirates than the 2009 club, which is still in shakedown mode.