Sunday, April 4, 2010

Almost Showtime

Hey, we actually kinda feel sorry for the Bucs this year. They had such high hopes for Brandon Moss and Kevin Hart. Their fizzle left two spots open for four players - Hayden Penn, John Raynor, Steve Pearce, and Ramon Vazquez - and none of them, judging by their play, want the positions, either. No wonder the suits are keeping both eyes on the waiver wire.

To no avail, it seems. They let Vazquez go, sent Pearce to Indy, and kept Raynor and Penn. Raynor is on borrowed time; he looks like Tabata's place-holder. Penn is 2010's Donnie Veal, except that he can't be stashed at Indy next year since he's out of options.

D.J. Carrasco and Jack Taschner, as expected, made the team. Space on the 40-man roster was cleared when Jose Ascanio (60-day) and Joel Hanrahan (15-day) were placed on the DL, again as expected. (The moves were reported by the Post Gazette's Dejan Kovacevich)

Well, no surprises. We believe this is still a very transitional team, and some good things did happen. Andrew McCutchen looks like the real deal; his running mate, Lastings Milledge, appears to have grown up, too. Andy LaRoche is a keeper that still may have a bit of upside. Jeff Clement has shown that he can hit a baseball, although catching one is still a struggle.

The pitching? Respectable at best. It's very thin, and badly needs a couple of lights-out guys. The pitch-to-contact staff is also going to be hurt by the loss of leather-meisters Jack Splat, Nyjer Morgan, Freddy Sanchez, Adam LaRoche, and company. The team has feverishly addressed an almost stunning lack of arms that it inherited from the prior bossmen, but it takes time and luck.

Neil Walker showed signs of maturing at long last. Pedro Alvarez, Jose Tabata, Brad Lincoln, and Donnie Veal all looked like they belonged during their time in camp. And the young guns - Tony Sanchez, Starling Marte, Chase d'Arnaud, Brian Friday, Jordy Mercer, and the gang - got a taste of MLB life, and quite early in their careers, by Bucco standards.

But hey, don't expect a lot out of this squad; 70-72 wins would be a good season for a team with far too few difference-makers. A club doesn't finish the spring 7-21 by accident.

But watch the pieces begin to fall in; the process started with McCutch a few months ago and will continue. 2010 isn't about the here and now; it's just another small step toward 2012 and beyond, when the Coonelly/Huntington team should take form.

The 2010 Opening Day roster:

Pitchers (12): DJ Carrasco, Brendan Donnelly, Octavio Dotel, Zach Duke, Javier Lopez, Paul Maholm, Daniel McCutchen, Evan Meek, Charlie Morton, Ross Ohlendorf, Hayden Penn, and Jack Taschner.

Catchers (2): Ryan Doumit and Jason Jaramillo.

Infielders (6): Ronny Cedeno, Jeff Clement, Bobby Crosby, Aki Iwamura, Andy LaRoche, and Delwyn Young.

Outfielders (5): Ryan Church, Garrett Jones, Andrew McCutchen, Lastings Milledge, and John Raynor.

-- The Pirates aren't having some politico toss out the first pitch tomorrow. Jamie and Ali McMutrie, two Ben Avon women who rescued 53 children from Port-Au Prince after the Haitian earthquakes, will share the honor. Well played, suits.

-- The Altoona Curve opener will be shown in parts on ESPN, according to the Altoona Mirror's Cory Giger. The game, beginning at 2 PM Sunday, April 11th, will feature the first pro start of Steve Strasburg and will have cut-ins during the ESPN News segments.

-- Mike Dubee, 25 year-old RHP for the Bucs' Altoona club, threw a perfect eighth inning in yesterday's 4-3 loss in Philadelphia. He went 5-1 last year with a 2.14 ERA in stops at Altoona, Winston-Salem, and Lynchburg, so the strong outing wasn't a surprise.

But it was a big moment for Dubee. Not only did he pitch against the NL defending champs in a MLB house with 41,000 people watching, but he threw in front of his dad, Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee. Papa D had only seen his son pitch professionally three times prior to Saturday; both are kinda busy during the season.


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