What does the first dozen games tell us about the Bucs? Not a lot, but enough to make it seem like the darkest days are over.
First, the players. Lastings Milledge and Garrett Jones look like they're getting it. Andrew McCutchen is looking more and more like a top of the order player. The other guys are as advertised so far, except for Jeff Clement, who is doing better in the field than at the dish, just the opposite of what the Pirate brass were hoping to get from him.
They suits aren't going to hit the panic button quite yet, but if he continues to struggle, Ryan Church will go into right and Jones will take over first.
The bench players look like they can play a little, and seem to be a bunch of character guys. It's not easy when you're looking for leadership from your pine riders, but that's the position the Pirates are in right now. Church and Bobby Crosby seem to be saying - and doing - all the right things so far.
The pitching needs to carry some of the load. It's shown some improvement, but the whole gang, with perhaps the exception of warhorses Zach Duke and Paul Maholm, along with bullpen arms Evan Meek and Joel Hanrahan, have miles to go.
The rotation is young and inconsistent; the relief corp is old and inconsistent. You'd suspect that there's a trend in there someplace, but danged if we can spot it.
The fielding you see is the fielding you get. McCutchen and Andy LaRoche can pick 'em, Milledge is coming along, and Ryan Doumit is off to a decent start, though he still carries balls out of the zone. Aki Uwamura is banged up and range-challenge, Ronny Cedeno is, well, Ronny Cedeno, and the others...
Jones is a first baseman in the outfield. Clement is a catcher playing first base. Young moves to a different position every season; no wonder the poor guy never learned how to play the infield.
But what we like is that this team is the start of the future; guys now will stay or go because of the competition or their performance, not because they're worth two Single A pitchers and a bag of balls.
We think they've got enough positional players in the pipeline to have a decent team in a couple or three seasons; whether they can bring the pitching up to speed is another question. But at least now, the team's not just jettisoning the past, but actually moving into the future.
-- Tomorrow's game against the Brewers will match RHP Charlie Morton (0-2, 13.50) vs. RHP Dave Bush (2-0, 2.37).
-- Karen Price of the Trib-Review reports that if Andy LaRoche's back problems lead to a trip to the DL, GM Neal Huntington said his choices for a call-up from Indianapolis include Neil Walker, Steve Pearce and Argenis Diaz.
-- Dejan Kovacevic of the Post-Gazette writes that Huntington said the team will pick from one of the following four to start Saturday: Brian Burres, Kevin Hart, Chris Jakubauskas or Brad Lincoln. The back end of the Buc rotation is still up in the air with the open dates and Ross Ohlendorf's balky back.
-- Hayden Penn has decided to report to Indy after clearing waivers.
-- Ramon Vazquez has signed a minor-league deal with Seattle.
-- Jim Pagliaroni, who caught for the Pirates between 1963-67, died last week at the age of 72 from cancer. On Nov. 20, 1962, he and Don Schwall were acquired from the Boston Red Sox in return for pitcher Jack Lamabe and first baseman Dick Stuart.