Monday, July 15, 2013

Bucs Cruise Into the All-Star Break...What's Ahead?

Image by Fred Carrow

OK, it's July and the Bucs are in first place for the third straight season. What everyone in Pittsburgh is holding their breath on is the reappearance of the dog day ghosts. Can the Pirates exorcise them?

The Buc pitching has been sublime, but the Pirates may look to add. Oh, we don't foresee any bullpen moves, barring injury. The relief corp is money in the bank as constituted, and Jared Hughes, Ryan Reid, Vic Black, Jose Contreras and Duke Welker are waiting at Indy.

But if Wandy Rodriguez can't go, and so far, so bad, the Pirates may decide to find another starter. Gerrit Cole was the Indy insurance policy; his partners in crime, Kyle McPherson and Phil Irwin, don't look like they'll be in one piece soon enough to help. That leaves tried-and-true Jeanmar Gomez, the long man now, and Indy's Brandon Cumpton as the cavalry. That's not a lot of depth with ten weeks to go and will be a sidebar to watch, especially as it's an extreme seller's market this year with not a lot of arms available.

The hitters don't need documented; they need help. The obvious place is on the bench. Travis Snider is having, well, a Travis Snider year, and the Bucs may bring in a Nate Schierholtz, David DeJesus type OF'er to bolster the pine and take a turn in RF. We're not sure what things Tony Sanchez has to work out at Indy, but Mike McKenry has to be looking over his shoulder. As for Brandon Inge/Josh Harrison, we'd expect an upgrade to be made.

It's also no secret that the Pirates could use one more big stick.  We're thinking that they may be looking at first base; Gaby and Garrett have had rough first halves. But they may be planning on regression, too - Jones and Neil Walker especially have underperformed up to now at the plate. Big second halves from them would help make the scoring blues go away.

One last thing is the schedule. After the break, the Bucs go on a 10 game road trip. First, it's three against Cincy, then four against the Nats, who are alive in the wild card race. After a three game set at Miami, they come home to close out the month with a four game series against the Cards. Those 14 games won't make or break the season, but there are a lot of scenarios that could shake up the current configuration.

It's been a great cruise so far...let's see if Clint Hurdle and the Bucs can complete the voyage this season.

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