First, the upcoming schedule. It is sweet; just 31 of the remaining 73 games are against division/wild card contenders. Here's who the Pirates see: Milwaukee (16 games), Cincinnati (11), Cubs (7), Philadelphia (7), St Louis (6), Washington (6), with three game sets against Atlanta, San Diego, the Dodgers, San Francisco, Miami and Houston, with a two-gamer with Seattle. They have the chance to ding the guys ahead of them and make hay against the have-nots.
A couple of things to note - the last 34 games feature 16 matches with the Cubs, Cards and Nats, while the remainder are versus Milwaukee, Cincinnati and Philadelphia, pretty much a feast-or-famine sked. Another is that the Pirates are only 6-5 against the Brewers/Reds to date. They'll face them 27 more times, so they need to improve on the first half results to make much headway. The schedule is favorable, but still presents its twists and turns. The Bucs (46-43) need to go 44-29 to reach 90 wins, a .603 clip, over the second half.
|The 2016 Bucco All-Stars and posse (photo Pittsburgh Pirates)|
- AS filler - this is The Sharks third All-Star game and Starling's first. It's also the first since 2010 that Andrew has missed. The Bucs have had multiple AS players for six straight seasons, the second longest string for the franchise, trailing only the 1958-1969 Pirates that had multiple reps for a dozen consecutive campaigns.
- The Pirate rotation after the ASB should be Gerrit Cole, Frankie Liriano, Jameson Taillon, Jeff Locke and Jon Niese-morphing-into-Tyler Glasnow. That still leaves some back-end depth - Steven Brault, Chad Kuhl, Ryan Vogelsong, and Trevor Williams, with Nick Kingham getting back into the swing of things, too. The pen even has a couple of options remaining, as V-Song is a capable swing guy, ditto with Kyle Lobstein, and Dovydas Neverauskas is making some noise, along with any of the bubble starting options.
- Clint has flip-flopped the roles of Arquimedes Caminero and Jared Hughes. Arquie is now the guy Hurdle calls on when an inning is getting away to staunch the bleeding; four of his last five outings have been bail-outs. Hughes is transitioning into the start-with-a-clean-slate, multi-inning guy. His last four appearances have been at the start of a frame, and his last two have covered multiple innings. So the ol' skipper still likes to have relievers slotted into a specific role, but he's not wedded to which individual pitcher fills that spot.
- Ryan Vogelsong said he will make a rehab start in Altoona on Friday for the Curve, then one in Indy. He should be ready for majors return then, per the Altoona Mirror's @CoryGiger.
- Indy reliever Dovydas Neverauskas is one of two far north World Futures Team members profiled by MiLB's Josh Jackson. He worked a frame in the showcase, getting three routine grounders after a leadoff single. He topped out at 98 on his heater with a hard slider as its partner.
- Finally, even with the emergence of the Indy pipeline, there's more to come. The next wave of Pirates pitchers include Mitch Keller, Clay Holmes, Yeudy Garcia, Luis Escobar and Stephen Tarpley, with position players Austin Meadows, Willy Garcia and Elias Diaz at AAA with Kevin Newman, Ke'Bryan Hayes, Reese McGuire, Cole Tucker, and Harold Ramirez on the rise. After some rough early drafts, the FO has rallied to keep the system bubbling at all levels.