Thursday, March 31, 2016

Buc Bats Break Out to Close Spring, Notes

Tomorrow: It's a get away day. The team hops to Indy to face the Reds in a final tune-up on Saturday before coming home to square off against the Redbirds.

Today: The Bucs sent 10 batters against Jake Odorizzi in the opening frame and scored five of them.  The RBI hits were singles by David Freese and Michael Morse, with the big blow a three-run shot by Matt Joyce. It was just the start of a day filled with fireworks during a 13-8 Bucco win.

Fran & The Shark are ready to go (photo Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

S-Rod banged a grand salami, Fran went long and The Beast's hammy appeared to be just fine as he went 2-for-2, scoring twice with a run driven in. Cole Figueroa kept his name in play, too, with an RBI double. None of the pitching was noteworthy, tho, except for the Shark, who ran up a 1-2-3 frame. The final box score of the spring is here.

  • The Pirates finished the spring with a 8-20-2 slate.
  • Channel 4 will kick of the season tomorrow night with an hour long show "Chronicle: The Bucs in Bradenton" at 8PM.

Thursday: Cuts Continue, Opening Rotations Set - Nicasio In, V-Song to Pen; Notes

Today: The Buccos say au revoir to sunny Florida when they visit Tampa Bay at the Charlotte Sports Park at 1:05 to close out the Grapefruit League. The game will be on MLB.TV with streamed audio from MLB.com; there's no local TV/radio coverage.

The pitching: Kyle Lobstein gets to lob the last grapefruit of the spring. Ryan Vogelsong will follow, with Neftali Feliz, Mark the Shark and Tony Watson also available.

Kyle Lobstein closes out the 2016 Grapefruit League season.

The lineup: John Jaso 1B, Fran Cervelli C, David Freese 3B, Michael Morse DH, Matt Joyce RF, Jordy Mercer SS, Cole Figueroa LF, S-Rod CF, P-Flo 2B (Lobstein P). Morse is testing his hammy at DH; Figueroa & Florimon are battling for a spot (Jason Rogers, who is also in the running, made the trip and will come in during the second half of the game).

Yesterday: Jon Niese gave up a couple of early runs, then settled in to toss three scoreless frames.The Bucs made a pair of errors later in the game, and both led to unearned runs in a 4-4 tie w/Boston. Cutch homered, doubled and singled, scored twice, drove in a pair, and walked. He did, however, prove human when he was caught stealing. We're going out on a limb by guessing he's gonna stay in the #2 spot.

El Coffee smacked a pair of doubles. Jason Rogers only had one hit, but walked four times; he must have gotten the OBP memo. S-Rod booted a ball at short and went 0-for-3 while stranding five runners. Makes us wonder if Cole Figueroa has passed him up as the handy man. We'll find out soon, tho it's not like the FO to eat a contract. Click here for the box score.

  • Five players were assigned to minor league camp: Ed Easley, Jim Fuller, Jorge Rondon, AJ Schugel and Jacob Stallings. That leaves 30 players in camp now. Cory Luebke (who is in for sure; his opt-out date was yesterday & he's still here) and Kyle Lobstein look like they made the cut. Jung-Ho Kang, Jared Hughes and Elias Diaz will presumably start the year on the DL. That leaves Jason Rogers, Cole Figueroa and Pedro Florimon for one last bench spot, assuming that S-Rod is in. Another position could open if Michael Morse's hammy leads him to the DL; he's in today's lineup to see how it holds up. So stay tuned; there still may be a twist and turn remaining...
  • Clint announced his opening starters v the Cards. They are: Sunday - Frankie Liriano, Tuesday - Jon Niese, and Wednesday - Juan Nicasio. Ryan Vogelsong will start out in the pen. St Louis will counter with Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha and Mike Leake. 
  • Nicasio is scheduled to pitch in Florida at Pirate City on Friday and Gerrit Cole will work Saturday. They'll join the team in Pittsburgh for Opening Day on Sunday, and hopefully Cole will be stretched out and effective enough to go against the Reds in the following series.
  • Jung Ho Kan played defense, batted, and ran (straight-line to first only) in a minor league game yesterday. He homered, so the trainers let him take a Cadillac jog around the bases. Inch by inch, step by step... 
  • Jason Hunt of the blog Fake Teams posted on Minor League Ball his 10 Boldest Predictions for 2016 - check out #4!
  • Mike Wysocki of Pittsburgh City Paper's Cheap Seats column picks his All-PNC Park team.  
  • Root Sports will air 150 Bucco games this year. Click here for the local TV schedule. 
  • Casey McGehee signed w/Tigers on minor-league deal.
  • The KC Royals released OF Travis Snider.

3/31: PNC Opens; Operation Shutdown Begins; The Kid's First HR & First MLB Replay, More

  • 1887 - RHP Chester “Chick” Brandom was born in Coldwater, Kansas. Chick tossed from 1908-09 for the Bucs, getting into 16 games and going 2-0-3 with a 0.94 ERA. The Bucs were loaded back then, and he was sent back to the minors despite that shiny record. But he may have a greater claim that his Bucco stint. A 1908 picture of Chick shows him delivering a knuckleball, and that would make him the first known practitioner of that pitch, predating guys like Eddie Cicotte.
Chick Brandom - knuckler? (photo via RMY Auctions)
  • 1895 - OF Carson “Skeeter” Bigbee was born. He played eleven years for Pittsburgh, his only MLB club, from 1916-26, and hit .287 lifetime. His best seasons were 19-22, when he batted .323 and .350, scoring 3 runs over that span and leading the NL in singles both years. Bigbee stole 182 bases in his career, which earned him his “Skeeter” nickname.
  • 1945 - The Pirates traded OF Vince DiMaggio to the Philadelphia Phillies for P Al “Lefty” Gerheauser. Both were near the end of their playing days; DiMaggio hung up the spikes after the ‘46 season and Gerheauser won just seven more games in three years.
  • 1984 - C Gene Tenace ended his 15-year career when he was released by the Pirates in spring training. He had hit .177 for the Bucs in 1983 as a 36-year old. Tenace had a great eye and was an early OBP machine. His BA was just .241, but he had a .388 OBP for his career and nearly 1,000 walks. Even in his last season with the Bucs, he had more walks than hits.
  • 1988 - The Chicago Cubs traded minor league LHP Mike Curtis to the Pirates for RHP Mike Bielecki. Bielecki turned into a journeyman pitcher, working 14 years in MLB while Curtis never got out of AAA, ending his career as an Indy league pitcher.
  • 1997 - The Pirates lured FA 1B Kevin Young back to Pittsburgh from KC with a $400K contract. He would sign two more deals with the Bucs worth $28M over the following six seasons before retiring after the 2003 campaign. The 1B hit .259 over 11 years with the Pirates. He’s now back with the club as a special instructor.
Kevin Young 1998 Circa Thunder
  • 2001 - PNC Park hosted its first MLB baseball game when the Pirates and Mets played an exhibition. The game was a sellout as NY won 4-3. The Mets won the next day’s spring game too, 3-2, notable mainly because Aramis Ramirez hit the first HR in the park’s history.
  • 2002 - “Operation Shutdown” OF Derek Bell was released, telling the media he would sail into the sunset on his yacht rather than be forced to compete for a starting spot. His voyage as a ballplayer, tho, was scuttled as he never appeared in another MLB game.
  • 2003 - Pittsburgh helped the Reds christen Great American Ballpark. Cincy played second banana for the yard’s opening act; the Bucs won 10-1 behind homers from Reggie Sanders, Kenny Lofton and Jason Kendall, all banged in a six-run second inning. Kris Benson got the win.
  • 2008 - In an Opening Day shootout at Turner Field, the Bucs beat the Braves 12-11 in twelve innings. Damaso Marte and Matt Capps blew a 9-4 ninth inning lead, capped by a fly ball dropping between LF Jason Bay and CF Nate McLouth with two outs to tie the score. Pittsburgh reclaimed the lead in the top of the 12th on a Xavier Nady three-run bomb, but Atlanta almost tied it again with two runs in their half before Franquelis Osario nailed down the save. The X-Man had four hits while McLouth, Freddy Sanchez and Ryan Doumit had three to prime a 17-hit attack.
Xavier Nady 2006 Upper Deck
  • 2014 - Neil Walker blasted a tenth inning, 3-2 changeup from Carlos Villanueva deep over the Clemente Wall to give the Bucs and Bryan Morris a 1-0 Opening Day win over the Cubs at PNC Park. Francisco Liriano and Jeff Samardzija started the game, leaving it for the bullpens to decide. It also marked the first use of expanded replay, which had been rolled out in the Arizona Fall League, when Cubs manager Rick Renteria challenged a double play in the top of fifth inning. The original call on the field of out at first was confirmed by replay.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Wednesday: Bosox Visit; Rainout Loss Yesterday; Lineup, Pitching, Notes

Today: It's the last home game of the spring; it's almost showtime. The Bucs host the Bosox at 1:05 to close out McKechnie Field's spring schedule. The game will be on Root Sports and MLB.TV; no radio.

The pitching: Jon Niese answers today's bell; David Price climbs the hill for Boston. The other pitchers for Pittsburgh are TBA (EDIT - Cory Luebke & AJ Schugel will follow).

The lineup: Josh Harrison 2B, Cutch CF, Jason Rogers 3B, Starling Marte LF, Gregory Polanco RF, S-Rod SS, Stew C, P-Flo 3B, Niese P. Good to see Gregory back while Jordy still has an eye infection.

Yesterday: Steven Brault, meet the Yankees *ouch* After a 1-2-3 opening inning, he gave up a three-spot in the second, thanks mucho to a two-run blast by Carlos Beltran (in justice, it was raining at the time; maybe Brault isn't a mudder). The Bronx Bombers tacked on a couple of more in the third.


Jose Osuna's two-out, two-run knock made it 5-2 after four. Arquie tossed a quiet frame before Jake Stalling's fifth frame bomb cut the lead to two. Starling's single plated Erich Weiss, running for Josh (who had a double and triple), to get it close but that was it. After four straight innings of rain, the tarps went down & stayed down, making the Yankees 5-4 winners in 4-1/2 frames.

Also getting his work in was Jeff Locke, who threw six innings/99 pitches in a sim game against a lineup of Bucco AAA players at Pirate City yesterday, with the outs/runners situations being determined by Ray Searage. Afterward, as a rainstorm approached, Jeff went and tossed a bit more in the bullpen to make sure he got his 100+ pitches in for the outing.

  • The Pirate segment of "Thirty Clubs in Thirty Days" will be on the MLB Network tonight at 7PM. 
  • MiLB's Alex Craft looks at Pittsburgh's most intriguing prospects.
  • Don Kelly was released by the Marlins.

3/30: HBD George & Hal; Deacon Phillippe Passes Away; Rincon & Meadows Inked

  • 1866 - OF George Van Haltren was born in St. Louis, Missouri. He played briefly for the Pirates in 1892-93, hitting .325, but was deemed expendable because of a deep outfield. A borderline HoF player, Van Haltren was sold to the New York Giants, where he spent the next decade putting up a .321 BA. He started his career as a pitcher, and in 1888 tossed a rain-shortened no hitter against the Alleghenys.
  • Hal Rhyne Wide World Sports photo 1926
  • 1899 - IF Hal Rhyne was born in Paso Robles, California. He began his career in Pittsburgh (1926-27), coming over with Paul Waner from the San Francisco Seals, and hit .258. He was a .250 batter in his seven MLB years and a minor league lifer, spending 20 years on various farm clubs. Rhyne came to the majors with a reputation as a hitter. The back of a 1926 photo carries a caption that claimed his “magnetic eyes” made a ball look twice as large as normal. He might have been better off with a magnetic bat instead, although he did finish with a .291 career BA on the farm, playing until he was 41. 
The back of Rhyne's photo, via RMY Auctions.
  • 1952 - Deacon Phillippe passed away. The RHP tossed 12 seasons (1900-11) for the Bucs with a 168-92 record and 2.50 ERA, winning 20 games six times and never suffering through a losing season. He won three World Series games against Boston in 1903, beating Cy Young in the opener and tossing five complete games. Toward the end of his career, he worked six shutout innings in the 1909 Series against Detroit. In 1969, Pirates fans voted him as Pittsburgh's top all-time right handed pitcher.
  • 1997 - The Pirates purchased LHP Ricardo Rincon from the Mexico City Reds. In 1997-98, he went 4-10-18/3.17 for the Bucs, and was then traded to Cleveland for Brian Giles in one of Pittsburgh’s better baseball deals.
  • 2002 - RHP Brian Meadows signed as a minor league free agent with the Pirates. He was called up mid-season and lasted four years with the Bucs, converting from a starter to a reliever who made 133 appearances in his last two seasons with Pittsburgh. Meadows went 8-12-2 with a 4.20 ERA from 2002-05 with the club. He lasted one more year with Tampa Bay before retiring.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Tuesday: Joyce In, Seven Others Sent Down; Another Loss Yesterday; Yankees on Deck; Notes

Today: Pittsburgh visits the Bronx Bombers at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa. The Yankees are playing with a split squad today, with the A Team staying home to play Pittsburgh. The game starts at 1:05 and will be on MLB.TV and streamed on MLB.com; no local radio or television.

The pitchers: MiLB dude and hot down-the-road prospect Steven Brault gets the nod. Jorge Rondon, Jim Fuller and Arquimedes Caminero will follow. CC SAbathia is slated to go for NY. Jeff Locke will pitch a minor league game at Pirate City today, too.

Steven Brault (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)

The lineup: Josh Harrison 2B, Cutch CF, David Freese 1B, Starling Marte LF, Michael Morse DH, Josh Harrison 2B, Jason Rogers 3B, Jose Osuna RF, P-Flo RF, Jake Stallings C (Brault P). OK, everyone is back in the saddle except El Coffee, and he may be sitting so the Bucs can get a last look at the bubble guys. It's also Freese's debut at first as a Pirate. Oooops - add Jordy to the sorta injured list. He was slated to hit leadoff but has pink eye and was scratched from lineup.

Yesterday: Gerrit Cole had a ragged outing. In 4-2/3 frames, he allowed a pair of runs on eight hits with a walk and four whiffs. Trey Haley held the 4-3 lead with a little bit of everything frame (zero runs, one hit, two walks, three whiffs), but Curtis Partch surrendered a three-run blast an inning later, and that was the final outburst.

Matt Joyce had two hits, including a homer, and two RBI; Michael Morse had a pair of knocks with a double. The box score is here. The spring isn't a harbinger of the season, but the Pirates 7-19-1 record is still disappointing, tho there have been very few days that the lineups that haven't featured youngsters and bubble guys instead of regulars.

Still, the starting pitching hasn't really sorted itself out - Cole (5.40 ERA), Liriano (6.08), Vogelsong (6.08), Locke (6.63) and Niese (9.82) haven't exactly hit on all cylinders. That's why guys like Juan Nicasio (0.00) and Kyle Lobstein (1.68) have been getting stretched out. But March numbers don't mean much; we'll see what April has to bring.

Matt Joyces catches a spot on the roster (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)
  • Some cuts were made today, none very surprising: Jake Goebbert, Trey Haley and Rob Scahill (who has an option) were assigned to Indy. Danny Ortiz, Antoan Richardson, Curtis Partch and Robert Zarate, (who has been hurt) were reassigned to Minor League camp. The camp roster is now 35 players.
  • OF Matt Joyce's day of reckoning has come, and he won a spot on the roster. The Pirates had the options to guarantee an active roster spot for Joyce, retain his rights for $100K until June 1st or release him.
  • GM Neal Huntington told the press gang that Jeff Locke will fill the four spot in the rotation, and Ryan Vogelsong/Juan Nicasio will duke it out for the final man.
  • JHK played a few innings at third in a minor league game, but didn't bat or run, altho he did run the bases on his own.
  • Gerrit Cole will stay in Florida for some weekend work before rejoining the team for the season.
  • John Sickels released his list of the Top 175 Prospects. The Bucs are repped by Tyler Glasnow (2); Austin Meadows (30); Josh Bell (70); Jameson Taillon (86) and Ke'Bryan Hayes (144). 
  • Deolis Guerra cleared waivers and re-signed with the Angels to a MiLB deal.
  • Clint Barmes was released by KC.
  • The Tigers handed Casey McGehee an unconditional release.

3/29: HBD Bob & Mike; Bucs Sign Varsho & Deal For Smith

  • 1894 - LHP Bob Steele was born in Cassburn, Ontario. Steele hurled for the Bucs from 1917-18, when they had some fairly poor clubs. He was 7-14, but his ERA was 2.87. Pittsburgh sold him to the Giants during the 1918 campaign, and 1919 was his last big league season. He did make the record books (albeit Canadien) when he tossed a no-hitter for the Moose Jaw Robin Hoods against the Calgary Bronchos (sic) in the Class D Western Canadian League in 1913.
  • 1961 - OF Mike Kingery was born in St. James Minnesota. Mike closed out his 10-year MLB career with the Bucs in 1996, signing on as a $750K free agent at the age of 35. He became their part-time center fielder, hitting .246 before retiring to Minnesota to raise his family and begin the Solid Foundation Baseball School.
Mike Kingery 1996 Fleer Ultra
  • 1994 - After being released by the Bucs the day before, Gary Varsho signed a $243,750 contract for a second go-around with the club, which he had played for in 1991-92 before joining the Reds. In his three years with the club, Gary hit .251 as a pinch hitter and extra outfielder. He returned one more time to serve as John Russell’s bench coach in 2008 before being let go in 2010, shortly before JR was dismissed.
  • 1997 - The Pirates traded OF Trey Beamon and C Angelo Encarnacion to the San Diego Padres for 1B/OF Mark Smith and minor-league RHP Hal Garrett. It was a wash; Beaman had a couple of decent seasons from the pine while Smith hit .285 with nine homers off the bench for the Bucs in 1997 but faded in 1998. None of the players involved ever sniffed a starting role.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Monday: Bucs Lose Another; Cole & Lineup v Twins Today; Notes

Today: The Pirates travel to the CenturyLink Sports Complex in Fort Meyers to meet the Twinkies. The game will be on Root Sports and MLB.TV, but no radio.

The pitching: Gerrit Cole gets the nod. He's been doing his back lot work, but only has two official Grapefruit league innings under his belt with the season looming. As of noon, the guys behind him are TBA. (EDIT: After Cole has done his work, the lineup will be Neftali Feliz, Trey Haley and AJ Schugel).

Gerrit Cole (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)

The lineup: John Jaso 1B, Matt Joyce LF, David Freese 3B, Michael Morse DH, S-Rod SS, Cole Figueroa 2B, Stew C, Danny Ortiz RF, Antoan Richardson CF (Cole P). Most of the A team are resting their their bruises today, and time is running out to decide on the bench, so let 'em play...

Last night: After giving up two solo homers in the first (one to Pedro), Trevor Williams settled in and shut down the Birds for the next four frames while the Bucs chased Ubaldo Jimenez in the opening inning with a three spot on four hits. But the Pirates couldn't add on and the Orioles did eventually, tying it in the eighth off Arquimedes Caminaro and then scoring a pair in the ninth off Cory Luebke, in his first back-to-back appearance of the spring. Pittsburgh was 2-for-12 with RISP; the Pirate offense has been sluggish in the clutch this spring. Here's the box score.

One sweet heads-up play - Josh blooped a double to left, chugged to second and never stopped; the 3B'man was slow getting back to the bag and the pitcher was covering home, leaving the hot corner unmanned. And of course, the mandatory boo-boo of the day: Jordy Mercer tagged from second to third, slid a bit awkwardly and came up limping. He was replaced a couple of pitches later. The Pirates later said that he "is being treated for left knee discomfort. Status is day to day."

Coach Tomlin talks to the troops (photo via Pirates)
  • Ray Searage gets a lot of credit for attracting pitchers here, and rightly so. But the FO's policy of moving bubble players to a team that will put them on the active roster is a strong selling point, too. Matt Gajtka of DK Pittsburgh Sports tweeted that Hurdle said the O'Flaherty trade was about opportunity. "He was in competition here, but he's got a roster spot over in Atlanta." 
  • Yep, new Pitt coach Kevin Stallings is the dad of minor league catcher Jake, who told the media gang "I never thought he'd beat me to Pittsburgh..."
  • Steeler head honcho Mike Tomlin stopped by camp and gave the boys a little locker room speech. He said he wasn't in Bradenton so much as a fan boy, but to see how another organization puts a team together.  
  • The Giants reassigned Gorkys Hernandez to minor league camp.

3/28: HBD Chief, Shark, Bryon; Deals For Heaton, Solomon; Cum Passes On

  • 1898 - RHP Moses “Chief” Yellowhorse was born in Pawnee, Oklahoma, fitting enough as he was a full-blooded Pawnee. His MLB years were 1921-22 and spent in Pittsburgh, where he went 8-4 with a 3.93 ERA, but had three different arm injuries that ended his career. He was one of the first, if not the pioneer, full-blooded Native American to play MLB ball. He could do little wrong in the Steel City and was a fan favorite during his stay in Pittsburgh. But he wasn’t all peaches and cream; he once drilled Ty Cobb between the eyes in an exhibition game for being too yappy at the dish.
  • 1946 - Cumberland “Cum” Posey, who owned the Homestead Grays from 1911-46, died in Mercy Hospital from cancer. He was part-time player until 1929, and managed until 1937. Posey was a big-time owner, and his teams played regularly in Forbes Field and Washington DC’s Griffith Stadium. The Grays won eight Negro League pennants and three World Series titles under his hand.
Cum Posey 1913 from the Homestead Gray Team Photo
  • 1969 - The Pirates traded RHP Tommie Sisk and C Chris Cannizzaro to the San Diego Padres in exchange for OF Ron Davis and IF Bobby Klaus. Sisk was on the backside of his career while Davis and Klaus never become big-time performers, but Cannizzaro became an All-Star in 1969 for the expansion Padres (albeit with a .220 BA) and had a 12 year career that ended after 1974.
  • 1980 - RHP Buddy Solomon was traded by the Atlanta Braves to the Pirates for minor league player Greg Field. Solomon worked 1980-82 for Pittsburgh, going 17-15-1 with a 3.58 ERA before being traded at the deadline to Chicago for 3B Jim Morrison. He died young in a car accident in Macon, Georgia, at age 34 in 1986.
  • 1985 - RHP Mark Melancon was born in Wheat Ridge, Colorado. Melancon came to Pittsburgh in 2013 from the Red Sox as a versatile back-ender, working both as set-up man and closer, and earned a spot on the ‘13 All-Star team. Mark the Shark took the closers job full time in early 2014, saving 33 games in 37 chances. In three seasons, he’s picked up nine wins, 100 saves and 41 holds from the Bucco pen while posting a 1.85 ERA (2.20 FIP) in 222 appearances. He won the Sporting News & Trevor Hoffman NL reliever of the year awards in 2015.
Mark the Shark (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)
  • 1987 - RHP Bryan Morris was born in Tullahoma, Tennessee. Acquired in the Jason Bay trade, he was part of the Bucco bullpen from 2012-14, going 13-8 with a 2.61 ERA before being dealt to Miami. The change of scenery did him good. Morris was other worldly in his Marlin stint, posting an 0.66 ERA (although his 3.03 FIP was more down to earth).
  • 1989 - LHP Neal Heaton was traded by the Montreal Expos to the Pirates for RHP Brett Gideon. Heaton worked four years for the Jimmy Leyland playoff teams of the early nineties and made the All-Star team in 1990. He was out of the MLB after the 1993 season and is a pitching instructor for the private All Pro Sports Academy in Bellport, NY.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Sunday: Pirates Lose Nightcap 3-1; Meet O's Tonight; O'Flaherty Sold; Notes

Tonight: The Pirates will play a third straight night game, this one at McKechnie Field against the Orioles. The match will be aired by Root Sports, MLB.TV, The Fan 93.7 and streamed by MLB.com.

The pitching: Trevor Williams climbs the hill, with his reserves TBA. Ubaldo Jimenez will toss for Baltimore. Juan Nicasio, who was due for the start, was slated instead to throw six innings and 100 pitches at Pirate City (Juan went six IP, giving up a run on seven hits w/one walk and five K against Toronto's AAA guys).

Trevor Williams (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)

The lineup: John Jaso 1B, Cutch CF, Matt Joyce DH, Jason Rogers 3B, Josh Harrison 2b, Jake Goebbert RF, Jordy Mercer SS, Cole Figueroa LF, Ed Easley C (Williams P).Shook this one up; giving Gregory and Starling time to recover, we suppose.

Last night: Another subpar outing for Frankie, who went 4-2/3 IP and gave up three runs on seven hits. And another subpar outing for the attack, too. David Freese went yard, but the team collected five hits and racked up another dozen K. So the split squad managed a run on 11 hits with 25 whiffs in 18 frames. Sheesh. Click here for the box score.

Another guy was pulled for precautionary reasons; seems like a pretty steady diet of small ouchies lately. This time it was Starling Marte, whose foot got caught and twisted a bit; he has right quad tightness. He played the field afterward before getting yanked, and it's a day-to-day thing. Starling is tentatively in tonight's lineup, & we'll see after warmups if he stays penciled in.

There was a little late inning excitement - a fan ran on the field, yelled into the Rays' dugout about playing in Cuba and tossed a couple of bottles at them. A coach grabbed him until the police could haul him away.

  • Eric O'Flaherty was sold to the Braves after a viable spring. His ERA was 2.89 although his WHIP was 1.82, and as a LOOGY, lefties went 2-for-11 against him. But 9-1/3 IP isn't much of a sample size pro or con. That leaves Cory Luebke and Kyle Lobstein in the running for the second lefty job. Luebke has an opt out while Lobstein has an option, but Luebke is an NRI while Lobstein is already on the 40-man, making it interesting. Another consideration is that it looks a lot more like Jared Hughes may start the season on the 15 day DL with his lat sprain.
  • C Elias Diaz has missed 10+ days with a sore elbow and still isn't throwing. It's thought to be a chronic overuse ache, but nothing requiring surgery, just rest and treatment. Still, he also may start the year on the 15 day DL.
  • The Bucs hired Puerto Rican native Mike Gonzalez as their MLB-mandated Spanish translator.

3/27: HBD Bill; Steverino Cut; Cangy Comes, Marte Goes...

  • 1895 - RHP Bill Burwell was born in Jarbalo, Kansas. Burwell pitched but one year for the Pirates, going 1-0/5.23 in 1928, but later served as a Pirate coach and scout (1947–1948; 1958–1962). Burwell was the acting manager of the Pirates for the final game of the 1947 season, after player-manager Billy Herman resigned, and beat the Cincinnati Reds, 7-0. He was the pitching coach for the 1960 WS champs, and as a minor league assistant, he helped develop Vern Law by teaching him how to change speeds and throw a change-up.
Bill Burwell 1980 TCMA
  • 1975 - The Pirates released RHP Steve Blass, who went from Game Seven World Series winner to a pitcher who had no idea where the ball was going once it left his hand, a condition that to this day is known as the “Steve Blass disease.” Blass is now a Pirate ambassador and member of the broadcast team for Root Sports.
  • 1987 - OF John Cangelosi was traded by the Chicago White Sox to the Pirates for RHP Jim Winn. Cangelosi became a useful bench piece for the Bucs, spending four seasons in Pittsburgh with a .243 BA, while Winn worked two more years in the show.
  • 2002 - The Pirates sent LHP Damaso Marte and minor league IF Ruddy Yan to the Chicago White Sox for RHP Matt Guerrier. The Bucs would get Marte back a few years later while Guerrier never tossed for the Pirates, spending two seasons in AAA, tho he ended up with an 11-year MLB career that ended after the 2014 season.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Saturday Part 2: Buc Lose Afternoon Game 3-0, Take On Rays Tonight (Lineup & Pitching), Injuries, Notes

Today: The Pirates played a split-squad doubleheader today. Tonight's game will feature the Rays at 6:05 at McKechnie Field. MLB.TV, Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan all have it covered.

The pitchers: Opening Day pitcher (in eight days; seems like kinda awkward timing between starts) Francisco Liriano gets the call, matching up against Jake Odorizzi. Trey Haley, Curtis Partch and AJ Schugel are also on the Bucco agenda.

The lineup: John Jaso 1B, Cutch CF, David Freese 3B, Starling Marte LF, Fran Cervelli C, Josh Harrison 2B, Jordy Mercer SS, Elvis Escobar RF, Frankie P.

Josh Harrison getting ready to take over second base (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)

After getting two hits off David Price yesterday as a late sub for Cutch, Tito Polo gets another call tonight, tho from the bench. Cutch is back in the saddle after a day off because of a quad tweak. However, Gregory Polanco was removed from the lineup because of a sore right shoulder, perhaps a consequence of a dive and hard crash landing yesterday. He's day-to-day. Michael Morse isn't in the lineup; he's expected to miss a couple of days with a mild hammy strain.

This afternoon: The Bucs got bopped by the Twins 3-0. Kyle Lobstein went nine up, nine down, but the second time around in the fourth, the Twinkies got to him for a pair of runs, adding another off Rob Scahill. The Pirates were held to six hits for a second straight outing, with Cole Figueroa banging out a pair. Striking out 13 times didn't help the cause much, either. The box score is here.

  • Brian Luxton of Low And Away picks John Jaso as his breakout Bucco for 2016.
  • Cincinnati signed Ross Ohlendorf to a one-year major league deal; he opted out of his KC contract and found a landing spot w/the Reds.

Saturday: Bosox Drop Bucs 6-3; Two Games Today - Lineup & Pitching For Game #1; Luebke Note

Today: The Pirates will have a split-squad doubleheader today. One group will travel to Fort Myers to play the Twins at CenturyLink Sports Complex at 1:05, and that game will be on MLB.TV only.  Another gang will entertain the Rays at 6:05 at McKechnie Field, and that contest gets all kinds of love. MLB.TV, Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan all have that one covered.

The pitchers: Kyle Lobstein will take the ball v the Twinkies. Cory Luebke, Jim Fuller and Rob Scahill will follow. Kyle Gibson goes for the Twins.

Kyle Lobstein (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)
Francisco Liriano gets the call against the Rays; we'll post the rest of the guys scheduled to work later.

The lineup: Antoan Richardson CF, S-Rod SS, Matt Joyce RF, Jake Goebbert 1B, Danny Ortiz LF, Stew C, Cole Figueroa 3B, P-Flo 2B, Lobstein. We'll post the evening lineup when it become available.

Last night: Well, V-Song is making a case for Juan Nicasio to pitch in both the fourth and fifth spots of the rotation (Jeff Locke isn't really giving us much reason to believe, either). He got singled to death by the Bosox, giving up nine hits (eight one-baggers), two walks and six runs in his 4-1/3 frames. It was enough for the Bucs to drop the contest to the Sox 6-3.

The bullpen arms went 3-2/3 IP giving up just one hit, so Arquie Caminero, Neftali Feliz and even MiLB dude Montana DuRapau did their jobs. Josh Harrison had a pair of knocks, as did sub outfielder Tito Polo, a late minute addition to the lineup. The rest of the club only added two more hits, tho, and so that was Part 2 of the storyline.

One big erasure from the lineup: Andrew was kept home because of quad tightness. The Bucs say it's purely precautionary, and Cutch did go thru drills at Bradenton, so knock on wood that it is minor. Fran slid to the two-hole, Starling to center, El Coffee to left and Tito Polo, MiLB guy just back from Colombia's WBC series and the organization's 2015 leader in stolen bases, was given a start in right. Here's the box score.

  • Southpaw Cory Luebke can opt out of his deal with the Pirates on Tuesday if he's not added to the active roster by then. He appears to be recovered from TJ surgery, but a leg injury early on kept him off the mound for a while. He's only tossed 3-2/3 IP and a couple of other lefties - Kyle Lobstein & Eric O'Flaherty - are ahead of him right now.

3/26: HBD Jack; Deals Day...

  • 1869 - LF Jack McCarthy was born in Hardwick, Massachusetts. McCarthy started for the Pirates in 1898-99, and hit a robust .298. But the Pirates landed Fred Clarke, also a LF, when they absorbed the old Louisville team and sold McCarthy to the Chicago Orphans. He played until 1907 and had a lifetime .287 BA.
Jack McCarthy 1904 (photo Chicago Daily News)
  • 1988 - C Mackey Sasser and RHP Tim Drummond were traded to the NY Mets for minor leaguer Scott Henion and 1B Randy Milligan. Milligan hit .220 for the Bucs before having some solid seasons at Baltimore while Sasser caught the next six seasons for the Mets, batting .286 for NY.
  • 2003 - The Pirates released RHP Matt Herges, for whom they had traded RHP Chris Young to the Padres in December. SD reclaimed Herges on April 1st, keeping their reliever and getting a young front line pitcher basically for free from Pittsburgh’s GM Dave Littlefield.
  • 2008 - The Pirates traded minor league RHP Todd Redmond to the Atlanta Braves for reliever Tyler Yates. Fastballer Yates went 6-5 in two seasons with Pirates, pitching to a 5.08 ERA before arm surgery derailed his career. Redmond finally got a shot at Toronto in 2013, and was effective in 2014 after being converted to the pen. He got beat up in 2015 at Toronto and spent most of the year in AAA. He’s now with the Baltimore organization.
Tyler Yates promo via Getty Images

Friday, March 25, 2016

Friday: Bucs Dropped by the Birds; Night Game v Bosox, Pitching & Lineups, Notes

Tonight: The Bucs visit the Red Sox for a 6:05 match, their first evening contest of the spring and kickoff to three night games in a row. It's at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers and will be on MLB.TV & 93.7 The Fan. MLB.com will show it on tape delay beginning at 8.

The pitchers: Ryan Vogelsong gets the ball with Arquimedes Caminero and Neftali Feliz behind him. David Price answers the bell for Boston.

The lineup: Jordy Mercer SS, Cutch CF, David Freese 3B, Starling Marte LF, Fran Cervelli C, Jason Rogers 1B, Josh Harrison 2B, Gregory Polanco RF, V-Song. This may be the lefty lineup; there is no real good leadoff option; we're sorta surprised Fran isn't plugged in there. For the Bosox, ol' Bucco Brock Holt is hitting leadoff tonight.

Don't get too many chances to see Jordy in the top spot (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)

Yesterday: Jon Niese cruised through the first three frames, then an RBI double and two run dinger blemished the outing. He did go six innings, giving up six hits and four runs (two left the yard) and raised a bit of a red flag with more balls hit in the air than on ground.  The Bucs made a game of it, going down 6-5 when Eric O'Flaherty gave up the losing run on three straight one-out knocks in the ninth. Jorge Rondon gave up a homer in his inning of work, so none of the Bucco hurlers escaped unscathed.

Matt Joyce had another big day, going 2-for-4 with a homer, walk, stolen base, two RBI and two runs scored. P-Flo is still channeling Honus Wagner as his two-run triple tied the game in the eighth inning. In fact, a pack of Pirates had two hits: Joyce, Stew, Cole Figueroa, who is battling Joyce for a bench spot, Michael Morse and Danny Ortiz. Here's the box score.

Some little ouchies to report - Michael Morse felt a hammy grab after a slide and sat it down; he said he thought it was minor. Both Jason Rogers and S-Rod were to supposed play today, but called off sick; this would not be an ideal time to have the bug going through the clubhouse.Seems to be small beans, tho; Rogers is penciled in on tonight's lineup card.
  • Corey Luebke has a fan club, per Jon Heyman. He tweets (sic) "Scouts r buzzing about Cory Luebke, 94 mph (87 curve) with pirates...Has out in deal."
  • Albert Chen of Sports Illustrated has the good, bad and ugly of the 2016 Pirates.
  • Fangraphs Neil Weinberg picks the Pirates as having the strongest left field in baseball according to projected WAR. Three guesses who the reason for that rating is... 
  • Deolis Guerra, claimed from the Bucs by LA via Rule 5 and recently released by the same has cleared waivers and chosen to become a free agent.
  • Pete Mackanin was signed to a new two-year contract by the Phils. This is Pete's fourth year as a skipper (Pittsburgh & Cincy priors) and he has yet to get a full season in.
  • On Tuesday, April 5th, Pittsburgh's Chick-Fil-A restaurants will be giving away free chicken sandwiches from 10:30 AM to 8 PM. All you have to do to get one is to come into the store (drive thru won't work) wearing Pittsburgh Pirates gear. The promotion combines the Bucs opening series  against the Cards with the store’s Customer Appreciation Day; they ran a similar promo last season.

3/25: HBP Lee; Bell Trade; Vanimal Inked; Maz Breaks Foot

  • 1955 - OF Lee Mazzilli was born in New York City. Mazzilli spent four of his 14 seasons as a Pirate, playing fairly regularly for his first two years (1983-’86) and hitting .244 overall. In 1986, the Mets were thought to have offered Ray Knight (who was nearing the end of his career) for Mazzilli, but the Pirates turned them down. Instead, the Bucs released Lee in July when he was hitting just .226, and he re-signed with NY for free.
  • 1965 - Camp isn’t all fun and games. Bill Mazeroski broke a bone in his right foot and was out of the Bucco lineup until May. He came back to hit .271 and earned another Golden Glove for his trophy case. It was the only time between 1964-67 that he didn’t appear in every game, and Maz still played in 130 contests after his foot healed.
Bill Mazeroski 1964 Topps
  • 1989 - The Pirates sent SS Felix Fermin and UT Denny Gonzalez to the Indians for SS Jay Bell to complete a PTBNL deal from November 28th, 1988. Bell manned the SS spot for eight years and earned an All-Star berth in 1993 for the Bucs. He returned to the team in 2013 as their batting coach before moving on to the Reds.
  • 2014 - RHP Vance Worley was purchased from the Minnesota Twins. After going 1-5 with a 7.21 ERA in 2013, Vanimal started out at Indianapolis, and after tinkering with his arm angle, he was called up to start on June 15th to replace injured Francisco Liriano. He finished the campaign with an 8-4 record and 2.85 ERA. After a 4-6/4.02 line in 2015, he was released and went to Baltimore.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Thursday: Bucs Beat Birds, Rematch Today - Pitching & Lineup, Guido, Wifredo Assigned, Note

Today: The Pirates again meet the Orioles, today at Ed Smith Stadium at 1:05. The game will be streamed on MLB.com; otherwise no radio or TV.

The pitching: Jon Niese will take the mound for a grapefruit clash for the first time in two weeks, having worked the back lot games for a couple of turns (one due to a rainout). Jorge Rondon and Eric O'Flaherty are also slated to pitch. Tyler Wilson will climb the hill for the Birds.

Jon Niese back on the bump (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)

The lineup: John Jaso 1B, Cole Figueroa SS, Matt Joyce LF, Michael Morse RF, Jason Rogers 3B, Danny Ortiz CF, Stew C, P-Flo 2B, Niese P. Today's reserves are Ed Easley, Jake Goebbert, Antoan Richardson, S-Rod & Jake Stallings.

Yesterday: Not so hot outing from Jeff Locke. Five innings, six hits, three runs. He left with the lead, though, as Cutch and El Coffee lost baseballs. Andrew has been on a power surge; Polanco was way overdue. The en fuego Starling Marte also went long, while Gregory and Fran each collected a pair of knocks. The Bucs had to withstand a two-run ninth inning rally by Baltimore against Corey Luebke to take home a 6-5 victory. Mark the Shark and Tony Watson put up zeroes and Rob Scahill got the last out for the save. Here's the box score.

  • JHK began straight line (no sharp cuts or foot planting) base running, going from home to first.
  • RHPs Guido Knudson and Wilfredo Boscan were assigned to the minor league camp.
  • Longtime broadcaster Joe Garagiola passed away at the age of 90. He was a Pirate catcher from 1951-53 during a nine year MLB career with a .262 BA as a Bucco.
  • The KC Royals released RHP Ross Ohlendorf.

3/24: Greenberg, Kiner Memorials; Mace Goes to the Bullpen in the Sky; HBD Gus

  • 1907 - 1B/OF Augustine “Gus” Dugas was born in St. Jean de Matha, Quebec. The reserve hit .250 in 1930 & 1932 (he broke his jaw in 1931) as a Bucco before he was sent to Philly as part of the Freddie Lindstrom trade. “Lefty” (his threw and hit from the left side), along with fellow Quebec-born major leaguers Tim Harkness, Raymond Daviault, Georges Maranda, Ron Piché, Claude Raymond, and Jean-Pierre Roy, threw the ceremonial first pitch before the inaugural Montreal Expos game at Olympic Stadium on April 15th, 1977.
Gus Dugas via Bases Empty blog
  • 2002 - RHP Mace Brown passed away in North Carolina at the age of 92. Brown was the first true dedicated reliever for the Pirates, appearing 207 times from the bullpen from 1935-31. He also started 55 games over that span, and ended up credited retroactively with 29 saves as a Pirate (a closer wouldn’t be a thing for several more decades; a save wasn’t even kept as a stat until 1969) to go with 18 complete games and two shutouts.
  • 2006 - At Mickey Mantle's Restaurant & Sports Bar in New York City, the U.S. Postal Service unveiled the "Baseball Sluggers" postage stamps which were issued on July 15th at Yankee Stadium prior to the game against the White Sox. The four Hall of Famers featured in the set had roots in New York with Mickey Mantle (Yankees), Mel Ott (Giants) and Roy Campanella (Dodgers) playing their entire careers in the Big Apple, and the fourth, Hank Greenberg, had set schoolboy records at James Monroe High School in the Bronx. Greenberg spent his final season (1947) in Pittsburgh where he mentored slugger Ralph Kiner.
Ralp Kiner 2005 Upper Deck Classic
  • 2014 - The Pirates announced that the team would wear #4 patches all season to commemorate slugger Ralph Kiner, who died on February 6th. Kiner led the NL in home runs for seven straight years (1946-52) and led MLB in long balls for six consecutive seasons (1947-52), both records. He was selected for the All-Star Game in six straight seasons, 1948-53. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

3/23: HBD Mike, Ray, Hooks, Wendell, Johnny & Lanny; Bunning SI Cover Boy

  • 1868 - OF/P Elmer “Mike” Smith was born in Pittsburgh’s North Side. Smith was a pitcher who was converted to the OF after his arm wore down. He played from 1892-97, then briefly again in 1901, for the Pirates. He was a good hitter with a .325 BA, .415 OBP and 136 OPS+ during his Bucco years. Smith also tossed for the Pirates in 1892, going 6-7/3.62. He remained a local boy after his 14 year career in MLB (during his playing days, he kept a North Side home on Madison Avenue), and when he died, he was buried in Union Dale Cemetery.
Mike Smith (photo via Union Dale Cemetery)
  • 1893 - RHP Remy “Ray” Kremer was born in Oakland, California. Kremer pitched ten seasons for the Pirates (1924-33), his only MLB club, and went 143-85, winning 20 games twice and leading the NL in ERA in 1926 and 1927. What's more amazing is that he didn't make his major league debut until he was 31 years old!
  • 1905 - OF Harold “Hooks” (he had noticeably bowed legs) Tinker was born in Birmingham, but migrated to Pittsburgh with his family in 1917. He played sandlot for the Edgar Thompson team, then the Pittsburgh Monarchs. Hooks joined the Pittsburgh Crawfords in 1928, playing center field and acting as assistant player-manager of the team; he was said to have discovered Josh Gibson. Tinker was on the team when it was sold to Gus Greenlee in 1931, but when faced with Greenlee's decree to "work or play," Tinker chose to leave the team and keep his mill job to support his family. But Hooks kept to a second calling while making steel and became a highly respected reverend in the Hill District.
  • 1914 - Writer Wendell Smith was born in Detroit. He was the baseball writer and sports editor for the Pittsburgh Courier from 1937-47. Smith covered the Homestead Grays, Pittsburgh Crawfords and the Pirates. He chronicled the early days of Jackie Robinson, and was reputed to be one of the industry insiders to recommend Jackie to Branch Rickey. He was recognized by the BBWAA Spink’s Award in 1993. In a bit of irony; the group had turned down his membership application while he was with the Courier, though in 1948 they finally relented and admitted him as one of its earliest black members, behind only Sam Lacy.
Wendell Smith (photo via National Baseball Hall of Fame Library)
  • 1926 - IF Johnny Logan was born in Endicott, NY. Logan spent the end of a productive 13 year career with the Pirates (1961-63) as a reserve, getting in 152 games and hitting .249. Playing mainly as a Brave, Logan batted .268 with 93 home runs, 547 runs batted in, 651 runs scored and 1,407 hits in 1,503 games. He was a four-time all-star, including three berths in a row from 1957-'59, and was on Milwaukee’s 1957 World Series-winning club.
  • 1948 - Pirate announcer Lanny Frattare was born in Rochester, NY. He was part of the Pirate broadcasting team from 1976-2008 and announced over 5,000 Bucco games during those 33 seasons ("...and there was no doubt about it"), becoming the Pirates longest-tenured voice before moving on to academia.
  • 1968 - Jim Bunning was featured on the cover of The Sporting News for the story “Bucks In Pirate Bank.” The season didn’t work out quite as expected, though. Injuries to his groin, ankle and hip led Bunning to win just four games as he came in with his worst major league season to date with a 4-14 record and 3.88 ERA.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Wednesday: Bucs-O's, Pitching & Lineup, Hughes Hurt, Prospects, Moves, More

Today: The Orioles come to Bradenton to play at McKechnie Field, with first pitch due at 1:05. No radio, but the game will be on Root Sports (replay at 7PM) and MLB.TV.

The pitching: Jeff Locke will start, with Mark Melancon, Tony Watson and Cory Luebke are on tap to follow. Miguel Gonzalez goes for the Birds, with Vance Worley penciled in also. Gerrit Cole, btw, is working a 65 pitch back lot game today to keep him on schedule.


Starling is having a big (10-for-20) spring - photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates

The lineup: John Jaso 1B, Cutch CF, David Freese 3B, Starling Marte LF, Fran Cervelli C, Gregory Polanco RF, Josh Harrison 2B, Jordy Mercer SS and Locke P. Looks like regular season if you swap out Freese for JHK & Jeff for Frankie.

  • MIA Jared Hughes is day-to-day with a pulled left lat in his back; apparently he injured it about a week ago.
  • If u have a fresh coffee and some time, Shane Tourtellotte of The Hardball Times has an in depth look at all five clubs in the NL Central Division. It's worth the read. If you're a little pressed for time, Chris Schubert of MLB Daily Dish has a current update of the division news. 
  • Bullpen coach Euclides Rojas came to America the hard way from Cuba, as this piece by Yahoo Sports Tim Brown explains. 
  • With the prez and the Rays in Cuba, might there now be an agreement reached over the transfer of Cubano ballplayers to MLB? 
  • Dan Farnsworth of Fangraphs rates the 2016 Pirate Prospects.
  • John Dreker of Pirates Prospects reports (sub required) that once-upon-a-time prospect Luis Heredia is being moved to the bullpen and that 3B Wyatt Mathieson has reinjured his shoulder.
  • Chris Volstad, released by the Braves a few days ago, has signed with the White Sox.
  • Alex Dickerson, who was sent to the Padres in 2013 for Jaff Decker and Miles Mikolas, was optioned back to AAA by SD. 
  • The Reds released Jonathan Sanchez.
  • Plum HS RHP Scott McGough was sent to AAA by the Fish. The Bucs drafted him late out of high school in 2008, but he went to Oregon and became a 2011-5th round selection of the Dodgers. Miami picked him up, and he got his first taste of the show last year.

3/22: HBD Jimmy, Moose & Michael; Bucs Buy Dann

  • 1882 - RF Jimmy Sebring was born in Liberty, PA, near Willamsport. He played for Pittsburgh from 1902-04, hitting .261, and in 1903 became the first MLB player to homer in a World Series game; he hit .333 against Boston in that first WS. The talented OF’er (he was an early “can’t miss” prospect) had a rift with the team over a couple of different incidents and was traded. He then played with a series of outlaw teams, sidetracking his promising career. Sebring was on the comeback trail when he passed away from kidney disease in 1910 at the age of 27.
  • 1906 - OF Julius “Moose” Solters was born in Pittsburgh. He never played for the Pirates, but was one of the better local ballplayers with one of baseball’s sadder stories. Moose (he was 6’1”, 190 lbs), the son of a Hungarian immigrant who worked at J&L Steel, went to Fifth Avenue HS. Solters played nine years in the AL for four clubs, slashing .289/89/559 and put up five double-digit homer seasons along with four 100+ RBI campaigns. In 1941, he was hit by a ball during pre-game fielding drills after he had turned to wave to his in-laws in the stands. Solters suffered headaches and double vision afterwards, effectively ending his baseball career, and slowly began losing his vision. He returned to his native Beltzhoover and ran a bar. Solters was also a key figure, along with Frankie Gustine, in planning and fundraising for Frank Vittor’s 1955 Honus Wagner statue. He passed away in 1975 and is buried in Calvary Cemetery.
Moose Solter 1938 Goudey "Heads Up" series
  • 1982 - 1B Michael Morse was born in Fort Lauderdale. “The Beast” (he’s 6’5”, 245 lbs) was a third round selection of the White Sox out of high school in 2000 and the Pirates picked him up in 2015 in a trade with the Dodgers. The Pirates are the 12 year vet’s seventh team, counting LA, who flipped him before he ever played a game for them.
  • 1987 - The Bucs purchased C Dann Bilardello from the Montreal Expos, and after a minor league stint at AAA Buffalo, he was sold back to Montreal in July. The Bucs then brought him back him back as a free agent signing in 1989 and he hit .225 as a bench guy. He was released after the year, signed again, and then released for good after the 1990 campaign when he hit just .054, spending both years mainly in AAA. In all, Dann played two seasons for Pittsburgh, appearing in 52 games and batting just .171.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Bucs Split Today, Off Tomorrow; Notes

Tomorrow: A day of rest; look out, beach! The team picks it up again Wednesday afternoon when they meet the Orioles at Bradenton. Jeff Locke starts; might be a big outing for him.

Today: Frankie had one of those days when he was falling behind in the count, and those rarely end well. Daniel Bard poured some hi-octane gas on Liriano's embers (three runs yielded without getting an out) and poof - it was Atlanta with a lot and Pittsburgh with a little in a hurry. The Bucs chipped away a bit, making the final score 7-3 Bravos. Eric O'Flaherty continued to be strong, running up another pair of scoreless innings with four whiffs, while Jorge Rondon and Trey Haley also kept the Braves at bay. To continue the spring MO, the Buccos stranded an even dozen. 14 strikeouts constitute a lot of wasted at bats. The Atlanta box score.

Eric O'Flaherty still sharp (photo vai MLB.com)

Meanwhile, Juan Nicasio kept on dealing after whiffing his way out of a first inning jam against Minnesota to put up five more zippo frames with eight K; Jeff Locke & V-Song would do well to look over their shoulders. The boys behind Juan did their job too - Neftali Feliz and Jim Fuller tossed four frames, surrendering one hit - as the Bucs took a 2-0 victory.The Minnesota box score.

  • Ruh-roh: C Elias Diaz has "lateral right elbow discomfort." He'll be treated and re-evaluated after a week of rest; he's been out of action since the middle of last week.
  • MiLB's Sam Dykstra ranks the Pirate farm system as #8, and lauds both its depth and star power.
  • Neal Huntington piled a couple more chips on the table when he told the press gang that Juan Nicasio will compete with Jeff Locke and Ryan Vogelsong for a back-end rotation spot. Hearing that has got to be a bummer for Kyle Lobstein.
  • Lyle Spencer of MLB.com ranks the outfields; we're #1.

Monday: Bucs Lose 3-2; Split Game Day v Braves & Twins; Pitching & Lineups

Today: The Bravos visit McKechnie for game one while and the Bucs take a trip to Hammond Stadium and Twinkieland in a split squad day. Both games begin at 1:05. The Braves game will be on 93.7 The Fan with no TV; the Minnesota game is a no-show.

The pitching: Frankie gets the nod against Atlanta, with Trey Haley, Jorge Rondon and Eric O’Flaherty following. Jhoulys Chacin gets the ball for Atlanta.

Juan Nicasio takes the honor against Minnesota with Neftali Feliz and Jim Fuller in tow. Kyle Gibson starts for the Twins.

The lineup: v Atlanta: Gregory Polanco RF, Cutch CF, Fran Cervelli C, Michael Morse 1B, Matt Joyce LF, Josh Harrison 2B, Jason Rogers 3B, Jordy Mercer SS, Frankie P.

Matt Joyce makin' a case for himself (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)
v Minnesota:  John Jaso 1B, Cole Figueroa 2B, David Freese 3B, Starling Marte CF, Jake Goebbert LF, S-Rod SS, Danny Ortiz RF, Stew C, Nicasio P.

Yesterday: The Bucs dropped a 3-2 decision, with the big blow a two-run Tulo shot off AJ Schugel that answered a two-run blast by Cutch. The Pirates also got their first taste of the new slide rule. The game ended when Antoan Richardson's hard slide broke up a DP with an out in the ninth, but the umps deemed to be a bit off-line, giving the Jay's the twin killing by decree.

The continuing bad news: the Bucs stranded 10. The SABR-approved OBP part is working, but the old timey RBI part is on the blink. The good news: Arquimedes Caminaro put in a six up, six down appearance while John Jaso drew three walks at leadoff and Starling Marte had three hits (two didn't leave the dirt, but hey, they still count). The box score.

Ryan Vogelsong (75-80 pitches), Mark the Shark and Tony Watson (15 each) tossed against Jung Ho Kang, Fran Cervelli, S-Rod and Matt Joyce in a Pirate City back-field game. The pitchers won the match up, although Joyce did hit a dinger off V-Song.

  • Colombia qualified for its first WBC tournament. Pirate prospects Harold Ramirez and Tito Polo are on the club, along with once-upon-a-time farmhand Dilson Herrera, who was the hero in the clincher
  • Jacoby Jones, who hit .313 w/two homers for the Tigers, was assigned to minor league camp. Just his luck to be in a spring group that has 20 guys hitting over .300. He was a Bucco prospect last year, before being sent to Motown for Joachim Soria.

3/21: HBD Mysterious, Bill & Manny; PA Buys Bucs; Estaban Inked; Deals

  • 1884 - RHP Frederick “Mysterious” Walker (his moniker came from pitching under a fake name for the San Francisco Seals) was born in Utica, Nebraska. He didn’t play much or well in Pittsburgh: in 1914, Walker pitched for the Pittsburgh Rebels of the outlaw Federal League and appeared in 35 games, tossing a career-high 169-1/3 innings with a record of 4–16 and a 4.33 ERA. He made more of a name locally for himself in football. He was Carnegie Tech’s head coach from 1912-13 (we assume during the off season) and in 1914 served as an assistant football coach under Bob Folwell at W & J College.
  • 1893 - The Pirates traded C Duke Farrell and sent $1500 to the Washington Nationals for LHP Frank “Lefty” Killen in a win-win deal for both clubs. Farrell banged heads with manager Al Buckenberger, and after leaving Pittsburgh played 13 more years as one of baseball’s better hitting catchers, retiring in 1905 with a career .277 BA. Duke, just recovering from a broken leg, appeared against his old mates for Boston in the 1903 World Series as a pinch hitter. Killen tossed six seasons for the Bucs with a 112-82/3.71 line and set the team record for wins with 36 in 1893, one of two thirty-win seasons he had for Pittsburgh.
Lefty - from an 1896 team photo
  • 1915 - RHP Bill Brandt was born in Aurora, Indiana. Brandt spent his brief career (1941-43) as a Pirate, going 5-3 with a 3.57 ERA and getting just 80-⅔ IP over that time. He was effective as a minor leaguer, but after serving his country from 1944-45, Brandt never pitched above AAA ball again, topping out at Hollywood in the PCL.
  • 1944 - Former Pirate C and current PNC restaurateur Manny Sanguillen was born in Colon, Panama. In 12 years with the Bucs, he batted .299 and was on three All-Star teams, which was quite a feat during the Johnny Bench era. Manny hit .282 in two World Series and five NLCS bouts. Noted for never seeing a pitch he didn’t like, the free swinger’s lifetime batting average of .296 is in the Top ten for catchers in MLB history. Like many Buccos, he was dubbed by Bob Prince; his nickname was "The Road Runner" because of his surprising speed as a catcher. Manny is still a well known figure with a ballyard eatery and service as a special instructor during the spring. 
Manny Sanguillen - 1981 Topps

  • 1982 - The Pirates traded SS Vance Law and RHP Ernie Camacho to the Chicago White Sox in exchange for pitchers Ross Baumgarten and Butch Edge. Law, who was at the beginning of his career, played nine more MLB seasons, once as an All-Star, and Camacho pitched for eight more years. Baumgarten and Edge never panned out for the Bucs.
  • 1986 - The Pittsburgh Associates, a coalition of 13 public and private investors, formally purchased the Pirates from the Galbreath family for $21.8M in a deal that had been essentially hammered out in the previous fall. The Associates were led by Mayor Richard S. Caliguiri along with Westinghouse, Alcoa, PPG, USS, PNC, Mellon, CMU and Ryan Homes. Private investors included Chicago real estate developer Harvey Walken, contractor Frank Schneider and businessman Frank Fuhrer and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette publisher William Block. It assured that the club would stay in Pittsburgh while a new long-term buyer could be found to keep the club in the city and out of the clutches of circling vultures like Portland and New Orleans.
  • 1991 - RHP Estaban Loaiza was signed as an undrafted FA by the Bucs as a 19 year old pitching for the Mexico City Reds. He worked his first four seasons with Pittsburgh (27-28-1, 4.63) and had a 14 year career in MLB with a pair of All-Star selections and 126 wins.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Sunday: It Never Rains In FLA...Ooops; Bucs-Blue Jays Today; Notes

Today: The Bucs will roll into Dunedin and the Florida Auto Exchange Stadium to face the Blue Jays at 1:07.The game will be on MLB.TV and 93.7 The Fan.

The pitching: AJ Schugel gets his first start while Marco Estrada gets the ball for Toronto. Cory Luebke, Arquimedes Caminero, Rob Scahill, Curtis Partch and Guido Knudson will follow Schugel. Ryan Vogelsong will take the hill in a minor league game today, as are Mark Melancon and Tony Watson, so everyone's getting their work in.

AJ Schugel (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)

The lineup: John Jaso 1B, Cutch CF, David Freese 3B, Starling Marte LF, gregory Polanco RF, Josh Harrison 2B, Michael Morse DH, Jordy Mercer SS and Stew C. First game for Freese as the Bucco 3B'man; Cutch holds steady at #2 and El Coffee continues to jump all around the order. Cole Figueroa, P-Flo, Ed Easley, Jake Stallings, Danny Ortiz and Antoan Richardson are among the cavalry. Jung Ho is slated to bat only in today's minor league game.

Yesterday: The first rain out of the year, boo. Jon Neise & Eric O'Flaherty, both due to pitch, took their work inside.

  • The Bucs had 63 guys start MLB camp, so even with the two big minor-league cut-downs, 45 players remain. Some interesting pitching/positional decisions are still to be made with Opening Day just two weeks away.
  • Jayson Stark of ESPN posts that the Bucs aren't just tinkering w/Cutch's batting spot, but looking at the entire dynamic of lineup construction.
  • LHP Jesse Biddle didn't clear waivers. The Braves claimed him, so the Bucco gamble to DFA and re-sign him came up craps. 
  • Bronson Arroyo will  miss a month with partial rotator cuff tendon tears and inflammation. His initial MRI was misread. Still, leaves a pretty steep hill for the 38 year old to climb this year.

3/20: HBD Walter & Blas; Roberto Into HoF; Josh & Judy To Grays

  • 1887 - C Walter Schmidt was born in London, Arizona. He donned the tools of ignorance for Pittsburgh from 1916-24, hitting .257. Schmidt went through the unusual transaction of buying his own release from the San Francisco Seals after the 1915 season for $3K and negotiated a deal with the Bucs. He went that route because he suspected that the Seals had turned down previous offers for him made by MLB clubs and didn't want to miss the boat to the show.
Walter Schmidt 1923 (photo Bain News Service via Library of Congress)
  • 1937 - The Homestead Grays acquired future Hall of Famers Josh Gibson and Judy Johnson for $2,500 in cash and a pair of journeymen players after Pittsburgh Crawfords owner Gus Greenlee was forced to unload his stars as salary dumps. By the end of 1938, the Crawford’s Greenlee field was razed to give way to the Bedford Dwellings housing project, and Greenlee sold the Crawfords to Toledo businessmen, leaving the Grays as the only black team in town.
  • 1966 - RHP Blas Minor was born in Merced, California. Working out of the Buc bullpen from 1992-94, he had an 8-7-3 record for Pittsburgh with a 4.76 ERA. Minor also pitched for the Houston Astros, New York Mets & Seattle Mariners, and got to live out every boy’s childhood fantasy - after being a major league ballplayer, he retired to become a fireman.
  • 1973 - In a special election held by the BBWAA‚ Roberto Clemente was voted into the Hall of Fame. The Board of Directors waived the five year eligibility period for Clemente, and he was inducted on August 6th as the first Hispanic player to enter Cooperstown. Roberto was a Latino trailblazer as the first Latin American/Caribbean player to win a World Series as a starter (1960), to receive a National League MVP Award (1966), and to receive a World Series MVP Award (1971).

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Saturday: Pirates Drop Slugfest; Twins Visit - Pitching, Lineup; Notes

Today: The Twinkies visit McKechnie Field, with the game on at 1:05. The game is radio only on 93.7 The Fan.

The pitching: Jon Niese will start against the Twins' Tommy Milone. Mark Melancon, Tony Watson, Neftali Feliz, and Eric O'Flaherty are slated for work after Niese.

The lineup: Jordy Mercer SS, Cutch CF, Josh Harrison 2B, Starling Marte LF, Michael Morse 1B, Sean Rodriguez 3B, Gregory Polanco RF, Stew C, Niese P. The reserves are Cole Figueroa, P-Flo, Jason Rogers, Danny Ortiz, Antoan Richardson, Ed Easley and others TBD.

Jordy gets his look at leadoff today (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)

Yesterday: Kyle Lobstein put up three goose eggs while Charlie Morton didn't have such a good day; he left with the score 5-0, tormented by Matt Joyce, who doubled and homered. Red hot P-Flo also went long. The Phils took their turn and put up nine runs in the fourth. It's probably safe to say that Wilfredo Boscan won't break camp with the big boys after he allowed seven hits and eight runs while getting one out. The next inning wasn't much better as Trey Haley, who had been lights out so far in camp, gave up six runs including a grand slam to Ryan Howard while retiring a pair. Pittsburgh tried to rally behind the scrubs but dropped a 15-12 decision. Minor league hitman Jose Osuna had a nice day with two hits, including a dinger. Here's yesterday's box score.

There was some good news from Pirate City. Though he was nicked for a run, Gerrit Cole went three frames, tossing 50 pitches (sitting mid-to-upper 90s) in a minor league game against the AAA Yankees. He expects to be be ready to go in the first week of the season. Jung Ho Kang batted (although he didn't take the field or run), going 1-for-4.

  • Austin Meadows had his orbital fracture surgery; the timetable for a return to baseball activities is 6-8 weeks.

3/19: HBD Paul & Jose; O'Brien Bonus Babies; Bye Bye Bill

  • 1931 - 1B/OF Paul Smith was born in New Castle. He was used sparingly in his Buc career (1953, 1957-58), though his stick was solid, hitting .275 for Pittsburgh. He was among the local boys such as Ron Kline, Ron Neccai, Tony Bartirome and Bobby Del Greco that Branch Rickey brought to camp to try out for a spot on the club in 1952 and cracked the roster the following season, hitting a career best .283 in 110 games.
  • 1953 - The Pirates signed bonus baby twins Eddie and Johnny O’Brien, multi-talented basketball (They were both All-America, led the team to a pair of tournaments and even beat the Harlem Globetrotters!) and baseball stars at Seattle University for a reported $25,000 each. They could both pitch and play infield, but neither made much of a mark with the Bucs.
Edfdie O'Brien, manager Fred Haney, Johnny O'Brien (photo David Eskenazi)
  • 1981 - 2B Jose Castillo was born in Las Mercedes, Venezuela. He was considered the long-term answer at second, but after four Bucco years (2004-07) and a .256 BA, he was released and replaced by Freddy Sanchez. He closed out his baseball career with gigs in Taiwan and Japan.
  • 1992 - The Pirates released RHP Bill Landrum, who had won 13 games and saved 56 more over the prior three seasons, tossing to a 2.39 ERA. He was due $1.7M, and by releasing him this early in camp, the Bucs were on the hook for just a quarter of his salary. That caused a bit of a media & fan kerfluffle, but Landrum only lasted two more years in the show after his release. Performance, along with wear & tear (he was thought to have shoulder and knee problems) also played into the decision to let him go.