Friday, March 24, 2017

Friday: Bucs Take On Rays, Trevor Williams v Diego Moreno, Lineup, Notes, Kang Woes Continue, Bucs Dropped 10-7

Today: The Bucs host the Rays at LECOM Park in Bradenton at 1:05. The game will be shown on Root Sports; no radio.

Lineup: Adam Frazier LF, Jordy Mercer SS, John Jaso RF, David Freese 3B, Josh Bell 1B, Phil Gosselin 2B, Austin Meadows CF, Stew C, Trevor Williams P. JJ and Fraze get to roam the corners today.

Pitchers: Trevor Willams, Tony Watson, Daniel Hudson, Felipe Rivero and Juan Nicasio. Trevor and the A-Team bullpen.

Trevor takes the bump (photo via MiLB.com)

Yesterday's Game: Hoo boy, just when Hutch looked like he was zeroing in on that fifth starter's role, yesterday happened: a five-run first frame. Jared Hughes gave up a three-spot later on, but gave up just one hard-hit ball; the shift and a couple of misplays in the field hurt him badly. The Buc bats tried to overcome as Starling stroked a grand slam (he also doubled and had five RBI), but all in all, it was too little, too late as the Bucs fell 10-7. Pirate hitting has been strong this spring, but the glovework still needs considerable tightening up.

Notes:
  • Diego Moreno, today's Rays starter, was one of the Pirate farm hands traded to the Yankees for AJ Burnett in 2012.
  • Cutch and J-Hay are back in camp; the whole gang's in Bradenton except for JHK. This KBS article, translated rather loosely (and somewhat comically) doesn't make it sound like a return any time soon, meaning this year, is in the cards for Kang as his work visa was denied.
Cole Train will get some camp work today (image via Positively Pittsburgh)
  • Gerrit Cole is working a minor league game at Pirate City today.
  • James Hesdra of isportsweb posted his take on the 2017 Buccos.
  • Anthony Castrovince of Sports on Earth has Austin Meadows among his 12 Prospects to Watch.
  • Some former Bucco farmhands were MLB camp cuts recently: OF Willy Garcia (White Sox), RHP Lisalverto Bonilla & 2B Dilson Herrera (Reds), OF Harold Ramirez & C Reese McGuire (Blue Jays) and RHP Brooks Pounders (Angels). RHP David Whitehead (Phils), who was the get for Charlie Morton, was released.

3/24: Greenberg Stamp, Kiner Commemoration; HBD Mike, Gus & Corey; RIP Mace

  • 1884 - 3B Mike Mowrey was born in Brown's Mill, Pennsylvania. Mike had a 13 year MLB career, spending a pair of seasons in Pittsburgh. He hit .254 as a Pirate in 1914 and .280 for the Federation League’s Pittsburgh Rebels the following year. Mowrey’s forte was as a defender; he was considered the most accomplished hot corner fielder in baseball and especially sharp against the bunt, a major offensive tool during the dead ball era. Mike’s real first name was Harry; he became Mike thanks to his brother. Mowrey’s dad was sheriff and ran the jail; vagrants were often housed in the cells overnight. Young Harry was friendly with one of his dad’s guests named Mike and so his bro called Harry “Mike the Hobo” after his bro’s incarcerated bud from that time forward.
Gus Dugas (photo via Bases Empty)
  • 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.
  • 1982 - 1B/OF Corey Hart was born in Bowling Green, Kentucky. The Pirates signed Hart to a one-year/$2.5M contract for the 2015 campaign, taking a risk that he would recover from microsurgery on his knee and fill a hole at first base. The club rolled snake eyes; Corey got into just 35 games battling shoulder & knee injuries, batting .222, and retired prior to the 2016 season.
  • 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.
Mace Brown 1941 Double Play
  • March 24, 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.
  • 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.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Thursday: Bucs @ Bosox, Hutch v Steven Wright, Lineup, More Cuts, Notes

Today: The Pirates are on the road visiting the Red Sox at JetBlue Park at Fenway South, Fort Myers. The game starts at 1:05 and will be webcast (audio) by pirates.com.

Lineup (starters): Jordy Mercer SS, Starling Marte CF, Gregory Polanco LF, David Freese 3B, Fran Cervelli C, Jose Osuna RF, Josh Bell 1B, Alen Hanson 2B & Hutch P. Except for the absence of Cutch and J-Hay, looks like a potential Opening Day lineup. The order seems a bit peculiar to us, but hey, Clint is sometimes a manager of mystery.

Hutch looking to impress (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)

Pitchers: Drew Hutchison, Tyler Webb, Jared Hughes.

Notes:
  • Nine guys met the Turk today. C Elias Diaz and IF Max Moroff were optioned to Indy while assigned to minor league camp were OF Eury Perez; P Brandon Cumpton, P Jason Stoffel, P Edgar Santana, P Dan Runzler, IF Eric Wood and 1B/OF Joey Terdoslavich. No tough decisions among that group in paring the roster down to 38 players. 
  • Neal Huntington had a longish interview with MLB.com's Mark Feinsand, covering a lot of things including how he navigates in a small-revenue environment.
  • Alec Brzezinski of The Sporting News has a concise 2017 Pirates preview.
Andrew has a new trophy to add to the collection - 2014 Topps Opening Day
  • The USA took the WBC crown last night with a convincing 8-0 win over Puerto Rico; Cutch knocked in a couple of more runs. They beat the best with do-or-die wins over the DR and Japan to reach the gold medal round. Manager Jimmy Leyland said after the game that he was hanging up his jersey; pretty sweet way to end a career. IF Josh Harrison and coach Rich Donnelly were also on the championship club.

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

  • 1868 - OF/P Elmer “Mike” Smith was born in Pittsburgh’s North Side. Smith was a pitcher that 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)
  • 1885 - OF Danny Moeller was born in DeWitt, Iowa. Danny began his career playing 47 games in 1907-08 for Pittsburgh, batting .219. He sharpened his skills in the bushes afterward (and picking up the nickname “Rochester Rambler” for his time spent with that club), returning to the show in 1912 to begin a five-year run with Washington and a brief stint with Cleveland. He did start four years for the Senators, batting leadoff while sporting a fine glove and strong arm, tho he became the first MLB player to strike out 100 times in a season when he whiffed 112 times in 1912. Danny’s career was short-circuited by a chronic shoulder dislocation.
  • 1893 - RHP Remy “Ray” Kremer was born in Oakland, California. Kremer pitched 10 seasons for the Pirates (1924-33), his only MLB club, and went 143-85/3.76, 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, Alabama, but migrated to Pittsburgh with his family in 1917. He played sandlot for the Edgar Thompson team, then for 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. Hooks answered to a second calling (spoiler; not baseball) while making steel and became a highly respected reverend in the Hill District.
Wendell Smith (photo via Baseball Hall of Fame)
  • 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.
  • 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.
Johnny Logan 1963 Topps
  • 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.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Wednesday: The Camp Outlook With Two Weeks To Go, R&R Day after 5-4 Walkoff Over Tampa Bay

Well, camp should start getting a little more interesting. Cutch and J-Hay will be back and playing by the end of the week and so the innings will become tighter for the guys trying to elbow their way to Pittsburgh.

The starting lineup is again pretty much set, with the wild card being Jung Ho Kang. Freeser will hold the fort with Adam Frazier spelling him and Harrison on occasion. Josh Bell will handle first, though we expect to see lots of time for John Jaso; both he and Bell can spot start in the pasture, too.

Is this Hansen's year? (photo Joe Guzzy/Pirates)

The bench battle will be heated, with Stew, JJ, Freeser & Fraze holding down four spots, with one more available until JHK can straighten out and fly right. Phil Gosselin looks like the fifth man. Alen Hanson has made a push for that extra spot and Jose Osuna has been red hot in camp; his only drawback is that he's pretty much a 1B; his OF skills leave something to be desired. Gift Ngoepe won't break with the club, but flashed some promise that he may yet become a sturdy bench piece.  Edge: Hanson.

Gerrit Cole & Ivan Nova have been strong, Jameson Taillon solid and Chad Kuhl has won the four hole spot in the rotation, but the fifth starter is  a position that no one has stepped up to claim. Hutch and Steven Brault have been fairly consistent, but Tyler Glasnow and Trevor Williams have both been coming on strong after stumbling out of the blocks. Josh Lindblom has been an eye-opener in camp, but there are too many bodies in the scrum for him to break camp as a Bucco. Edge: Hutchison.

The bullpen, eh. Felipe Rivero and Juan Nicasio have been lights out; the others as up-and-down as Kennywood's Jackrabbit coaster. Daniel Hudson has been steady while Tony Watson and Antonio Bastardo are locked in. That leaves Jared Hughes, Wade LeBlanc and AJ Shugel batttling for two open spots. Edge: Hughes and LeBlanc.

Juan has quietly put together a fierce spring (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)

Beside fine-tuning and filling in at the edges, two other factors will play into the final roster decisions - the aforementioned Kang situation, which could end tomorrow or end up a long-drawn affair, and whether the schedule will allow the club to pass on a fifth starter early on. Then the question is whether to carry and extra bat or arm.

So the battles entering camp are pretty much the same that will be waged over the final days of spring. Fifth starter, bullpen depth and final bench spot. Last year's bugaboo of running into outs has still continued. It's a tough habit to break overnight. The new outfield configuration will have to hustle to reach a comfort level thanks to the WBC. But the Pirates have gotten some learning experiences in, too.

The Pirates have emphasized versatility in Bradenton, and the bench will be loaded with guys Clint can match-and-mix (although the D has been, not too surprisingly, erratic). The depth may not be as great without S-Rod and Matt Joyce, but it should be acceptable. The pitchers have been working with a change and renewed emphasis on the two-seamer. Most of all, this year the pipeline is showing up; there are more young guys ready for the show than the Pirates have trotted out in years.

Fraze is a lock to break camp (photo Pittsburgh Pirates)

Yesterday's Game: Gift Ngoepe's two-out walk-off single scored Adam Frazier for a 5-4 win over Tampa. Fraze set it up with a walk, stolen base and snaky slide to beat the throw from right. Ngoepe is batting a surprising .389 this spring. JJ and Jacob Stallings went deep while Jose Osuna added two more hits. Chad Kuhl gave up two third inning bombs but settled in to give the Bucs five innings. AJ Shugel ducked some raindrops and Josh Lindblom brought it home, working 2-2/3 IP and giving up a run while whiffing four.

Notes:
  • John Jaso made his debut at third and played all nine innings at the hot corner without a single ball or play coming his way.
  • Ivan Nova tossed six innings yesterday in a minor league game at Pirate City. He threw 97 pitches, giving up no runs, five hits and a walk while striking out five.
  • Wilbur Miller of Bucs Dugout has a list of eight minor leaguers (Jake Burnette being the most highly touted) who were released by the Pirates and three more who hung the spikes up after a season. The post is here.
  • Team USA defeated Japan 2-1 last night and will face Puerto Rico for the WBC crown tonight. Great pitching - ex-Bucco Mark Melancon put up a nerve-wracking zero - and just enough hitting, with Cutch banging out a RBI knock, carried the day.
  • Long-time blogger Charlie Wilmoth is leaving Bucs Dugout to work on some personal projects. His writing was always clean and to the point; he'll be missed in Pirates blogsphere. Good luck to him in his future endeavors (and he'll still be a contributor to MLBTR).

3/22: Dann Signed; HBD Moose, Ramon, Beast & Ike


  • 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 afterward, 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.
  • 1968 - RHP Ramon Martinez was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. He ended his 14-year career, primarily with the Dodgers, as a Pirate in 2001 with four largely forgettable outings before retiring. He won 135 games over that span but was bested for family honors by his little brother, Pedro.
Michael Morse 2015 Topps Update
  • 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 were the 11-year vet’s seventh team, counting LA, who flipped him before he ever played a game for them. He hit .275 in 2015 and after one outing in 2016 was released in April. He’s now in the Giants system, having signed a minor league deal with the G-Men.
  • 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.
  • 1987 - 1B Ike Davis was born in Edina, Minnesota. The Bucs were hoping that Ike, who they got from the Mets in mid-April for a couple of prospects, could plug the hole at first in 2014, but 10 homers/.235 BA in 94 starts with 397 plate appearances didn’t cut it. The Pirates sold his contract to Oakland after the season and announced that Pedro Alvarez would be their first baseman in 2015.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Tuesday: Tampa Bay @ Pittsburgh - Kuhl v Alex Cobb, Lineup, Notes, Bucs Squeak Out Another W

Today: The Rays play the back end of a home-and-home series with the Pirates. The opening pitch is at 1:05 at LECOM Park in Bradenton. The match will be carried by Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan.

Lineup (starters): Adam Frazier SS, Phil Gosselin 1B, John Jaso 3B, Fran Cervelli C, Jose Osuna LF, Danny Ortiz CF, Eric Wood RF, Max Moroff 2B & Chad Kuhl P. Goose is at first and JJ debuts at third, a role reversal for the duo.

JJ is at the hot corner (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)

Pitchers: Chad Kuhl, AJ Schugel, & Josh Lindblom. Chad has a tight grip on the fourth spot in the rotation with two weeks to go. AJ needs to pick it up in his challenge for a bullpen spot. Josh has opened some eyes as a depth guy; it'll be interesting to see where he starts the season and in what role.

Yesterday's Game: The Bucs kept rollin' with a 5-4 win over Tampa Bay. JT had a so-so start with control issues and Edgar Santana was brought to earth, but Wade LeBlanc's and Dan Runzler's zippos held the fort. There are gonna be some interesting decisions when it's rug-cutting time for the pen. Jose Osuna is still red-hot, smacking his fifth HR and adding three ribbies to go with a .441 BA. Fraze hasn't been a slouch either; his three hits brought his spring line to .450. Jordy banged a two-run shot as the Pirates now have a 15-7-1 Grapefruit slate after overcoming four GIDPs on the way to the victory.

Notes:

  • The Bucs made an interesting defensive change yesterday when jack-of-all-trades Phil Gosselin slid to first base to replace Josh Bell in the eighth inning. The Goose has now played every IF position this spring, and he'll get the start at first today. 
The Goose is loose (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)
  • Ivan Nova will toss a minor league game at Pirate City today. He’s slated for 100 pitches, a sure sign the season is just around the bend.
  • The players were involved in a paintball shootout at the ballyard this morning; the club calls it a "team-building exercise," we call boys gotta be boys after a month of camp.
  • Audrey Stark of Beyond the Box Score makes the argument that Cutch still has CF chops and last year's woes were the result of a perfect storm of shallow positioning and Pirate pitchers serving up few ground balls
  • Matt Eddy of Baseball America projected the Top 20 Rookies of 2017; Josh Bell and Tyler Glasnow made the list.
  • The safety net behind the plate at PNC Park will be extended to the end of dugouts this season. A pain to watch through to be sure, but it beats a liner or bat to the noggin and the ensuing visits to the doc and/or lawyer.

3/21: Bucs Bought; Duke for Lefty; Vance for Ross; Esteban Inked; HBD Mysterious, Bill, Manny & Pablo

  • 1884 - RHP Frederick Mitchell “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 for himself locally in football. He was Carnegie Tech’s head coach from 1912-13 and in 1914 served as an assistant football coach at W & J College.
Frederick Mitchell "Mysterious" Walker in his early days (image via 1910 Spokane Press)
  • 1893 - The Pirates traded C Duke Farrell and $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 an 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.
  • 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
  • 1945 - SS/OF & scout Pablo Cruz was born in San Francisco de Macoris, Dominican Republic. Pablo never played for the MLB Bucs, although he spent all 14 years of his pro career (1965-’78) in the Pirates system. He was a good stick, so-so glove guy who had the bad luck to play during the Gene Alley era and then lost out to younger prospect Frank Taveras in the seventies. After his playing days, Cruz became a full-time scout for the Pirates and lassoed a corral full of Latino talent like Moisés Alou, Tony Peña, Aramis Ramírez, Félix Fermín, José Guillén, José Lind, Orlando Merced, José de León, Cecilio Guante, José Castillo, Ronny Paulino and Rafe Belliard. He scouted for several teams after the Bucs, and his son, Ishmael, also became a Pirates bird dog for a spell.
  • 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. Baumgarten got 10 starts, went 0-5, 6.55 and was released the following spring to end his MLB stay while Edge pitched for Toronto in 1979 during his only big league campaign.
  • 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.
Esteban Loaiza 1996 Pacific Prisms
  • 1991 - RHP Esteban 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, from 1995-98, 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.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Monday: Bucs at Rays - Taillon v Jake Odorizzi, Lineup, Notes, Pirates Kiss Sister

Today: The Pirates visit the Rays at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte. The game starts at 1:05 and will be webcast (audio) by pirates.com.

Lineup (subs): Adam Frazier 2B, Jordy Mercer SS, Josh Bell 1B, David Freese 3B, Jose Osuna RF, Phil Gosselin LF, Austin Meadows CF, Stew C (Jackson Williams) & Jameson Taillon P. Today features one of the likely starting infield configurations for the 2017 Bucs.

Edgar Santana works today (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)

Pitchers: Jameson Taillon, Edgar Santana and Wade LeBlanc. The seasons around the corner and the arms are getting stretched some.

Yesterday's Game: Gerrit Cole went five IP (60 pitches), yielding one run, five hits, five K and a banging a two-run knock to help his cause. Alen Hanson helped him bigly by chopping down two runners at the plate (altho he misfired trying for the trifecta later in the game) from left as he continues to push hard for a spot. The Bucs blew an early led as Tony Watson was lit up and Daniel Hudson surrendered another marker. The Bucs battled back to take an 8-7 lead on a Michael Suchy dinger and Max Moroff knock after a shutdown frame from Jared Hughes.

Didn't last long as Antonio Bastardo was a wild child in the last frame and the Jays went up 11-8. Pittsburgh rallied to tie in the ninth, and that was the game as Toronto was plumb out of pitchers. Nice to see the Pirates hit, but the big innings against them were fueled by walks, sloppy fielding and a soft hit or two. Those are the things that need to be tightened up before the games count for real, and with the emphasis on jack-of-all-trades & master-of-none versatility and last year's control issues, that may be a formidable task in the next two weeks.

Alen Hanson had a big afternoon (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)
Notes:
  • Jared Lakind, Casey Sadler & Angel Sanchez were assigned to minor league camp and Pat Light was optioned to Indy as the Bucs whittled down the pitching roster a bit.
  • Gregory and Starling are due back in camp tomorrow. Marte's ankle sprain will be a big topic; it kept him out of half of the Dominican games. Ironically, he injured it against the Pirates when the DR played an exhibition at Bradenton before the WBC kicked off.

3/20: Roberto to HoF; Josh & Judy to Grays; HBD Pete, Walter, Rick & Blas

  • 1864 - 3B Pete McShannic was born in Pittsburgh. Fittingly, he played his only MLB season for the hometown Pittsburgh Alleghenys in 1888, batting .194, and closed out his career in 1890 in the minors.
Walter Schmidt (image from Conlon Collection/Baseball Magazine)
  • 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 then 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.
  • 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. While the amount seems paltry, the deal was thought to be the largest cash transaction in the history of the Negro Leagues. It wasn’t enough to save Gus. 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.
  • 1952 - RHP Rick Langford was born in Farmville Virginia. Signed by the Pirates in 1973 out of college, he worked briefly for the club in 1976, getting in 12 games before being shipped to the A’s as part of the Phil Garner trade in early 1977. He went on to have a solid 10-year career with Oakland, once winning 19 games and leading the AL in complete games in back-to-back seasons while tossing over 200 frames four times. In 1980, he threw 22 consecutive complete games while piling up over 290 innings.
Blas Minor 1994 Pacific Crown 
  • 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, having posted a .317 lifetime BA and earned 12 All-Star nods. 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).

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Sunday: Toronto at Pirates - Cole v Mike Bolsinger, Lineup, Notes, Bucs Bomb Phils

Today: The Blue Jays come to town. The game starts at 1:05 at LECOM Park in Bradenton. It will be webcast (audio) by pirates.com.

Lineup: Alen Hanson LF, Jordy Mercer SS, Fran Cervelli C, David Freese 1B, Eric Wood 3B, Joey Terdoslavich RF, Gift Ngoepe 2B, Danny Ortiz CF & Gerrit Cole P. Today is the first leadoff look we've seen given to Alen Hanson who continues to jitterbug all over the field.

Freeser will man first base today (Photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)

Pitchers: Gerrit Cole, Jared Hughes, Antonio Bastardo, Tony Watson & Daniel Hudson. Hughes is the only arm today still looking for its camp mojo.

Yesterday's Game: The Bucs kept rolling with a 13-8 slugfest win over the Phils. Tyler Glasnow authored a big-league outing yesterday (four IP, one run, four hits, two walks, five K) showing acceptable command while not allowing the Phil stickmen much solid contact. Steven Brault was shaky today and left with two on and two outs after 2-2/3 IP; his stat line took a big hit when Jared Lakind served up a relief gopher ball to the next hitter. But the attack was more than equal to the task. JJ had two hits, including a homer, three runs scored and four RBI. The Goose chased home a pair while Eury Perez and Elias Diaz added solo shots. Fraze and Gift Ngoepe each had a pair of knocks.

Notes:
  • Ol' Bucco Jose Tabata will be in LF for the Jays this afternoon.
  • Yahoo's Big League Stew sums up the Pirates 2017 prognosis: "The Pirates have the pieces to win. Problem is, so do the other teams around them. The NL Central is tough."
  • A little late but Jason Rogers has been cleared for full baseball activities after injuring his ankle 2-1/2 weeks ago.
Cutch is in the WBC championship round of four (2013 Topps Series 2)
  • The US stayed alive in the WBC with a 6-3 win over the DR; Cutch had a game-icing two-run double. America meets Japan, two-time WBC champ, on Tuesday with the winner going to the title round. El Coffee and Starling will be camp-bound now; Polanco had a dazzling series while Marte, who was hurt for much of the tourney with a bum ankle, not so much.

3/19: O'Brien Twins Signed; Bill Released; Trickery Backfires; HBD Rab Roy, Paul, Tom, Jose & Angel

  • 1910 - C Robert “Rab Roy” Gaston was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He played for the Homestead Grays from 1932 to 1949, mainly as a reserve. He was a starter for just two of those many years, serving as a caddy for Hall-of-Famers up Double Duty Radcliffe and Josh Gibson. Rab Roy was one of six former local Negro league players who took part in the ceremony that unfurled championship banners recognizing the Grays and Crawfords at TRS in 1993.
  • 1931 - 1B/OF Paul Smith was born in New Castle. He was used sparingly in his Buc career 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. Paul then spent three years on the farm, returning for the 1957-58 campaigns. He had a good eye for numbers, wearing a pair that were Hall-of-Fame worthy and eventually retired by the team. In 1953, he sported #21, made famous by Roberto Clemente, and when he came back from the minors in 1957, he wore #11, Paul “Big Poison” Waner’s number.
Paul Smith 1954 Topps
  • 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 $40,000 each. They could both pitch and play infield, but neither made much of a mark with the Bucs.
  • 1964 - GM Joe Brown admitted that four pitchers they had signed in 1963 - Bill Rohr, Jerry Hinsley, Pete Wade and Harvey Chaffin - were held out of minor league play for the season in an effort to keep them from being lost in the First Year Player Draft, but drew the line at reports that he had told the hurlers to claim they had sore arms. The Bucs did lose three of the four - only Chaffin made it safely through the process - but it was ultimately much ado over nothing, as only Rohr and Hinsley made to the majors with 38 appearances between them. The rule was in effect from 1959-64 in an effort to offset bonus signings but was then modified when teams began losing too many prospects.
  • 1978 - Scout Tom Gillespie was born in Iowa. He’s been a Buc scout since 2012, coming over from Oakland, and when you hear of an off-the-wall prospect, his hand is probably involved. He’s an international scout, focused on evaluating baseball talent in Europe, Africa, and Japan. Tom also is a director of a couple of baseball nonprofits that support international play.
  • 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.
Jose Castillo 2007 Topps Heritage
  • 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.
  • 1997 - OF Angel Mangual was born in Juana Diaz, Puerto Rico. The 19-year-old was signed in 1966 by Pittsburgh’s Puerto Rican scout, Francisco “Pancho” Coímbre and after a slow minor league start looked like a break out player. He sniffed the bigs in 1969 with the Pirates and in 1970 was sent to the A’s in exchange for Mudcat Grant. Angel never became an everyday player (his lifetime BA was .245), but he spent six seasons as a bench member of the three-time World Series champion Oakland clubs, seeing action in 20 postseason games.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Saturday: Bucs @ Phils - Glasnow v Jeremy Hellickson, Lineup, Notes, Yesterday's Games

Today: The Pirates take a road trip to visit the Phillies at Spectrum Field in Clearwater. The game will be webcast (audio) at pirates.com.

Lineup (starters): Adam Frazier 2B, Phil Gosselin SS, Josh Bell 1B, John Jaso RF, Jose Osuna LF, Elias Diaz C, Eric Wood 3B, Eury Perez CF and Tyler Glasnow P. Fraze and Goose up the middle.

Pitchers: Tyler Glasnow, Steven Brault, and Pat Light. Glasnow is running out of chances while Brault has an opening to impress with Hutch's poor outing yesterday.

Alen Hanson is trying to hit & hustle his way to a roster spot (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)

Yesterday's Games: The Bucs dropped an 8-6 decision to the O's as they fell quickly in the hole after Hutch was hammered in his first poor start of the spring. Tyler Webb gave up a couple of more runs in the eighth, and the Bucco bats couldn't overcome the onslaught. Oddly, nobody on either team had more than one RBI. The Buc bats were led by Alen Hanson who had three knocks and Austin Meadows & Danny Ortiz with a pair of raps. Erich Weiss went deep. In the "B" game, Trevor Williams tossed four innings (66 pitches) and was tagged for a solo shot in a pretty good outing against an Oriole lineup with Chris Davis, Mark Trumbo, JJ Hardy and Pedro Alvarez. (No final scorecard was released as it was a six-frame exhibition.)

Notes:

  • The Pirates optioned IF Chris Bostick to Indy and assigned IF Erich Weiss to minor league camp yesterday, whittling the roster to 51 players.
  • Tom Prince will manage today; Clint is attending a funeral.
Tom Prince is behind the wheel today (1992 Stadium Club)
  • Cutch was bounced from last night’s US loss to Puerto Rico for griping over a called third strike. He was probably right, too, tho he made his point once too often. The USA and DR meet tonight, with the winner moving on and the loser going home.
  • Steelers coach Mike Tomlin visited camp yesterday, an annual tradition. He eyed up Jared Hughes as potential Black and Gold material last spring and opined that he could make a gridder of Josh Bell this year.

3/18: New CBA; HBD Nixey, Marcus, Elbie, Dick, Brian, & Raul

  • 1874 - Pirate skipper Jimmy “Nixey” Callahan was born in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. Callahan was the Buc manager in 1916 and part of 1917, never sniffing the first division and replaced midway through his second year by Honus Wagner after compiling an 85-129 record at the helm. He was a nice ballplayer (tho he never suited up for the Pirates). In 1902, Callahan pitched the first no-hitter in American League history and is the only pitcher to have collected five hits in a game three times; he was exclusively used as an outfielder in the latter stages of his career. Nixey was a childhood nickname of undisclosed origin which Callahan himself didn’t use as an adult although newspapers often referred to him by that moniker.
Nixey Callahan 1916 Holmes Bread
  • 1896 - RHP Marcus Milligan was born in Heflin, Alabama. Milligan never tossed in the majors because of WW1. In 1918, as a 21-year-old rookie, he was given a good chance at breaking camp with the big league club after being signed by Barney Dreyfuss in 1916, then having a strong year at Class A Birmingham the following season. But he had enlisted earlier in the year, was claimed from spring training in March by Uncle Sam and reported to the aviation corps. He died in a training accident in September when his biplane crashed at Barron Field in Fort Worth, Texas.
  • 1916 - 1B Elbie Fletcher was born in Milton, Massachusetts. He played first for Pittsburgh for seven seasons (1939-43, 1946-47) with two years off during WW2. Elbie put together a line of .279/79/616 as a Bucco, and was an All-Star in 1943. Fletcher began his big league career in 1934 with Boston after a contest was held to determine which local high school player was most likely to reach the major leagues, with the winner receiving an invitation to the Braves' spring training camp. With the considerable help of the votes from his large family, Fletcher won, and then actually made the team on his own merit.
  • 1926 - LHP Dick Littlefield was born in Detroit. The workmanlike southpaw toiled from 1954-56 for some pretty sad Pirate teams and put up a 15-23 record with a 4.29 ERA. Littlefield was the poster boy for journeymen as he played for nine teams in his nine-year MLB career.
Dick Littlefield 1954 Bowman
  • 1962 - RHP Brian Fisher was born in Honolulu. A second round draft pick of the Yankees, the Bucs traded for him in 1987. He was a workmanlike starter for two years, but suffered from knee problems in 1989 and was released by Pittsburgh after a Bucco line of 19-22/4.72 ERA. He lasted in the show until 1992 when his knees finally gave out. He was a second-round draft pick by the Atlanta Braves, and had a fastball that touched 97 MPH.
  • 1973 - C Raul Chavez was born in Valencia, Venezuela. Raul was a back-up catcher who played for six teams, including a stop in Pittsburgh in 2008 as a 35-year-old. He started 31 games behind the dish and hit .259, but refused a minor league assignment after the season, spending one more big league campaign with Toronto in 2009 before retiring.
  • 1990 - The suits and the MLBPA agreed on a new CBA that ended a 32-day lockout. The main points included increasing the clubs' ante to the pension fund, raising the minimum salary to $100,000 and the introduction of “Super Two” arbitration status. The lockout pushed Opening Day back a week to April 9th and the season had to be extended by three days to complete the full schedule.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Friday: Let's Play Two - Hutch v Gabriel Ynoa in the Main Game, Trevor Starts "B" Clash; Lineup, Notes, Pirates Lose 4-3 to Bosox

Today: The Orioles are coming to LECOM Field in Bradenton today. The game starts at 1:05 and will be carried by Root Sports (no radio). Doc Emrick will provide some color while Greg Brown calls the play-by-play. There's also a morning "B" game against the Birds in Sarasota with Trevor Williams, Casey Sadler and Angel Sanchez getting the call to pitch in the six-inning contest.

Lineup (Starters "A" Game): Jordy Mercer SS, Alen Hanson 2B, David Freese 3B, John Jaso RF, Francisco Cervelli C, Eric Wood 1B, Austin Meadows CF, Danny Ortiz LF, Erich Weiss DH. JJ continues to get pasture time.

Hutch on the hill (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)

Pitchers: Drew Hutchison, Felipe Rivero, Tyler Webb and Wade LeBlanc. It's getting to be rug-cutting time; only Felipe is a sure shot at breaking camp, tho Hutch has been quieting his nay-sayers.

Yesterday's Game: Ivan Nova gave up his first run of the spring, but not to worry - he went five strong innings (four hits, five K, 65 pitches), the longest Piartes outing of the camp. It wasn't enough as the Bucs fell 4-3. Eury Perez had a rough day in CF, botching a pair of plays that led to Bosox runs and put the cherry on top by being picked off while repping the tying run in the ninth. The Bucco RBIs were driven in by Jose Osuna (two hits), Jordan Luplow and Gift Ngoepe (three hits).

Notes:
  • OF'er Barrett Barnes had to leave yesterday's game with a hammy problem. He's day-to-day. Won't make much diff; he and C Christian Kelley were assigned to minor league camp while RHP Dovydas Neverauskas was placed on Indy's roster.

3/17: Smiley for Neagle; HBD Pete, Hot Rod & John; RIP Charlie; Vic in Venezuela

  • 1919 - OF Pete Reiser was born in St. Louis. The veteran outfielder spent one season (1951) of his 10-year MLB stint in Pittsburgh, batting .271. He spent the next campaign with the Cleveland Indians before retiring.
Pete Reiser 1951 Bowman
  • 1956 - LHP Rod Scurry was born in Sacramento. Scurry tossed for the Bucs for six years, (1980-85) going 17-28-34 with a 3.15 ERA. The first round pick of 1974 was using coke during his playing days, and never could kick the habit; he died in 1992 of suspected cocaine-induced heart failure.
  • 1965 - LHP John Smiley was born in Phoenixville, near Valley Forge. He spent his first six seasons (1986-91) in Pittsburgh with a 60-42/3.57 line. 1991 was his best season, going 20-9 with a 3.08 ERA and All-Star selection. In the off season, he was traded to Minnesota for Denny Neagle, and went on to win 126 games in his 12 year career.
  • 1972 - The Bucs watered their Latin roots by playing and sweeping a three game pre-season series against the Reds in Caracas, Venezuela. The final game was delayed when kids hopped the fence to get Vic Davillo’s autograph during the action. It took about ten minutes for play to resume. Beloved in his homeland, “Vitico” (Little Victor) played in the Venezuelan League before turning pro and returned when his MLB career was done, playing until he was 50 years old.
Vic Davalillo 1972 Topps
  • 1992 - The Pirates traded LHP John Smiley (on his birthday!) after a 20-8 season to the Twins in exchange for LHP Denny Neagle and OF Midre Cummings. Smiley told Bob Hertzel of the Pittsburgh Press that “I’m extremely shocked. My contract had to play a little part in this” as he jumped to a $3.4M payday, a $2M jump over the prior year. GM Ted Simmons said no, telling the paper that “Salary was a non-issue,” and it was just a “daring and aggressive” deal. Smiley went on to toss eight more seasons, mostly with the Reds, while Neagle won 43 games in his 4-1/2 year Bucco stint and would pitch until 2003. Hot prospect Cummings ended up a bench player who posted parts of 11 MLB seasons on his resume.
  • 2014 - Long time (1966-86) Post Gazette Pirate beat writer Charley Feeney, known for calling everyone “Pally” (he didn’t have a good memory for names) passed away at the age of 89. He was inducted into the writer’s wing of the Hall of Fame in 1996. After his selection, he told fellow sportswriter Ron Cook that “I'm in and Bill Mazeroski isn't. It's unbelievable." Maz joined him in Cooperstown five years later.
Charlie Feeney 1996 (photo via Baseball Hall of Fame)

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Thursday: Bucs at Bosox - Nova v Chris Sale, Lineup, Notes, Bucs Beat Birds 6-5

Today: The Pirates hop the bus to Fort Myers to meet the Red Sox in JetBlue Park at Fenway South. It's the Bucs first game under the lights, starting at 6:05. Audio will be available via webcast at pirates.com. For the nightowls and/or those handy with taping games, the MLB Network will show the game again at 2 AM Friday.

Lineup (starters): Adam Frazier SS, Phil Gosselin 2B, Josh Bell 1B, Jose Osuna LF, Elias Diaz C, Alen Hanson RF, Eury Perez CF, Gift Ngoepe 3B & Ivan Nova P. Mix-and-match continues to be the spring theme.

Josh is the closest to a starter in tonight's lineup (2015 Bowman)

Pitchers: Ivan Nova, Edgar Santana, AJ Schugel, Dan Runzler and Dovydas Neverauskas. Nova, Santana & Runzler have been lights out this spring; AJ & Davydos, not so much...

Yesterday's Game:  Jamo went four frames, giving up a run, and Antonio Bastardo & Juan Nicasio both had strong outings. The Goose went opposite field for a granny while Jose Osuna and Freeser added RBIs, and all together it was just enough to survive another Jared Hughes implosion (2/3-IP, four runs w/three earned) to take a 6-5 win from the O's. Each team had one big frame, with Pittsburgh putting up a five-spot fifth and the Birds ringing up four in the seventh.  Despite the score, the pitching was generally sound - each side collected just five hits.

Notes:
  • The Pirates meet the Red Sox to kick off the season at Fenway. The matchups are: April 3rd/Opening Day) Gerrit Cole v Rick Porcello; April 5th) Jameson Taillon v Chris Sale; April 6th) Neither team has settled on a starter. 
Starling is back in action (2016 Topps Series 1)
  • Injury report: Starling Marte, who has missed the past three DR games in the WBC with a swollen ankle, is expected back in the lineup today. Jason Rogers, who was a camp longshot, is out of his boot (he's been gimpy since 3/2) and cleared for baseball drills except for full-speed running. Pity; he was having a strong spring, but the bad wheel cost him a good look while the WBC'ers were away.
  • Cool Chad tossed four zeroes (57 pitches) in camp yesterday and Josh Lindblom threw three frames (52 pitches) against AAA batters. Fran and Eric Wood are back in Bradenton today after their WBC stint while Jacob Stallings has also returned from maternity leave.
  • Mike Wysocki of The Pittsburgh City Paper put together a list of the Top 10 Bucco pitchers of the past 50 years and left lots of room for debate.
  • There are 14 spring games left after tonite for the brass to determine the bench, bullpen and fifth starter. 
  • The Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in Springfield will dedicate a life-size bronze statue of Bill Virdon on Thursday, May 25th. The Quail has been a member of the Show-Me HoF since 1983.
  • The Yankees signed RHP Ernesto Frieri, who was the return for Jason Grilli back in the day, to a minor-league deal with camp invite.

3/16: Honus Retires (Briefly); RIP Pie; HBD Patsy, Little Poison & Abraham

  • 1865 - OF Patrick “Patsy” Donovan was born in Queenstown, Ireland. He played for the Pirates from 1892-99, hitting .307, and spent 17 years in the big leagues with a lifetime .301 BA. He put up six consecutive .300+ seasons and served as player-manager from 1897-99. Patsy managed in the show for 11 seasons, became a minor league skipper and eventually a high school coach at Phillips Academy in Andover, where he coached the future 41st President, George H.W. Bush.
Patsy Donovan 1898 Pepsin Gum
  • 1906 - OF Lloyd “Little Poison” Waner was born in Harrah, Oklahoma. The Hall-of-Fame OF had a .319 BA over 17 seasons with Pittsburgh. He batted .316 with 2,459 hits, striking out just 173 times in an 18-season major league career. Lloyd and his sib Paul set the record for career hits by brothers in MLB with 5,611 knocks. Lloyd worked as a scout for the Pirates and the Baltimore Orioles after retiring as a player and was elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 1967.
  • 1908 - Honus Wagner announced his retirement at the age of 34, citing arthritis and the need to rest his body. The Pittsburg Press wrote that “Some hope is still expressed that the mighty Teuton will see...the error of his way and return to the game.” He did after sitting out spring training. Hans played in 151 games in 1908, matching his 1898 high when he was just 24, and led the NL in batting average (for the sixth time at .354), hits (201), total bases (308), doubles (39), triples (19), RBIs (109), stolen bases (53), slugging % (.542), OBP (.415) and OPS (.957). The Flying Dutchman finished the year two homers short of winning the Triple Crown. Honus retired several times during various spring camps, but didn’t actually hang up his spikes until after the 1917 campaign.
  • 1972 - Pie Traynor, enshrined in Cooperstown, died at age 72. The 3B played 17 years for the Pirates with a .320 BA and had a second career as the "Who Can? Ameri-can" spokesman. He managed the Bucs after he hung ‘em up and later served as a Pirate scout. Traynor took a job as a radio sports director in 1944. His show (he was on KQV, hosting the The Pie Traynor Club) was popular with fans and he remained at the job for 21 years. In 1948, Traynor was selected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, being the first third baseman to be chosen by the Baseball Writers Association of America. In 1969, as part of the centennial of professional baseball, Traynor was named the third baseman for Major League Baseball's all-time team.
Pie Traynor 1926 Cover Boy for Baseball Magazine
  • 1976 - IF Abraham Nunez was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. The utility man - he played SS, 2B and 3B - spent eight seasons (1997 - 2004) with Pittsburgh and hit .238. His big league career ended in 2008 and after a 2010 fling in the indy leagues, Nunez retired.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Wednesday: Birds visit Bucs, Taillon v Ubaldo Jimenez, Lineup, Notes

Today: The Orioles trek to Bradenton to take on the Pirates at LECOM Park. The first pitch is at 1:05 and is on Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan. It's also on MLB.com for out-of-market fans.

Lineup (starters): Adam Frazier 2B, Jordy Mercer SS, Jose Osuna 1B, David Freese 3B, John Jaso LF, Phil Gosselin RF, Danny Ortiz CF, Stew C and Jameson Taillon P.  JJ and Goose are manning the outfield corners; the Pirates are still trying to decide if they have a good fourth OF'er option. Jordy's been getting a few looks in the two hole; whether that's to get him extra spring at-bats or actually a thing is TBD.

JJ will get dirty in the outfield today (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)

Pitchers: Jameson Taillon, Antonio Bastardo, Jared Hughes & Juan Nicasio. Jared is still looking for his mojo while the other arms have produced solid springs.

Notes:
  • The Bucs will get a chance to hook up with old bud Pedro Alvarez; he's hitting fifth for the Birds as the DH. It's El Toro's 2017 spring debut.
  • Team Israel was eliminated in WBC play, so RHP Jared Lakind will be back on the Bucco barstool soon.
  • Fangraph's Eric Longenhagen listed his Top 100 Prospects. Pirate pups that made the grade are OF Austin Meadows (#5), RHP Tyler Glasnow (#26), RHP Mitch Keller (#46), 1B Josh Bell (#50), SS Kevin Newman (#83) & 3B Ke’Bryan Hayes (#99).

3/15: Scrap Iron, Hit Man Deals; Bibby & Snell Inked; HBD Bill, Jimmie, Nellie & Steve

  • 1876 - OF Bill Hallman was born in Philadelphia. He played four MLB seasons, two with the Pirates (1906-07). Bill hit .233 and those years ended his big league days, though he had a long minor league career that spanned from 1894-1914 before he hung up the spikes. Be careful not to confuse him with his uncle Bill Hallman, an infielder who was born in Pittsburgh and played for 14 seasons, mostly with Philadelphia clubs.
Jimmie Crutchfield (image via Negro League Legends)
  • 1910 - OF Jimmie Crutchfield was born in Ardmore, Missouri. He played for the Pittsburgh Crawfords from 1931-36 (w/ a very brief stay with the Homestead Grays in 1932 before returning to the Crawfords), earning three All-Star berths. Per BR Bullpen, James Riley, author and director of the Negro League Museum, wrote that Crutchfield was often compared to Lloyd Waner in skill set for being a small ball expert with speed and defensive skills but not much power. Additionally, they both played center field in Pittsburgh in the same era. He retired in 1945, losing a couple of years to the service during WW2, and closed out his days working for the Post Office.
  • 1928 - Nellie King was born in Shenandoah, near Pottsville. As a righty, he had a four-year (1954-57) MLB career, all spent in Pittsburgh, going 7-5-6/3.58. He later was Bob Prince’s announcing sidekick from 1967-75 on KDKA and moved on to work at Duquesne University as their long-time Sports Information Director. Nellie returned to the Pirates' broadcast booth as a guest commentator for the final game at TRS on October 1st, 2000.
  • 1977 - IF Phil Garner, P Chris Batton and IF Tommy Helms were traded to the Bucs by Oakland for OF Tony Armas, P Doug Bair, P Dave Giusti, P Rick Langford, P Doc Medich and 1B Mitchell Page. "Scrap Iron" (a moniker earned through his scrappy, hard-nosed approach to the game) was a mainstay of the 1979 World Series infield. But he came at a high price - Armas, Bair, Langford and Medich had long, solid post-Pirate careers, with just Giusti at the end of his string.
Steven Jackson 2010 (photo Jared Wickerham/Getty)
  • 1982 - RHP Steven Jackson was born in Sumter, South Carolina. The Yankee product tossed two MLB seasons, both for the Bucs, in 2009-10 with a 2-4, 4.31 slash. In 2011, he tossed in the minors for the Dodgers, Reds and Bucs in his last professional season.
  • 1978 - The Pirates signed free agent RHP Jim Bibby. In five years with the Bucs, the big righty went 50-32 with a 3.53 ERA. Originally inked to be a closer, he instead became a key member of the 1979 World Series rotation and was an All-Star in 1980. He missed all of 1982 with a shoulder injury that in effect ended his career. He put up a 6.69 ERA in 1983 and was let go; he pitched eight more times afterward before hanging up the spikes.
  • 1979 - The Pirates sent minor leaguers George Hill and Martin Rivas along with cash to the Red Sox to get back OF Mike Easler, who had been sold to Boston during the off season. Good thing the FO had a change of heart. Easler ended up a .302 hitter with the Bucs between 1979-83 and was a key bench/platoon player for the 1979 World Series club, also earning an All-Star bid in the shortened 1981 season. The “Hit Man” (so named because of his sweet gap-to-gap swing and .293 lifetime BA) went back to Boston after the ‘83 season for P John Tudor.
Ian Snell 2008 Upper Deck Spectrum
  • 2008 - Five days after unilaterally renewing his contract, the Pirates signed RHP Ian Snell to a three-year deal worth $8M with options for 2011-12. The 26-year old, who was arbitration eligible after 2009 season, had a 24-26 record after two years in the show. He was dismal in 2008 and was sent to Class AAA at his request. Snell was traded to Seattle in 2009 at the deadline for a boatload of prospects, the best being Ronny Cedeno.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Tuesday: Camp Battles Primer, Bucs Lose 7-6, Notes

A quick rundown of the Pirates roster contests for Opening Day:

Lineup: The starting position gang appeared set going into camp, with Gregory LF, Starling CF, Cutch RF, JHK 3B, Jordy SS, J-Hay 2B, Josh Bell 1B & Fran C. Things change. The two primary bench guys, John Jaso and David Freese, are likely to see a lot more action now. JJ cold see some OF time but should earn considerable work at first until Bell can bring some leather to the position, and Freeser is the defacto hot corner guy until Kang gets his ducks in line. Another interesting question is how much time Adam Frazier will see at second; his bat has been smokin' from the leadoff spot this spring and would free up Josh for a more S-Rod type role if Fraze sees some real time in the lineup.

Fraze is trying to stick his way into some serious playing time (photo Pittsburgh Pirates)

Bench: Stew, Adam Frazier, Freeser and JJ are set; Phil Gosselin appears to have the edge for the final spot. There will be one extra opening with JHK on ice for the time being. Alen Hanson is the front-runner, with Jose Osuna making a strong push. Hansen is out of options and is versatile, while Jose has been scorching the ball but can be sent down safely and is a 1B/OF by trade, which is sort of a logjam position for the pine squad right now. This group leaves the Bucs without a true glove guy in the middle (Gift Ngoepe would be a natural, but w/10 K in 23 AB...) and a fourth outfielder, so we'll see if they choose to address those issues or  carry on with what they've got.

Starting Pitchers: Cole Train, Ivan Nova, JT and Cool Chad have solidified their spots; the final slot is coming down to a Drew Hutchison/Steven Brault decision. Both have had strong camps; the coin flip may be decided by Hutch being out of options while Brault can be shipped back to Indy. Then again, Steven represents the only LHP available, so we'll see... AAA Indianapolis should have a nice rotation, with Tyler Glasnow, Nick Kingham, Trevor Williams, Clay Holmes & Brault/Hutch, with Josh Lindblom lurking from the bullpen, so the rotation will have some depth. All but Tyler, who still needs work on command and control, have had promising camps.

Gerrit Cole is the staff 's main man (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)

Bullpen: The pen is set at the back and bridge ends. Tony Watson, Felipe Rivero, Daniel Hudson, Juan Nicasio & Antonio Bastardo have had solid springs. Jared Hughes, like last year, had been a training camp dumpster fire but seems to have Clint's confidence as a mid-inning fireman. If that holds true, there's one open spot. Wade LeBlanc and AJ Shugel had problems, leaving a possible opening for Rule 5 pick Tyler Webb. Jason Lakind and Edgar Santana have looked strong among the pups and may see action sometime in 2017.

Yesterday's Game: Tyler Glasnow was rocked yesterday, making it look like he's Indy-bound. Let's hope he's keeping a notebook and learning from his camp experience. Despite his poor outing, the Bucs rallied to tie the game at sixes in the ninth before Adam Jones' walk-off double v Dovydas Neverauskas ended the match in favor of the Bravos, 7-6. Fraze had four hits and Phil Gosselin added three; Alen Hanson chipped in with a pair. Pirates baserunning and fielding left something to be desired, not a good sign as we head toward the games the count.

Phil Gosselin trying to lock down the final bench spot (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)

Notes:
  • Jung Ho Kang is appealing his DUI sentence. It's reported that he's trying to get it down to a fine, which would help him in his work papers process. The saga continues...
  • Italy's WBC run is done, so Fran should be on his way back to camp.
  • Another Pirates preview: Get More Sports picks the Bucs to be an 80-82 win club in 2017.
  • Gerrit Cole tossed four innings (67 pitches) of a sim game yesterday; Felipe Rivero & Tyler Webb also worked a frame (12 pitches) each.

3/14: Bobby Banged Up, Lofton Signs, HBD Bunker & Earl

  • 1869 - RHP Billy “Bunker” Rhines was born in Ridgway, Elk County. He tossed for the Bucs at the end of his career in 1898-99, going 16-20 with a 3.95 ERA after twice leading the NL in ERA as a Cincinnati Red. Bunker did have one league leading stat as a Bucco in 1898 - he tossed 258 frames without allowing a homer. The nickname "Bunker" may be a corruption of Rhines' alma mater, Bucknell, although that is uncertain.
  • 1928 - OF Earl Smith was born in Sunnyside, Washington. Smith had a brief career in the show with the Bucs, going 1-for-16 in April 1955 before being sent back to the minors, never to return. But he is the answer to a trivia question. Smith was the last player to wear #21 on the Pittsburgh Pirates' roster before Roberto Clemente. The Great One was a rookie that year and began the season wearing #13, but he claimed #21 (the number of letters in his full name, Roberto Clemente Walker) when Smith was sent down.
Roberto Clemente 1969 Topps
  • 1969 - After recovering from a right shoulder injury, Roberto Clemente banged his left wing chasing a foul pop during a spring game. He started the year 0-for-12, but roared back with a .345 BA, second to Pete Rose’s .348 in a race that went down to the last day. Roberto was hitting .363 in August, but a cranky back kept him on the bench for much of September and likely cost him the crown.
  • 2003 - OF Kenny Lofton agreed to a one-year/$1.025M deal with the Pirates. He didn’t last quite that long, as he was traded to the Cubs on July 23rd with Aramis Ramirez for not much in Dave Littlefield’s most infamous salary dump.