Friday, March 31, 2017

Friday Nite: Bucs Head North To Face Bleu Jays, Taillon v Marcus Stroman, Lineup, Notes, Shugs Optioned

Tonight: The Pirates are under the lights to face Toronto in back-to-back games at Olympic Stadium (ok, Stade Olympique) in Montreal. The opening toss is at 7:07 and the match will be aired on 93.7 The Fan. This is the Bucs first return to La Belle Ville since a 2-1 loss to the Expos on July 11th, 2004 when Josh Fogg was bested by Scott Downs.

Lineup: Adam Frazier LF, Starling Marte CF, Cutch RF, John Jaso DH, David Freese 3B, Fran Cervelli C, Josh Bell 1B, Josh Harrison 2B & Jordy Mercer SS (Jameson Taillon P). Looks like a real lineup, minus Gregory who is still soaking up the Florida sun. It'll be interesting to see who fills the two-hole when he returns.

Looks like Clint is gonna keep running w/Fraze at leadoff (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)

Pitcher: Jameson Taillon with Daniel Hudson, Felipe Rivero, Juan Nicasio and Antonio Bastardo to follow.

Notes: 
  • AJ Shugel was optioned to Indy. These four remain alive for the final three pitching spots: Wade LeBlanc, Tyler Webb, Tyler Glasnow and Trevor Williams. Jared Hughes, btw, cleared waivers and is a free agent.
  • Ivan Nova isn't making the trip to Canada. He's staying behind in Florida to work a minor-league game at Pirate City Sunday to keep his five-day routine intact. Gregory Polanco is keeping him company with visa and shoulder woes, both hopefully minor.
Ivan is still in Florida; he's off until the Home Opener (photo Pittsburgh Pirates)
  • JHK is walking a very narrow line after his latest episode. “He doesn't have any other chances,” team president Frank Coonelly told the media yesterday. “Whatever number of chances he has had, he has exhausted all of them.”
  • Paul Swydan of Fangraphs listed the playoff chances as voted on by the site's staff; Pittsburgh did not fare very well. Fansided's Mark Whitener looked at the 2017 Bucs (caveat emptor: he posted b4 a couple of cuts) and basically agrees, placing them on the middle rung of the Central.
  • Ryan of the North Shore Nine has a schedule breakdown that shows monthly degree-of-difficulty over the season both by 2016 results and 2017 projections. Tough hump to climb early with a second half break.
  • Al Oliver is in town to catch the set; "Scoops" started with the Bucs and finished his career with the Expos.

3/31: PNC Park Era - PNC Opens, Operation Shutdown Scuttled; Bucs Open GABP; Opening Day Thrillers

  • 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.
PNC Park (photo Pittsburgh Pirates)
  • 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. As Mark Madden of the Post Gazette wrote “Derek Bell becomes the ultimate Pirate: Lives on a boat and steals money.”
  • 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 2008 Topps Heritage
  • 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.

3/31: Pre-PNC Park - KY Signs; Bielecki & Lefty Deals; Tenace Released; HBD Fred, Chick, Tom & Skeeter

  • 1886 - OF Fred Kommers was born in Chicago. He debuted with the Bucs in 1913, hitting .233 in 40 games. He jumped to the Federal League the following season, and though he hit better as a Fed than he did in the NL, it didn’t do much to advance his baseball career - it would be his last major league campaign.
Chick Brandom 1909 (Conlon Collection/Detroit Public Library)
  • 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 albeit small sample record. But he may have a greater claim that his Bucco stint. A 1908 picture of Chick shows him delivering a knuckleball and if the date is right, that would make him the first known practitioner of that pitch, predating guys like Eddie Cicotte.
  • 1894 - RHP Tom Sheehan was born in Grand Ridge, Illinois. Tom pitched the final two years of a MLB career that began in 1915 for the Pirates (1925-26; 1-3-2, 4.08). He embarked on a long march as a baseball lifer after his playing days. Sheehan coached for the Reds and Braves, then spent many years as a minor league manager/ scout in the Giants system. In 1960, at age 66, he succeeded the fired Bill Rigney as the Giants skipper, becoming the oldest person to make his debut as a big-league manager. That gig didn’t work out, and after the campaign he was once again assigned to scouting.
  • 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 1921-22, when he batted .323 and .350. He banged out 419 hits over that span, scored 213 runs and led the NL in singles both years. Bigbee stole 182 bases in his career, which earned him his “Skeeter” nickname.
Vince leaves town (photo The Sporting News)
  • 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 after batting .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 indie league pitcher.
KY back in the 'Burg 1998 Fleer Ultra
  • 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 and is back with the club as a special instructor.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Thursday: Day of Rest; Roster Make-Up, Hughes Waived, Bucs Drop Finale

OK, the spring storyline was that the brass wouldn't cut Hutch because he was the get for Frankie and Clint loves Jared Hughes, so ditto. But guess what? Ya still gotta get some outs to go with the love, and they didn't. Both were let go (Hutch was optioned and Hughes waived) so the bullpen/fifth starter/last bench spot battlefields became a bit less crowded.

They have 14 pitchers listed, and that's two too many. The set-in-stone arms are Gerrit Cole, Ivan Nova, Jameson Taillon and Chad Kuhl to start and Tony Watson, Felipe Rivero, Daniel Hudson, Juan Nicasio and Antonio Bastardo from the pen. Three from this list stay: Trevor Williams, Tyler Glasnow, Tyler Webb, Wade LeBlanc and AJ Shugel.

Tyler Glasnow: Will he stay or will he go? (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)

The 14 position guys are C Fran Cervelli; 1B Josh Bell & John Jaso; 2B Josh Harrison & Adam Frazier; SS Jordy Mercer; 3B David Freese, OF Cutch, Gregory Polanco & Starling Marte and bench player C Stew, IF Phil Gosselin and one of these two: Alen Hansen or Jose Osuna. JJ and Fraze have played some spring ball in the pasture; J-Hay has also logged outfield time in the past, key since there is no true fourth OF'er on the roster. Jung Ho Kang is in no-man's land and will remain there for an indeterminable period.

The pitching is deeper than last year's squad. The lineup is pretty much the same, but the bench will miss S-Rod and Matt Joyce and will try to make it up in versatility. The one area where they fall short is on defense; Sean Rodriguez could play everywhere and well while this year's club has no strong middle defender or experienced bench outfielder.

Trevor took a big step in his battle for a roster spot (photo Joe Guzzy/Pirates)

Yesterday's Game: The Cole Train kept his heater up today; a trio of Philly hitters liked it there and took him deep (all solo shots) for a sorta meh warm-up for the season. Trevor Williams topped a fine spring by tossing four scoreless frames, giving up just two hits and whiffing a half-dozen. He should be in line to earn a roster spot, and if he does, he didn't back into it. Buc minor-leaguers filled in on the hill and, well, proved why they're minor leaguers as Philly spoiled the Bucco Grapefruit League finale by an 8-2 count. Jordy quietly had a nice spring, hitting .302 and showing some muscle. He doubled twice today and Danny Ortiz added a couple of more knocks in a losing cause.

Notes:
  • Whoa - the Pirates placed Jared Hughes on release waivers. He still had an option remaining; we guess the release rather than option has to do with his $2.825M salary which is only guaranteed for 45 days after release. Anyway, best of luck to a fine gent.
  • Charlie Deitch of the Pittsburgh City Paper has five "bold" Pirate predictions that run the gamut.

3/30: Omar, Ricardo & Brian Join Up; RIP Deacon; HBD Tom, George, Dutch & Ripper

  • 1857 - IF/manager Tom Burns was born in Honesdale, Pennsylvania. After spending the first 12 years of his career playing for Chicago clubs, he spent his final campaign as a player/manager of the Pirates in 1892. Though the team was considered a contender with two future Hall of Famers on the roster in Joe Kelley and Jake Beckley, it started slowly and after putting up a 25–30 record, Burns was axed in favor of Al Buckenberger. Tom moved on to manage in the minors, spent a couple of seasons as the skipper of the Chicago Orphans and finished his baseball career in 1901 as a farm club boss.
  • 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 Pittsburgh 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.
George Van Haltren (cartoon from the Daily Oregonian)
  • 1879 - Utilityman Arthur “Dutch” Meiers was born in St. Louis. A two-sport star at Princeton, Dutch spent just one year in the show, playing behind Honus Wagner and Fred Clarke in 1906. He hit a respectable .256 and got into 82 games. He earned his spot during the previous off-season when Meier showed his stuff by joining the team for exhibition and barnstorming games. After his Pittsburgh stint, he played for a variety of semi-pro clubs and served as baseball coach for his alma mater. And maybe even for his old team - it's speculated that Meier may have played additional seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates under a number of assumed names since he appears in team pictures as late as the 1912 season.
  • 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.
Hal Rhyne 1926 (photo Conlon Collection/TSN/Getty)
  • 1904 - 1B Jim “Ripper” Collins was born in Altoona. He made his name as a hard-hitting prankster of the Gas House Gang and spent his last MLB campaign as a Pirate in 1941 after taking a two-year hiatus in the PCL at Los Angeles. The Bucs brought him in to share some Elbie Fletcher’s workload at first, but at age 37 Collins’ best days were behind him and he batted just .211 in 49 games, mostly pinch-hitting. He stayed with the organization for several years as a player/manager at Class A Albany. Cort Vitty of SABR, citing The Sporting News, wrote “The nickname Ripper developed during an on-field incident that occurred when Jimmy was a young player. A ball rocketed off his bat and struck a nail protruding from the outfield fence; it caused the cover to partially tear. When asked who hit the ball, the retrieving outfielder saw the ball hanging and said, ‘It was the ripper.’”
  • 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.
  • 1969 - Panamanian OF Omar Moreno was signed by the Pirates’ Howie Haak as a 16-year-old amateur free agent. Moreno, who was with the Pirates from 1975-82, led the 1979 World Series club in runs and hits. The speedster set the single-season Pirates record for stolen bases with 96 in 1980, and his 412 steals with the team ranks third overall behind Max Carey and Honus Wagner.
Omar Mareno 1981 Topps/Coke
  • 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 club, 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. He lasted one more year with Tampa Bay before retiring.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Wednesday: Split Squad Philly at Pittsburgh, Cole v Luis Garcia, Lineup, Notes, Hutch Optioned, Bucs Blasted

Today: The Phillies play the Pirates at LECOM Park in Bradenton. The main game (it's split squad action today) starts at 1:05 and will be carried on Root Sports with no radio. BTW, it's the last Grapefruit League game of the year, followed by an off day and then an exhibition set against the Jays in Montreal over the weekend.

Lineup: Alen Hansen LF, Phil Gosselin 2B, Josh Bell 1B, David Freese 3B, Jordy Mercer SS, Danny Ortiz CF, Jacob Stallings C, Casey Hughston RF, Gerrit Cole P. Not many starters in the lineup as it's camp breakdown day; the equipment trucks will be packed and rolling toward the Three Rivers tonight.

Alen Hansen gets his shot at leadoff today (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)

Pitchers: Gerrit Cole, Trevor Williams, AJ Schugel and Jared Hughes. This will be Cole Train's last tune-up before the Opener against Boston on the 3rd. Hughes has seen a lot of action lately as the Pirates get closer to roster deadline while Shugs and Trevor get another shot at making their case to break camp with the team.

Yesterday's Game: Hutch got clobbered again early and late to the tune of nine runs in 3-2/3 IP. Six Bucco pitchers (three from the minor league camp) held the fort after that, but it was no contest as the Pirates fell 9-2. Jose Osuna had two more hits while JJ, Josh Bell and the Goose reached twice with a hit & walk each to top the hit column.

Notes:
  • Hutch was optioned to Indy today after a third straight weak outing. There are now 29 players left on the roster who have a shot at making the team; the final few cuts will be interesting calls.
  • Gregory may not join the team on its Montreal trip due to a passport issue, although the Pirates believe it'll will be straightened out shortly, maybe as soon as today. It's related to WBC travel and is just an adminstrative glitch. Regardless, he's probably better served with a couple of more days of treatment for his gimpy wing in the warm weather without the extra travel.
  • LHP Joely Rodriguez is on the mound for the Phils today. The once-Bucco farmhand was traded to Philly during the 2014 off season for Antonio Bastardo and made his MLB debut last season.
Vanimal was released by the Nats (2015 Topps Heritage)
  • The Nationals have released RHP Vance Worley while the Yankees signed LHP Jon Niese to a minor-league deal after releasing him earlier in the week. OF Alex Presley was sent to minor-league camp by the Tigers.

3/29: Prospect Trade, Varsho Signed, HBD Bob & Mike

  • 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.
Gary Varsho 1993 Donruss
  • 1994 - After being released 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 batted .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 shown the door.
  • 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.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Tuesday Nite: Red Sox at Pirates, Hutch v Steven Wright, Lineup, Notes, More Cuts, Pirates Win 4-1

Tonight: The Red Sox visit the Pirates at LECOM Park in Bradenton. It's another night game, starting at 6:05, and will be on Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan.

Lineup: Adam Frazier LF, J-Hay 3B, Cutch RF, Starling Marte CF, John Jaso 1B, Fran Cervelli C, Josh Bell DH, Phil Gosselin SS, Alen Hansen 2B (Hutch P). Fraze is seeing a lot of time at leadoff and playing every day; he may be chasing down Harrison for starting time.

Well look who's at leadoff again (photo Pittsburgh Pirates)

Pitchers: Drew Hutchison, Tony Watson, Daniel Hudson and Antonio Bastardo. Hutch was rocked in his last outing but is still battling, and may even be ahead *shiver me timbers* in the fifth starter scrum.

Yesterday's Game: Mighty fine pitching again. Ivan Nova was more than solid, even with surrendering Miguel Sano's solo blast, Tyler Webb tossed three one-hit frames, Felipe Rivero was tough and even minor league arm Buddy Borden struck out the side between a walk and a knock. Fraze and Cutch both homered and drove in a pair as the Bucs cruised to a 4-1 win over the Twins.

Notes:
  • Gregory Polanco has sat for three games with a left shoulder issue and says he doesn't expect to start throwing again until Friday. 
And then there were three...Brault sent to Indy (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)
  • The Pirates optioned Steven Brault and Gift Ngoepe to Indianapolis and reassigned Josh Lindblom and Jason Rogers to the minors. The first three were no surprise, tho the trio had decent camps. Brault's departure leaves the fifth man spot a three-way battle between Hutch, Tyler Glasnow and Trevor Williams.
  • Yesterday's game was a throwback - it took just two hours and 10 minutes to play.
  • Ex-Buccos RHP Deolis Guerra & C Tony Sanchez were reassigned from major league camp by the Angels yesterday as was C Steve Lerud by the Rangers. Golden oldie RHP Bronson Arroyo is a good bet to break camp with the Reds as a back-end starter and LHP Erik O'Flaherty made the cut in Atlanta while OF Mel Rojas Jr is still in contention for a Bravo bench spot.
  • Last year's Indy rehab candidate, 32-year-old RHP Justin Masterson, has signed a minor-league deal with the LA Dodgers.

3/28: Heaton, Solomon, Sisk Deals; RIP Cum; HBD Bill, Mark & Bryan

  • 1929 - RHP Bill MacDonald was born in Alameda, California. Bill tossed for the Bucs in 1950 and again briefly in 1953, compiling an 8-11-1, 4.66 mark. He had a promising debut campaign for Pittsburgh, but after missing 1951-52 while in the service, Mac never regained his form. He tossed for two seasons in the PCL and retired from baseball. 
Bill MacDonald 1951 Bowman
  • 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. 
  • 1969 - The Pirates traded RHP Tommie Sisk and C Chris Cannizzaro to the San Diego Padres in exchange for OPF 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 the 1974 season. 
Tommie Sisk 1968 Topps
  • 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. Buddy 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 closer’s job full time in early 2014, saving 33 games in 37 chances. In nearly four Pirates seasons, he picked up 10 wins, 130 saves and 41 holds while posting a 1.80 ERA (2.27 FIP) in 267 appearances. He won The Sporting News & Trevor Hoffman NL reliever of the year awards in 2015. The Shark was traded to Washington at the 2016 deadline and signed with the Giants in 2017 as a free agent.

Mark the Shark 2016 Topps Chrome Sepia
  • 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. Morris was other worldly in his Marlin stint, posting an 0.66 ERA (although his 3.03 FIP was more down to earth) and finished his Fish tenure with a 2.30 ERA. He moved to San Francisco in 2017 as a free agent. 
  •  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.


Monday, March 27, 2017

Monday Nite: Twinkies Visit Pirates; Nova v Phil Hughes, Lineup, Notes, Pirates Dropped 6-3

Today: The Twins meet the Pirates under the lights at 6:05 in Bradenton's LECOM Park. The game will be aired by Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan.

Lineup: Adam Frazier 2B, Josh Harrison 3B, Cutch RF, Starling Marte CF, David Freese 1B, Jordy Mercer SS, Alen Hanson LF, Jacob Stallings C and Ivan Nova P. The Bucs are still in shuffle mode a week before the season with Gregory, Fran, Stew and JHK on ice to go with some roster wrangling.

Tyler Webb has been flying under the radar (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)

Pitchers: Ivan Nova, Felipe Rivero, and Tyler Webb. Webb has shown up well for a Rule 5 grab but may be caught in a numbers game.

Yesterday's Game: Josh Lindblom did not have a good day, surrendering five runs on eight hits with a walk in just 1-2/3 IP. But the opposite was true for Wade LeBlanc, who went 3-1/3 zippo IP, giving up three hits w/two Ks and zero walks. AJ Shugel added a clean frame and Jared Hughes ran through some raindrops to put up another zero, but it wasn't enough to dig out of the hole as the Pirates fell 6-3 to the Phils. Jose Osuna had two RBI, Jordy chased home another run and Austin Meadows had a pair of hits for the Buccos. Pittsburgh was 0-for-2 stealing; they're 22-of-37 (59%) for the spring.

Notes:

  • From Neal Huntington's Sunday radio show: Fran was scrubbed from yesterdays lineup because of his camp workload and a "little foot soreness" and is sitting again today. Holy MASH unit, catchers! Neal added that they "hope" Gregory Polanco, sidelined with a sore throwing shoulder, is ready for Opening Day. He also squelched speculation that the club would carry an extra bat early on, saying the fifth starter would also serve as a long man in April. NH noted that the 25-man roster wouldn't be finalized until the exhibition season ended as there are battles yet to be won.
  • Chad Kuhl (100 pitch limit) and Antonio Bastardo (one inning or 15 pitches) tossed a minor league game today at Pirate City.
Baseball America probably got this one right.
  • OF'er Austin Meadows has been reassigned to minor league camp; he should start the campaign at Indy. The 21-year-old slashed .326/.420/.558 during the spring and his big league days are right around the bend.
  • Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com has a positive take on the Bucs minor league guys in the pipeline.
  • ESPN has the Pirates in the middle of the 2017 pack, ranked 15th competitively with a projection of 83 wins.
  • Sean Burnett opted out of his contract with the Phils and was released. Burnett, 34, hasn't tossed full-time since 2012, having undergone the TJ procedure twice since.

3/27: Cangelosi, Guerrier Deals; O'Flaherty Sold; Steverino Released; HBD Bill & Gary

  • 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 he beat the Cincinnati Reds 7-0. He was the pitching coach for the 1960 WS champs, and before that was a minor league assistant who helped develop Vern Law by teaching him how to change speeds and throw a changeup.
Bill Burwell 1980 TCMA
  • 1953 - C Gary Alexander was born in Los Angeles. He had back-to-back strong seasons in 1977-78 while playing for three teams but a low BA and high K rate marked him as bench material by the time he arrived in Pittsburgh in 1981. He hit .213 as an OF/1B/PH for the Bucs in his last MLB season. Alexander was released by the Pirates as a late cut the following spring and finished out his pro career in Mexico.
  • 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.
John Cangelosi 1987 Topps
  • 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. He spent two seasons in AAA before embarking on an 11-year MLB career that ended after the 2014 season.
  • 2016 - Veteran 31-year-old reliever Eric O’Flaherty’s six-week stay on the Bucco spring roster (he was signed as a free agent on February 11th) ended when he was sold to the club that he spent his best years with, the Atlanta Braves. The lefty was due for either a guaranteed active roster spot, a $100K bonus to have his rights retained until June 1st or outright release; the Pirate FO instead checked the “other” box for him. Good move; he pitched poorly for the Bravos, due in great part to three visits to the DL, and stayed with Atlanta this year via a minor-league deal.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Sunday: Pirates v Phils, Lindblom v Clay Buchholz, Lineup, Notes, Pirates Keep On Rolling

Today: The Pirates visit the Phillies at Spectrum Field in Clearwater. The game starts at 1:05 and will be on 93.7 The Fan.

Lineup: Jordy Mercer SS, Josh Bell 1B, David Freese 3B, John Jaso RF, Jose Osuna LF, Austin Meadows CF, Gift Ngoepe 2B, Jackson Williams C & Josh Lindblom P. Fran was originally scheduled behind the dish, but was a healthy scratch today; guess they don't want back-to-back games from him yet, especially with Stew on ice.

Fran takin' it easy in camp  - 2016 Falcon Limited Edition (Venezuela)

Pitchers: Josh Lindblom, Wade LeBlanc, AJ Schugel, and Jared Hughes, who becomes the first reliever to work in consecutive games.

Yesterday's Game: Tyler Glasnow gave up a three-run homer and used 80 pitches to get through four frames. But it wasn't nearly as bad as it seemed; the two runners aboard ahead of the blast were there due to suspect infield play, Tyler whiffed nine batters with some nice off-speed stuff, and he only walked one. So a lot of good, a little bad, and some team ugly in his outing. Jared Hughes put up a zippo in his frame and Steven Brault gave up a run in his four innings. The Bucs were no-hit by Anibal Sanchez over six; the next 13 batters teed off on Mark Lowe and Kevin Ryan. Fran's triple keyed a three-run seventh and bombs by Fraze and Austin Meadows in the eighth did in the Bosox 5-4. Glasnow and Brault are making the fifth starter call a horse race as the pitchers head into the final turn.

Tyler is stayin' alive after yesterday's outing (photo Pittsburgh Pirates)

Notes:
  • So ya think putting together a 25-man roster is easy? Stew, who has a mild sprain of his left groin, told Adam Berry of MLB.com that he is "optimistic" that he'll be ready for Opening Day. He's been babied through camp following a late-season knee procedure, and we hope this latest ouchie isn't a sign of Father Time catching up to the 35-year old Stewart.
  • Jameson Taillon is slated to throw 100 pitches in a minor league game at Pirate City today.
  • The Yankees released Jon Niese.

3/26: Yates, Milligan Deals; Herges Release; HBD Jack & Josh; Sandy in Spring

  • 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 (photo via Chicago Daily News)
  • 1963 - The LA Dodgers' Sandy Koufax surrendered two homers and was touched for six runs while whiffing nine Buccos in seven innings during a spring tune-up. It was not an omen of things to come. In 40 starts that season, Koufax gave up six runs in an outing only once, going 25-5 with a 1.88 ERA, winning the Cy Young Award and earning a World Series ring. The Bucs did get to the Hall-of-Fame lefty better than most that campaign, going 1-1 against him in three starts and scoring over three runs per game.
  • 1981 - IF Josh Wilson was born in Pittsburgh and played prep ball at Mt. Lebanon High along with Don Kelly. He was only with the hometown organization briefly at Indy in 2008 but played in eight big-league campaigns. Wilson earned the nickname “Paperboy” not so much because he delivered (his lifetime BA was .229) but as a nod to his youthful appearance. Josh was the son of one of the area’s top baseball mentors - his dad, Mike, was a long time coach with stops at Mt Lebanon HS (he coached up Josh & Kelly), Pitt and Duquesne while also part of the semi-pro Greater Pittsburgh Federation Baseball League for more than 20 years as a player, coach, and manager.
  • 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.
Randy Milligan 1989 Fleer Rookie
  • 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.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Saturday: Detroit at Pittsburgh, Glasnow v Anibal Sanchez, Lineup, Notes, Bucs Win 4-0

Today: Motown comes to LECOM Park to play the Bucs in Bradenton. The game begins at 1:05 and will be on Root Sports with no radio. The contest will also be aired to out-of-market MLB Network viewers.

Lineup: Adam Frazier SS, Josh Harrison 2B, Cutch RF, Gregory Polanco LF, Starling Marte CF, Fran Cervelli C, John Jaso 1B, Phil Gosselin 3B and Tyler Glasnow P. It's time to get the Opening Day outfield amigos together. Edit: change that - Gregory Polanco has been removed from today's starting lineup due to left shoulder discomfort, hoo boy. New order TBA

Pitchers: Tyler Glasnow, Steven Brault, and Jared Hughes. All these guys are battling for spots, so a pretty big outing for the trio.

Tyler tries to show some consistency today (photo Pittsburgh Pirates)

Yesterday's Game: Don't forget about me, said Trevor Williams. He tossed five scoreless innings, giving up three singles, whiffing four and getting eight ground outs. Tony Watson, Daniel Hudson, Felipe Rivero and Juan Nicasio kept the vibe going and the Bucs won 4-0. Wasn't much Bucco batsmanship exhibited - they were in midseason form, going 1-for-10 with RISP - with Gift and Goose each picking up a pair of hits on the day.

Notes:

  • Frank Coonelly hasn't confirmed the Korean reports that Kang's visa was denied and said "The facts, as we know them, are that Kang still has not been granted permission to travel to the United States under a work visa. We continue to work with Kang and his representatives to present materials and information to the appropriate parties in the United States government that we believe establish that Kang should be permitted to travel to the United States under a work visa and we remain hopeful that such a resolution will be reached in the near future (italics added). We have no indication that Jung Ho has had a driving incident in a country other than Korea." So whether the Pirates are throwing cold water on the report or whistling past the graveyard is TBD.
Is there a market for Jared? 2012 Topps Heritage
  • Per the Tribune Review's Rob Biertempfel, the Pirates are dangling Jared Hughes and Alen Hanson as trade bait. Jared has had another tough spring while Hansen, who has been swinging a hot bat and taken pretty well to outfield play, is out of options while vying for a utility spot the Bucs are deep in. 
  • Chris Stewart left the game with left groin discomfort (what else?) He's listed as day-to-day.
  • Josh didn't get much work during the WBC. The Pirates got him some at-bats yesterday as DH in a minor league game and he'll start today.
  • Old Buc OFs JaCoby Jones and Alex Presley were expected to start the year in AAA for Detroit, but hot spring performances and a couple of injuries give both a chance of breaking camp with El Tigres.
  • The All-World Baseball Classic Team was announced and Gregory Polanco was one of 12 players named to the team. He was red hot for the DR, batting .579, hopefully an omen of him breaking out this year for the Bucs.
  • Matt Eddy of Baseball America picked his Top 20 Rookies for the soon-to-begin season. He selected Pittsburgh's Josh Bell and Tyler Glasnow, writing that Tyler could be on the verge of a "major breakout."

3/25: Bell Deal Finished; Maz Out; Vanimal Joins Up; HBD Frank, Jimmy & Lee

  • 1868 - RHP Frank Dwyer was born in Lee, Massachusetts. Frank put together a solid 12-year MLB career with 176 wins and a 3.8 ERA. Unfortunately, his 1890 stop in Pittsburgh when he was 22-years-old was the lowlight of those dozen campaigns. He went 3-6-1/6.23 on the hill, although he did play a handful of games in the pasture and hit .264 for the Pirates. After he retired, he managed in Detroit for a year and umpired briefly in both leagues.
Jimmy Sebring 2003 Fleer Fall Classic
  • 1882 - RF Jimmy Sebring was born in Liberty, PA, near Williamsport. He played for Pittsburgh from 1902-04, hitting .261, and in 1903 became the first MLB player to homer in a World Series game when he legged out an inside-the-park four-bagger against Cy Young while hitting .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.
  • 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 rumored 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 joined 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.
Maz proved human - 2013 Leaf Masterwork
  • 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 following some 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.

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.