Saturday, March 31, 2018

Pirates-Tigers: Williams v Fulmer; Notes

Today: The game starts at 1:10 at Comerica Park. It will be shown on AT&T SportsNet and out-of-market on the MLB Network, with 93.7 The Fan providing the radio-side coverage. And it's still raw weather-wise in the Motor City. A Wind Advisory is in effect for part of the day, with rain expected around lunchtime and lasting through sunset.

Lineup: A repeat. and why not? Fraze DH, J-Hay 2B, El Coffee RF, J-Bell 1B, Corey Dickerson LF, Starling Marte CF, Fran Cervelli C, Colin Moran 3B, Jordy SS (Trevor Williams P).


Pitchers: RHP Trevor Williams (7-9/4.07) climbs the hill opposite RHP Michael Fulmer (10-12/3.83). Williams had a strong second half in 2017 and showed a much improved K-rate in the spring, so we'll see if he can build on that. On the other side of the pillow, he also had some problems last year against lefties and on the road. Fulmer, a control guy who pitches to contact, was a 2017 All-Star in his second campaign. The first-round pick of 2011 out of HS came over from the Mets in 2015 as part of the Yoenis Cespedes deal. It will be the first time Fulmer has faced his opponent; William's last outing against the Tigers was a good one, going seven innings of one-hit ball last August in a 3-0 win.

Notes:
  • 3B Colin Moran, P's Steven Brault, Edgar Santana, & Dovydas Neverauskas along with C Elias Diaz all made their first MLB Opening Day roster yesterday. All but Eli played.
  • How unsettled has 1B been for the Pirates? Josh Bell became the first Pirates first-sacker to get back-to-back Opening Day starts since Adam LaRoche in 2007-09.
  • The game took five hours and 27 minutes to play, becoming not only the longest Opening Day game in Bucco history but also in MLB annals. And it wasn't even the longest, innings-wise, game of the day. The Marlins took 17 frames to beat the Cubs (yesssss!) 2-1, though it only took them five hours and 18 minutes.
  • Who has the most young flamethrowers who have hit 100+? Why, the Buccos, of course, per Baseball America.
  • Worth a read: The Pittsburgh Quarterly's John Miller examines how youth baseball is becoming a game for the well-to-do as the community little league outfits are being raided by costly travel team nines.

3/31: PNC Park Era - Operation Shutdown; Torres Extended; PNC Park Opens; Opening Day Games

  • 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. 
Derek Bell 2001 Fleer Platinum
  • 2002 - “Operation Shutdown” OF Derek Bell was released, with the Pirates eating $4.5M in guaranteed money, after Bell told the media that he would sail into the sunset on his yacht rather than be forced to compete for a starting spot. In the first year of his deal, he was nagged by injuries and hit .173 in 46 games, which to many seemed a good enough reason to open the competition. His voyage as a ballplayer was scuttled after he hoisted his anchor: 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. President George Bush tossed out the first ball in front of 42,000+ fans, but 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.
  • 2006 - RHP Salomon Torres agreed to a two-year contract extension worth $6.5M pending a physical. It extended his current deal through 2008. He worked 94 games in 2006 (3-6-12/3.28), but after a subpar 2007 campaign, he was shipped to Milwaukee for Marino Salas and minor leaguer Kevin Roberts. Torres considered retirement over relocation, but did join the Brewers, worked the season and then hung up his mitt. 
Xavier Nady 2007 Upper Deck Ultimate
  • 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. 
  • 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 - Vince D & Bielecki Trades; KY Inked; Tenace, Big Red Done; HBD Skeeter, Chick, Tom & Fred

  • 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. 
  • 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 performance sample. But he may have a greater claim than 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. 
Chick Brandom 1908 (photo via RMY Auctions)
  • 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. Bigbee was part of the 1926 “ABC Affair” when he, Babe Adams and Max Carey beefed about team suit Fred Clarke being in the dugout during games and overruling manager Bill McKechnie; all three were on the downside of their careers and got their walking papers as a result. 
  • 1945 - The Pirates traded OF Vince DiMaggio, a two-time All-Star, 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 as the Pirates converted him from a starter to the pen. 
Vince DiMaggio (photo The Sporting News)
  • 1977 - After nine years as a Bucco, the Pirates released 1B Bob Robertson, who had been reduced to part-time status following 1974 knee surgery and then hurt his back in camp. He filed a grievance with the MLBPA to get his full year’s salary because he was let go while injured; it was settled when the Bucs paid him the entire $50K due for 1977. In 1971, the Mount Savage Strongboy became the first player to hit TRS’s upper deck in left center, then enjoyed a monster postseason, but he slumped badly after that campaign before his knees gave out. He retired after being released by Toronto in June of 1979. 
  • 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 OBP machine. His BA was just .241, but he had a .388 OBP for his career and drew 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 workmanlike journeyman pitcher, working 14 years in MLB (although he did have one big season for the Cubs, going 18-7/3.14 in 1989) while Curtis never got out of AAA, ending his career as an indie league pitcher. 
Mike Bielecki 1986 Topps
  • 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.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Opening Day Wasn't Pretty, But It Was A Win: 13-10 In 13 Innings

Looked good for a minute when Fraze opened with a double (although he never moved off second) and Ivan Nova escaped a bases-loaded, no-out jam (two walks & an infield single). So much for early optics. The Buc bats went icier than the Detroit weather while the Tigers jumped on Nova. He gave up back-to-back-to-back doubles to the 7-8-9 hitters and was lucky to escape with just two runs. The third went by uneventfully. In the fourth, the light went on as Gregory, J-Bell and Corey Dickerson hit consecutive one-out singles worth a run; two more came home on Cervy's two-out, two-run two-bagger to center. Ivan tucked away Motown in their half.

Dodging the Raindrops 2016 Topps
The Pirates went quietly in the fifth while Detroit made some noise. A walk and two singles loaded the bases with nobody gone, and it took that long to get someone up in the pen, even with two off days and an extra arm. Clint got away with that gaffe; Ivan coaxed a short fly and 6-4-3 DP to dodge his second bases-filled-with-no-one-out pickle of the day. Gregory opened the sixth with a walk, stole second and scampered to third when the ball skipped into center, scoring on J-Bell's single. A bigger inning was averted when Dickerson K'ed and Josh was gunned at second; a 3-2 pitch with no outs is usually not a running situation (especially with Bell on base). Dovydas Neverauskas took the hill for the Bucs and worked a 1-2-3 frame, with Nova's final line at two runs, six hits, three walks & four whiffs after 84 pitches.

Motown's Warwick Saupold took the ball in the seventh and spun a clean inning. Michael Feliz stepped in and ouch - he gave up a double on a fly ball Gregory should have gloved followed by a walk; the ump missed a couple of calls on that at-bat. No excuses for the next rocket, a game-tying double to right by Miggy. He scored on a single with the runner moving to second on a way-late throw home. Feliz was given the hook; he threw nothing but four-seamers and every ball was hit pretty well. It got worse for the next-up Edgar Santana, who tossed well; J-Bell booted a ball to make it 6-4 before the smoke cleared.

Drew VerHagen toed the slab; Fraze singled and J-Hay walked to put the Bucs in business. Lefty Daniel Stumpf came in to replace DVH and was greeted by a Gregory double to cut the lead to one; Bell's sac fly tied it with Gregory tagging to third. The inning came to a frustrating end when Dickerson's soft liner to short caught Polanco going the wrong way for a DP. George Kontos got the ball; his second pitch plunked the ump in the mask, knocking him out of the game. The inning was otherwise calm.

Today's Winner Steven Brault (photo Pittsburgh Pirates)
Shane Greene climbed the mound for the ninth and Marte tripled to say hi, scoring on Amore's knock. Jordy's hit-and-run single sent him to third an out later, and Frankie plated after a passed ball. Joe Jimenez got the wave with two gone; a walk and catcher's interference filled the bags. J-Bell's weak roller to second was tossed away. It was ruled a hit and error as two more Buccos crossed the dish. Felipe entered in a non-save spot as the only loose Pirate pitcher. He walked consecutive batters with an out, and they both scored on a double. An out was followed by another walk, with Rivero at 30 pitches. He's missing up and away, the same pattern he showed in Florida; a mechanical tinker is definitely due in his near future. At any rate, that brought in Josh Smoker, who promptly gave up a game-tying double.

Jimenez started the 10th, walked Marte and after an out, Alex Wilson answered the phone. Starling was caught stealing; he had a poor jump and never had much of a chance. Smoker walked the first batter; with two outs, he had a runner on second thanks to a wild pitch. JaCoby Jones looked at strike three, but the ump missed it, and of course the former Bucco farmhand took advantage and singled in the run to end it. Or did he? - the Bucs appealed the call at home; it looked like Fran nicked him sliding by. And he apparently did. So on we slog, minus Motown manager Ron Gardenhire, who was ejected after the call was reversed. Wilson put up another zero in the 11th. Steven Brault walked his first batter but got the next trio. The same pair stayed on the bump for the 12th; nada for either club.

With two gone in the 13th, Fraze and J-Hay singled. Then Hallelujah, Gregory rocketed one over the wall, sitting on a 3-0 pitch. But ho boy, after an out the El Tigres rapped back-to-back singles. No prob; Steven whiffed the next two Striped Cats swinging to put it, at long last, to bed and Raise the Jolly Roger for the first time this year. Hot takes? Nah, too early for that except to again suggest the season starts out west instead of the snow/rain belt.

Today's Hero 2016 Topps
Notes:
  • Fraze, Gregory and J-Bell each had three hits; J-Hay, Starling and Fran collected a pair of raps. El Coffee had four RBI while Bell and Cervy each knocked home three. Harrison and Polanco each scored three times.
  • Felipe Rivero and Michael Feliz were charged with eight runs in 2/3IP while the last three guys to make the club, Josh Smoker, Dovy Neverauskas and Edwin Santana, tossed 3-1/3 scoreless frames. George Kontos and game-winner Steven Brault also posted zeroes.
  • J-Hay walked twice today! Sure beats getting plunked as a way to get aboard. 
  • 13 runs was the most the Pirates scored in an Opener since 1911 when they beat the Reds 14-0 at the Palace of the Fans. The time of today's game was five hours, 27 minutes, the longest Opener in Bucco hostory. That 1911 contest took two hours and eight minutes.
  • The Pirates were 1-59 when trailing by multiple runs after seven innings last year; now they at least have the one win safely booked for this year..
  • IF Gift Ngoepe made the Blue Jays MLB roster.

Opening Day in the Motor City - Nova v Zimmerman; Notes

Today: The first pitch will be at 1:10, delayed a day due to rain, the first time an Opening Day game has been postponed in Comerica Park history (it opened in 2000). The game will be carried by AT&T SportsNet and 93.7 The Fan. And ruh-roh; the Tigers have won six straight season openers

Lineup: Adam Frazier DH, J-Hay 2B, Gregory RF, J-Bell 1B, Corey Dickerson LF, Starling Marte CF, Cervy C, Colin Moran 3B & Jordy SS. Our guess re: Marte hitting sixth, FWIW, is match-up, since he's 1-for-10 v Zimmerman, but how Clint comes up with a batting order has always been "a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma" as that great baseball commentator Winnie Churchill would say.


Pitchers: RHP Ivan Nova toes the slab v RHP Jordan Zimmerman, not exactly a classic Opening Day matchup, although Z-Man did work the Tigers home opener last year. Both are looking for bounce backs this season. Ivan was the epitome of league average with an 11-14/4.14 campaign in 2017 while Zim at 8-13/6.08 would aspire to reach Nova's numbers. Nova has faced the Tigers six times and is 0-3/7.05 against them; Zimmerman is 1-3/3.96 in four career outings v the Bucs.

Notes:
  • The last time Pittsburgh opened the season against Detroit, the Alleghenys beat the Wolverines, who were the defending National League champs, 5-2, on April 20th, 1888, at North Side’s Recreation Park with Ed “Cannonball” Morris going 12 innings for the win. The Detroit nine folded after the '88 campaign; the Tigers didn't come into being as a franchise until 1901, when they became a charter member of the new American League. So this will be the first Pirates-Tigers season Opener clash.
  • This is new territory for the Tigers; Justin Verlander had made every Opening Day start for Motown since 2007, except for one year when he was on the DL (2015 - Jeremy Bonderman got the ball). Verlander was the Astros Opening Day guy this year, so his streak continues.
  • Joe Musgrove will pitch in Florida tomorrow; that keeps him on track for a Thursday start.
  • The Giants placed Mark the Shark Melancon on the 10-day DL with a flexor strain. 
  • Central Opening Day results: Cubs, Brew Crew win; Cards lose; Bucs & Reds rained out.

3/30: Omar, Meadows Signed; Rincon Joins Up; HBD Mike, Ripper, Hal, Ed, Dutch, George & Tom; RIP Deacon

  • 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 (he led them them to a too-late 53-41 slate). 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 1909 (image Harry Murphy/The Sunday 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 a few more times with the Pirates under a number of assumed names since he appears in team pictures as late as the 1912 season. 
  • 1897 - IF Ed Sicking was born in St. Bernard, Ohio. Ed spent four years in the show as a backup infielder for four different clubs, then spent six years with Indianapolis of the American Association. He opened the 1927 campaign with the Bucs, got into six games, going one-for-seven, and was sent back to Indy in early May. Though he didn’t leave much a mark in MLB, Sicking was a pro ball lifer, spending 17 years fielding hot shots (12 seasons in the AA) before retiring in 1933 at age 36 from Class B Keokuk. 
  • 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 of the Magnetic Eyes 1926 (World Wide Sports/Conlon Collection/The Sporting News)
  • 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 righty 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. 
Mike Johnston 2005 Topps Total
  • 1979 - LHP Mike Johnston was born in Philadelphia. A 20th round pick in the 1998 draft, he made his big league debut on April 7th, 2004 along with fellow farmhand Jose Castillo against the Phils; Mike got his first whiff and Jose his first hit. Johnston made it until June with the big club, being sent down after going 0-3/4.37. He made one more appearance in 2005 and that was his last MLB outing. He tore his labrum in 2006 at Indianapolis, missed 2007-08 and was released by the White Sox in 2009. Mike gave indie ball a final shot at age 33 in 2012 to close his career. 
  • 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. He’ll be remembered here for combining with Francisco Cordoba on a 10-inning 1997 no-hitter. Ricardo played the Mexican WBC teams in 2006 & 2009, retiring from the Mexican League in 2012. 
  • 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.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Opening Day...Not; Rain Pushes Back First Pitch to Tomorrow & Notes

Well, the weathermen got this one right...it's a rainy day in Detroit, so the game has been delayed 24 hours to a 1:10 start tomorrow. It's the first Opening Day rainout since 2000 for the Bucs. March 29th, btw, is the earliest Opening date in MLB history and kinda iffy for the northern teams, although Detroit and Cincinnati are the only two rainouts.

The rotation remains the same: Ivan Nova, Trevor Williams, Chad Kuhl this weekend with Jameson Taillon on Monday for the home opener. That's followed by an off day and Nova, so Joe Musgrove still won't be needed until the following series against the Reds.

Good day for geese; not so much for ballplayers (photo Pittsburgh Pirates)
Notes:
  • As expected, AJ Schugel went on the 10-day DL retroactive to Monday with a right shoulder injury. 
  • This was to be the earliest the Pirates have opened, with three other games played March 31st. They are 3-0 in March games.
  • The Pirates released seven minor leaguers yesterday, notably RHP Johnny Stilson (NRI), OF Barrett Barnes and LHP Cody Dickson.
  • Bryce Brentz, who was claimed by the Mets on waivers, was put on waivers by the Metropolitans so they didn't have to carry him on the 40-man roster. He cleared them this time, and can either accept an assignment to AAA or declare as an FA. 
  • Ian Browne of MLB.com has a nice piece on the Cora brothers, Joey and Alex. 
  • Rajai Davis (Indians) and Pedro Alvarez (Orioles) were added to the active roster. 
Your Opening Day Bucco squad (image Pittsburgh Pirates)

3/29: Varsho Day; McEnaney, Smith Deals; DJ Signed; Hughes Cut; HBD Sean, Dan, Mike, Bob & Hank

  • 1865 - RHP Hank Gastright was born in Covington, Kentucky. He had been a workhorse for the Columbus Colts for the first three years of his career, had a rough campaign with Washington and then in 1893 had a bounceback year, starting out with Pittsburgh. The Pirates didn’t use him much as he went 3-1/6.25 in nine games into July, when he was released and claimed by Boston, where he pitched a little better but with lots more luck, going 12-4/5.13; his combined 15-5 record was the best winning percentage in the National League that year. He had one more campaign left in him and tossed a farewell game in 1896 for his hometown Cincinnati Reds. Trivia: Gastright threw a no-hitter in 1890 for Columbus but it’s not considered an official no-no. It missed the books because the game was called after eight innings due to darkness.
Bob Steele as a Moose Jaw Robin Hood in 1913
  • 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. 
  • 1971 - RHP Sean Lowe was born in Dallas, Texas. Lowe had been a White Sox long man/spot starter for three seasons when he arrived in Pittsburgh in 2002 with Kip Wells and Josh Fogg as part of the Todd Ritchie deal. After going 4-2/5.35, he was released in September. He finished the campaign with Colorado, tossed for KC in 2003 and that ended his seven year stint in MLB. 
  • 1975 - RHP Danny Kolb was born in Sterling, Illinois. The Pirates signed the eight-year vet to a minor league deal in 2007; the 32-year-old didn’t break camp with the club, but was called up in June, got into three games, gave up three runs on six hits in three innings and was DFA’ed back to the minors. He refused to report and became a FA, signing with Boston. The Red Sox released him early in 2008, making Pittsburgh his last MLB stop. 
Danny Kolb 2007 (photo Matt Robinson/Pittsburgh Skyline)
  • 1978 - The Pirates sent RHP Tim Jones to the Expos for LHP Wil McEnaney. The deal was a wash - Jones bombed in AAA and retired, while McEnaney was shelled in Pittsburgh (10.38 ERA) and sent to AAA Columbus, where he was released at the end of the season after posting a 6.24 ERA. He was fighting drug & drinking demons in 1977-78, triggered by a divorce and the death of his mom, but after a car wreck and with the gentle pushing of his future second wife, Cindy, he flew straight once again and has been leading the clean life ever since. 
  • 1991 - The Pirates traded Steve Carter to the Chicago Cubs for Gary Varsho. OF Carter, who had a couple of short Pittsburgh stays, never appeared in MLB again. Varsho hit .249 as a bench bat for the Bucs, was waived and claimed by the Reds for the next season and returned to the coop in 1994. 
  • 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. He returned in 2016 as a Bucco scout. 
  • 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. Smith’s highlight came in 1997 when he drilled a homer in the bottom of the 10th inning to give the Pirates a 3-0 win over the Houston Astros at TRS, ending the first extra-inning, combined no-hitter (Francisco Cordoba, Ricardo Rincon) in MLB history. 
Smith's 1997 HR greetings (photo Gene Puskar/Associated Press)
  • 1999 - RHP DJ Carrasco, 33, signed a one-year/$950K free agent deal with the Pirates. He continued his workmanlike ways with a 2-2/3.88 slash. That performance earned him a deadline ticket to Arizona with Ryan Church and Bobby Crosby via the trade route for Pedro Ciriaco, Chris Snyder and cash. 
  • 2017 - In a surprise move, the Pirates released RHP Jared Hughes whom they had tendered months earlier and signed to a $2.175M contract. Hughes had been with the MLB club since 2011 and was a career-long member of the organization since 2006 when he was a fourth round draft pick. The release date had to do with a combination of declining performance and dollars; by letting him go before the season started, the Pirates were on the hook for just $695K. Hughes later signed as an FA with the Milwaukee Brewers for $950K.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Off To Detroit; Lineup; Spring Sister Smooch, Things to Watch For & Notes

Today: The club visits Motown where they open the season on Thursday. Well, maybe - it's supposed to rain that day, be dry on Friday and then rain/snow is possible for Saturday. The Opening Day lineup: Adam Frazier DH, J-Hay 2B, Gregory RF, J-Bell 1B, Corey Dickerson LF, Starling Marte CF, Cervy C, Colin Moran 3B & Jordy SS. Ivan Nova toes the slab v Jordan Zimmerman. Our  guess for Marte hitting sixth, FWIW, is match-up, since he's 1-for-10 v Zimmerman.

Ivan & Fran are tomorrow's Opening Day battery (photo Pittsburgh Pirates)

Yesterday: The Bucs concluded the spring with a dramatic exhibition of sister kissing when Sally Leaguer Adrian Valerio homered off Edgar Garcia to give Pittsburgh a come-from-ahead 5-5 tie with the Phils. The Pirates jumped on Jake Arrieta for four first inning runs when J-Bell drilled a three-run homer followed later by two-out, back-to-back doubles by Cervy and Colin Moran. Chad Kuhl gave it all back in the fifth when in 2/3 IP, he gave up a homer, three singles and a couple of walks. Brett McKinney surrendered up the go-ahead run in the eighth to set the stage for Valerio. Felipe Rivero tossed a zippo as did several minor league campers. Starter Jameson Taillon had a short start, but put up three goose eggs in his final spring warm up, with two hits and four whiffs as his line.

Notes:
  • The Indians claimed LHP Jack Leathersich after the Pirates released him yesterday. Rule 5 pick RHP Jordan Milbrath cleared waivers and the Bucs returned him to the Tribe.
  • The Pirates hit 47 homers this spring; 23 were by players no longer on the active roster. Still, the Bucs 12 position players stroked it pretty well; all but J-Hay, Jordy, S-Rod and Elias Diaz hit .265+. So one thing to watch will be whether a boatload of runners will translate into runs or LOB. On the other side of the coin, a lot of guys are breakout/bounceback candidates with the bat, so there's a lot of wiggle room for growth on the offensive side.
  • More worrisome was the inconsistency of the pitching; Jameson Taillon, Michael Feliz and George Kontos were the only dependable camp guys. So another thing to watch is whether the usual spring experiments were the cause of the up-and-down performances from the hill. It wasn't helped by some shaky fielding; hopefully, trimming the roster will get the gloves oiled a little better as a lot of guys were flopped into unfamiliar spots for a look.
  • Former Bucco bonus baby RHP Luis Heredia was released by the Cincinnati Reds.
  • The ol' broadcasting booth was SRO yesterday as for the first time ever, the Buccos went with a four-man crew - Greg Brown, Joe Block, Bob Walk and John Wehner. Steverino somehow avoided the scrum.

3/28: Heaton, Solomon, Davis Deals; MLK-AS Game; HBD Shark, Bryan, Steve & Bill; RIP Cum

  • 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. 
  • 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 reign. 
Chris Cannizzaro 1969 Topps
  • 1969 - The Pirates traded RHP Tommie Sisk and C Chris Cannizzaro to the San Diego Padres in exchange for OF Ron Davis and IF Bobby Klaus. Sisk was on the backside of his career while Davis and Klaus never become big-time performers, but Cannizzaro became an All-Star in 1969 for the expansion Padres (albeit with a .220 BA) and had a 12-year career that ended after the 1974 season. 
  • 1970 - The East-West Major League Baseball Classic was held at Dodger Stadium to commemorate Dr. Martin L King. Played before 31,694 fans, the Pirates were represented by Willie Stargell and Roberto Clemente; other players with Pittsburgh connections were Grant Jackson, Maury Wills and Jim Fregosi (the teams were integrated, per MLK’s philosophy) while Mudcat Grant played and sang the National Anthem. The East won 5-1 and the game raised $30,000 for the Southern Christian Leadership Council. 
  • 1975 - RHP Steve Sparks was born in Mobile, Alabama. Sparks was drafted by the Bucs in the 28th round of the 1998 draft from the U of South Alabama and tossed three times for the Pirates in 2000 during a brief mid-summer visit. He had no decisions and a 6.75 ERA in his only MLB season. Steve played two seasons after that in the upper minors for three times, hanging ‘em up in 2002 at the age of 27. 
Buddy Solomon 1982 Donruss
  • 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 17-15-1/3.58 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. 
  • 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 13-8/2.61 before being dealt to Miami. Morris was otherworldly 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 and is currently a free agent. 
Bryan Morris 2013 Pinnacle Rookie
  • 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. Gideon got into five games for the Expos in 1989-90 to end his MLB days, retired after the 1992 campaign and is now a pharmo company sales rep.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Pirates Close It Out @ Phils; Drop Home Closer 6-3, Notes & Cuts

Today: It's the last day of spring baseball as the Bucs visit the Phils in Clearwater at Spectrum Field for a 1:05 match. Jameson Taillon answers the opening bell with Felipe Rivero & Cool Chad on deck, backed by the A-Team lineup. The contest will be streamed by MLB.com. as its free game.


Yesterday: The Bucs dropped their springtime home finale 6-3 to the Phils. Trevor Williams gave up four runs (two earned) in 2-1/3 IP, but it's hard to judge his performance as the wind played havoc in the outfield. Edgar Santana was also roughed up some before a long line of relievers shut the door. Fraze and Corey Dickerson each had two hits; the Pirates collected eight knocks on the day, all singles. Youngster Lolo Sanchez provided the excitement by stealing home, scoring easily after a huge lead (the Phils were in a shift) and a too-tall toss home.

Notes:
  • Bo Schultz made his first appearance since TJ surgery last year, tossing a scoreless frame. The 32-year-old signed a minor league deal with the Bucs and was reassigned to minor league camp along with Ryan Lavarnway and and Daniel Nava yesterday afternoon. Schultz and Nova will stay in Pirate City in extended spring training to rehab.
  • Ji-Hwan Bae, 18-year-old Korean shortstop recently inked by the Bucs, got his first taste of the bigs Monday. He pinch-ran for Jordy and scored, then lined out in the ninth. He handled a pair of chances at short flawlessly, starting a DP and a 6-3. Tyler Gaffney, recently returned from the gridiron, went 0-for-1 and gloved a fly in three innings in right.
  • Jonathan Mayo of MLB Pipeline talks to Cole Tucker about competition, Altoona's loaded club and injuries ("I just need to stop running into stuff. I just need to avoid big objects.") He also has a piece in MLB.com about the pipeline once again filling up with prospects.
  • The Mets claimed OF'er Bryce Brentz off waivers from the Bucs, who had hoped he would clear so they could re-sign him.

3/27: Cangy, Guerrier Deals; Steverino Released; HBD Bill, Gary & Dave

  • 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 (photo via SABR)
  • 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. 
  • 1956 - 1B Dave Hostetler was born in Pasadena, California. He closed out his five-year MLB run with six games played for the Pirates in 1988 after reviving his career with a two-year tour of duty in Japan. Hostetler went two-for-eight, and in May was sent to AAA Buffalo, ending his time in the show. After retirement, he stayed in sports as a regional manager for Riddell. 
  • 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 “Steve Blass disease.” Blass is now a Pirate ambassador and member of the broadcast team for Root Sports. In other camp news, a position shuffle saw Willie Stargell moved from LF to 1B, Richie Zisk crossed the pasture into Pops old spot and Dave Parker was slotted into right. Bob Robertson ended up with the short stick; Willie’s shift reduced Big Red to just 152 PAs during the regular season. 
John Cangelosi 1987 Topps
  • 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. Cangelosi retired in 1999 and now operates a sports training facility in Illinois. 
  • 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 (he spent four campaigns as a Bucco) 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.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Roster Set, Pirates - Phils, Bucs Top Jays 7-4, Notes

Today: The Bucs take on the Phils at LECOM Park at 1:05. Trevor Williams will go, followed by George Kontos, Michael Feliz, Dovydas Neverauskas, Edgar Santana and Bo Schultz, making his first outing since TJ surgery. The A-Team lineup, with Eli catching rather than Cervy and S-Rod in right, will open the contest. The game will be carried by MLB Network and AT&T SportsNet.

It's the last Grapefruit game at LECOM of the spring season (image AT&T SportsNet)

Yesterday: Joe Musgrove got through his slated five frames in good order, giving up a run on five hits with a walk and two K, although neither Kevin Siegrist nor Kyle Crick did much to earn a ticket north. But the bats were willing today - behind homers from Cervy and Joey O, with seven RBI driven home by them and Elias Diaz (the trio each had a pair of knocks), the Bucs were up 7-4 after seven. Josh Smoker and Bradenton's Geoff Hartleib, a 2016 draft pick, then put Toronto to bed. Steve Pearce homered against his old squad.

Roster: With the cuts (see below) , the roster is: Pitchers Steven Brault, Michael Feliz, Tyler Glasnow, George Kontos, Chad Kuhl, Joe Musgrove, Ivan Nova, Felipe Rivero, Jameson Taillon and Trevor Williams. That leaves Jordan Milbrath, Dovydas Neverauskas, Edgar Santana, AJ Shugel & Josh Smoker to duke it out for three final spots. AJ almost certainly going on the DL (he's out of options) so it's four guys for three spots. @BrinkPG reported that Milbrath was waived (if he clears, the Pirates have to offer him back to the Indians or work out a Tribe trade to keep him) along with Jack Leathersich, and with that, the pen is set.

Corey Dickerson (above) & Colin Moran join the starting eight (photo Pittsburgh Pirates)

The position players are Josh Bell, Fran Cervelli, Corey Dickerson, Josh Harrison, Gregory Polanco, Starling Marte, Jordy Mercer and Colin Moran, with a bench of Elias Diaz, David Freese, Adam Frazier and Sean Rodriguez (Ryan Lavarnway is still on the roster but will be reassigned when camp ends) as the Bucs opt to open the season with a long pen and short bench.

Notes:
  • Jose Osuna and Kyle Crick were sent to Indy while Kevin Siegrist was assigned to minor league camp. Siegrist  told @RobBiertempfel of The Athletic (paywall) yesterday that he would "look at other options first" if he didn't make the final cut in camp. If he does accept his AAA assignment, his contract has a June 1st opt-out. Siegrist is still looking for his old velo (he's throwing at 90 now) and had a couple of rough outings after starting off strong.
  • Musgrove is slated to toss a minor league game Saturday. That lines him up to pitch Thursday against the Reds at PNC, although Clint hasn't committed to which game of the set Joe will start. 
  • The Tampa Bay Times reported that Daniel Hudson was told he wasn't going to make the team; the Rays will deal or release him by Tuesday. Huddy had a terrible spring, giving up nine earned runs in 5-1/3 IP.
  • The Goose is back - Phil Gooselin will go north with the Reds when camp breaks.
  • The Orioles assigned Alex Presley to minor league camp.

3/26: Deals Made...And Not; Kuwata Retires; Herges Released; Sandy; HBD Josh, Eric, Jack & Morrie

  • 1850 - P Morrie Critchley was born in New London, Connecticut. He honed his art as a semi-pro player before tossing as a 32-year-old rookie for the Alleghenys in 1882. Morrie did pretty well, spinning a seven-hit whitewash as he tamed Cincinnati 2-0 at the Bank Street Grounds to become the MLB’s first 30-year-old or over hurler to pitch a shutout in his first game. Despite that victory, he was released 10 days later; it seems the Allegheny directors had “strong reason to believe he was throwing games” per Major League Player Profiles, with their shackles raised after an exhibition contest where he was shellacked. Even with that stain, he was taken by the St Louis Brown Stockings six weeks later. He threw four complete games for them, but the results weren’t as shiny as he went 0-4/4.24, and that stint ended his big league career. Morrie remained in Pittsburgh, umpired briefly and then ran a local bar/hotel until he died at the age of 59. 
Jack McCarthy 1904 (photo Chicago Daily News)
  • 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. He managed in the minors for a while after retiring, then finished his days as a Chicago courthouse employee. Fun fact: On April 26th, 1905, as a Cub, McCarthy became the first fielder to throw out three runners at home plate, doing the deed against his old mateys, the Pittsburgh Pirates. 
  • 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 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. As a Blue Devil, he won the 1998 PIAA Championship and was the PA Player of the Year. He was only with the hometown organization briefly at Indy in 2008 but played in eight big-league campaigns for nine teams (with three stops at Arizona). 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 icons - his dad, Mike, was a long-time coach with stops at Mt Lebanon HS (he coached up Josh & Don), Pitt and Duquesne and also was a player, coach, and manager with the semi-pro Greater Pittsburgh Federation Baseball League for more than 20 years. Josh is a free agent this season. 
Eric Hacker (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)
  • 1983 - RHP Eric Hacker was born in Duncanville, Texas. The Pirates got the reliever from the New York Yankees for Romulo Sanchez in 2009. He spent most of his time at AAA Indianapolis, getting a September call up and making his MLB debut on September 22nd. He toed the slab for three Bucco outings, giving up two runs on four hits in three frames. Eric got a couple more cups of coffee in the show and then headed to greener pastures, pitching in Korea since 2013. 
  • 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 over that span. Drummond worked 43 more games in the bigs, with a 3-5-2/4.35 line. 
  • 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 for free from Pittsburgh’s GM Dave Littlefield. Herges pitched until 2009 and Young, despite a boatload of injuries, has started 221 games and is still tossing the ball at age 39 on a minor-league deal with the Padres. 
  • 2006 - The day’s hot topic was a deal brewing between Atlanta and Pittsburgh featuring a straight 1B/OF Craig Wilson-for-RHP John Thompson swap, with the Bravos also showing interest in expanding the talks to include Salomon Torres. It eventually led nowhere, with all the players remaining place for the season, which was an overall plus for Pittsburgh. The Pirates starters were terrible in 2006, but Thompson’s 2-7/4.82 campaign for the Braves wouldn’t have helped to right that ship. Wilson hit .267 with 13 HR off the bench while Torres was a bullpen ironman, getting the ball 94 times and going 3-6-12/3.28 over the year. 
Tyler Yates (photo Getty Images)
  • 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. 2016 was his last pro season when he was released by Baltimore in April. 
  • 2008 - RHP Masumi Kuwata, the first Japanese player ever signed by the Pirates and a legend in his homeland, retired. Kuwata, who was a week shy of 40-years-old, had a 1.80 ERA in five innings in the spring but hadn’t pitched since March 18th and chose to retire when it became clear that he wouldn’t make the Pirates' opening-day roster. Per Japanese tradition, Kuwata walked to the McKechnie Field mound about an hour after the Tigers-Pirates exhibition game ended and without stepping on the white-painted pitching rubber, placed a ball on it. He had made his major league debut at Yankee Stadium on June 9th, 2005 and was 0-1/9.43 in 19 games before his final MLB appearance on August 13th. Kuwata was the oldest player to make his major league debut since 41-year-old Diomedes Olivo, also for the Pirates, in 1960.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Bucs v Blue Jays; Pirates Rally Past Phils 7-5; Camp Notes

Today: The Pirates visit the Blue Jays at Dunedin Stadium for a 1:07 clash. Joe Musgrove v Marco Estrada is the opening card with Kyle Crick, Josh Smoker & Kevin Siegrist on deck. The lineup is the B-Team; only Cervy & Fraze made the cut today. The game will be aired on 93.7 The Fan.


Yesterday: IvaNova wasn't real sharp in his Opening Day tune up, going three innings and giving up two runs on five hits with a walk and three whiffs. But he left with a 3-2 lead thanks to to a two-run shot by Spring Superman Fran Cervelli behind a J-Bell double and Freeser RBI knock in the second. They added on when Freese doubled and scored on a Corey Dickerson knock. It was tied up in the sixth off Tyler Glasnow, who gave up a pair in 3-2/3 IP on five hits with six K. Pittsburgh iced it in the seventh when Will Craig homered, Colin Moran singled, then Josh and Joey O hit back-to-back two baggers to make it 7-4. Dovy Neverauskas and Johnny Hellweg cruised out from there, with the last Rays' run unearned after a two-out, two-base boot, wild pitch and infield single to make the final 7-5.

Notes:
  • Cervy, J-Hay and Moran each had a pair of knocks; the Pirates had 12 hits on the day. 
  • Bryce Brentz was placed on outright waivers yesterday; Joey O won that battle. The question is will he win the war as the Bucs debate carrying one less bench guy and one more pitcher when camp breaks. As for Brentz, he said that if he clears waivers, he's likely to re-sign with the Pirates.
  • Don't be surprised if Kevin Siegrist starts in the minors; the possibility has been tossed around by Neil Huntington and his velo has yet to recover from arm woes, so the Bucs may look to strengthen his arm before using him in the show.
  • Baseball America has some season predictions; they pick the Buccos as one of its surprise teams ("The Pirates have more bounceback or breakout candidates than just about any team...") and Starling as one of its comeback candidates.
  • Think what you may of his managing chops, Clint is tireless working for kids. On Friday night, he hosted a Hot Stove Dinner to support the Prader-Willi Syndrome Association USA, bringing along ol' Bucco Omar Moreno.
  • Looks like RHP Drew Hutchison will break camp with the Phils. He was just added to their 40-man roster after signing a minor league deal earlier in the spring.
  • Best laid plans: the Giants tooled up w/Cutch and company, then double trouble hit - Jeff Samardzija strained his right pec and will be out 3-5 weeks, then Madison Bumgarner broke a finger when smacked by a rocket up the middle; he's expected to miss six weeks. Que sera, sera...

3/35: Gregory Signed; Jay & Vanimal Arrive; Maz Hurt; Jack Pot; HBD Lee

  • 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. The Bucs released Lee in July when he was hitting just .226 and he joined NY for free while Knight batted .298 with one more solid '87 campaign still left in him. 
Lee Mazzilli 1986 Topps
  • 1965 - Camp isn’t all fun and games. Bill Mazeroski broke a bone in his right foot on this day 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. 
  • 1989 - The Pirates sent SS Felix Fermin and UT Denny Gonzalez to Cleveland 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. Fermin played eight more years in the AL, starting several years for the Indians. Gonzalez got into eight more MLB games after the deal and closed out his career with stints in Japan and Mexico. 
  • 2001 - Manager Lloyd McClendon officially announced that 23-year-old Jack Wilson was going to start the season at shortstop, bumping veteran Pat Meares to second base. Solid choice; Wilson held the job until he was traded in 2009, hitting .269 and winning an All-Star berth in 2004. Jumping Jack Flash was sent to Pittsburgh in 2000 by the Cards for LHP Jason Christiansen. For Meares, it was the end of the road - a nagging hand injury led to a battle royale with the club over treatment, and he got into just 86 games during the campaign, his last as a MLB’er, playing out his $15M contract on the DL through 2003. 
Gregory Polanco 2013 Bowman Prospects
  • 2009 - Pirates Latin American scouts Rene Gayo and Rene Ellis signed a skinny 17-year-old kid who they envisioned as making the jump from pitcher to outfielder for $175,000. The vision became reality - the beanpole was Gregory Polanco and he’s been on patrol in Pittsburgh’s pasture since 2014. Although the potential has yet to catch up with the performance, he did a little better at the negotiating table in 2017, signing a five-year/$35M contract with two option years worth $26M more if tendered. 
  • 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. He's now with the Reds on a NRI contract.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Pirates - Rays; Phils Bop Bucs 8-2; Rotation Sets Up; Cuts; Notes

Today: The Rays close out the Pirates three-game home stand at LECOM Park at 1:05. Ivan Nova hooks up with Blake Snell. The Bucs also plan to throw Tyler Glasnow and Dovydas Neverauskas into the fray. The game will be on AT&T SportsNet and 93.7 The Fan.


Yesterday: The Phils clocked the Pirates 8-2 yesterday. Steven Brault, Tyler Jones and Altoona's Tate Scioneaux were bashed before George Kontos, Kevin Siegrist, Jordan Milbrath and Richard Rodriguez stopped the bleeding. J-Bell, Corey Dickerson, Bryce Brentz and Kevin Newman each had a pair of hits (all but Dickerson banged a double), but the Bucs stranded 10 runners.

Notes:
  • Elias Diaz showed up his big league arm when he picked a runner off third and threw out another trying to steal yesterday.
  • The roster is coming together: Clint told the beat gang that Ivan Nova, Trevor Williams & Chad Kuhl will go against the Tigers to open the season. Jameson Taillon will pitch the home opener against the Twins. Joe Musgrove is penciled in to start during the following series vs Cincinnati, which will be the first set that requires a fifth starter. Steven Brault and Tyler Glasnow will start the season in the bullpen. He added that it's likely that J-Hay, Fraze and periodically Corey Dickerson, will alternate at leadoff.
  • OF Jordan Luplow & C Jacob Stallings were optioned back to Indy while Tyler Jones and Richard Rodriguez were assigned to minor league camp. With Luplow and Moroff gone, the final bench spot is mano-a-mano between Jose Osuna & Bryce Brentz.
  • The longest tenured Bucco in camp is Josh Harrison, who debuted in 2011 with Clint. Right behind him are Jordy Mercer & Starling Marte, who joined the big team the following year.
  • 24-year-old West Virginia Power SS Andrew Walker has received a 50-game suspension for violating the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. If our count's right, he's the fourth Pirate organizational guy to get busted this season, and that ain't good.
  • The Yankees released Wade LeBlanc, who was signed to a minor league deal by NY after the Pirates let him walk as a FA.He was quickly signed to an MLB deal by Seattle.
  • Michael Saunders, who was in camp briefly before the Dickerson deal, was released by KC.

3/24: Kiner, Greenberg Honored; HBD Gentleman George, Mike, Al, Gus, Pat, Corey & Chris; RIP Mace

  • 1869 - RHP Al Lawson was born in London, England. His MLB career consisted of three 1890 starts, two with the Alleghenys. He wasn’t exactly a poster boy for Brit baseball; he went 0-2, giving up 20 runs (10 earned) in 10 IP on 15 hits and 10 walks. Al played pro ball from 1888-95 and then managed in the minors from 1905 to 1907. In 1908 he started a new baseball league known as the Union Professional League, which quickly floundered (His brother George founded the United States League in 1910, which also died a rapid death). But he had a second career as an aviation advocate, publishing air industry magazines, founding Lawson Aircraft, and credited by some as the guy who came up with the idea of commercial airliners. Moving on, he later wrote books, developed an out-there philosophy known as “Lawsonomy” and founded his own religion, all of which were fairly popular for a spell in the Upper Midwest. 
Alfred Lawson (photo Harris & Ewing/Library of Congress)
  • 1884 - 3B Harry “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 brother called Harry “Mike the Hobo” after his incarcerated bud from that time forward. 
  • 1893 - “Gentleman George” Sisler was born in Manchester, Ohio. After a Hall-of-Fame career at 1B mainly w/the St. Louis Browns, he joined the Dodgers in 1942 as a coach & evaluator. When Branch Rickey moved to the Pirates in 1951, Sisler tagged along. He helped several hitters, notably Roberto Clemente, whom he pushed to keep his head quiet and to use a heavier bat. Sisler stayed on with the Pirates after Rickey left as a roving hitting instructor. His sons, Dick & Dave Sisler, were MLB’ers. Dick spent eight years in the show and later managed the Cincinnati Reds while Dave had a seven-year career as a pitcher. George got his nicknames of “Gentleman” and “Gorgeous” because of his demeanor and looks; he was also known to a lesser degree as “Sizzler” and “The Picture Player.” 
  • 1906 - C Art “Pat” (Patrick was his middle name) Veltman was born in Mobile, Alabama. Veltman had a six-year MLB career that consisted of coffee klatches; he played just 23 games over that span, his final dozen as a Pirate in 1934, going 3-for-28 (.107). He was released in midseason to return to the Pacific Coast League Oakland Oaks (the team the Pirates drafted him from after the 1933 campaign), where he finished out the season as manager. He played three more years in the PCL and Western Association afterward and then retired from baseball. 
Pat Veltman 1934 (photo George Burke)
  • 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, batted .222, and retired prior to the 2016 season. The two-time All-Star is now a minor league hitting coach for Toronto. 
  • 1993 - Utilityman Chris Bostick was born in Rochester, New York. A well-traveled minor league depth guy, Pittsburgh became his fourth organization in 2017 and after some good stickwork at indianapolis, he got his first call to the show for a May cup of coffee, then a longer September look, batting .296 overall in 20 games for the Pirates. 
  • 2002 - RHP Mace Brown passed away in North Carolina at the age of 92. Brown was one of the earliest dedicated relievers for the Pirates, appearing 207 times from the bullpen from 1935-41. 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 1936 R312 National Chicle Pastel
  • 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.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Bucs Host Phils; Long Balls Drop Pirates 5-4; Notes

Today: Steven Brault will climb the hill against Philadelphia's Aaron Nola at LECOM Park at 1:05. George Kontos is also penciled in with other pitchers TBD. The game will be on AT&T SportsNet.



Yesterday: It was a nice outing by Cool Chad, who went 5-1/3 IP, giving up two runs (one earned) on five hits (one solo homer) with five K, tossing 84 pitches. In a bit more worrisome appearance, Felipe Rivero served up up a two-run shot to Bo Bichette; Josh Smoker surrendered a solo shot in the eighth and the Blue Jays rode their long balls to a 5-4 win. The other two Bucco hurlers were perfect as Dovy Neverauskas & Michael Feliz faced five batters and whiffed five batters. Colin Moran had three singles for the Bucs and Fran Cervelli added two more knocks. Colin scored once & brought home a run while Cervy drove in a pair with a double, the Pirates only extra-base hit.

Notes:
  • Maybe the hardest-to-project man of the spring is Colin Moran. He's hitting .333 with a flip side - the projected big bopper has a sub-.400 slugging % with just three doubles and no homers in 48 at-bats.  
  • Josh Smoker has given up four homers in nine+ IP, but it's part of the plan per Clint, who said they're seeing the growing pains resulting from a strategy of throwing more strikes and working on expanding the tool kit to get guys off his fastball. 
  • The Pirates have re-signed Daniel Nava to a minor-league deal; no details available. He's expected to be back in the saddle sometime in June after undergoing back surgery.
  • The Reds released 36-year-old Ollie Perez.
  • Gregg Ritchie, coach at George Washington, was named as hitting coach of Team USA 18U squad. He was in the Pirates organization for seven years as a hitting coach, the last two with the big team in 2011-12 before leaving to take the GWU job.

3/23: Bunning TSN Cover Boy; HBD Frenchy, Mike, Lanny, Wendell, Johnny, Hooks, Slappy & Danny

  • 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. In 1893 he scored 121 runs and drove in 103 runs. He led the team in 1894 with a .357 BA and, in 1896, he hit .362 with a .454 OBP. Smith, converted to the OF by his Bucco time, also tossed for the Pirates in 1892, going 6-7/3.62. He remained a local boy after his 14-year career in MLB (he kept a North Side home on Madison Avenue) working as an inspector for the Pittsburgh Bureau of Highways. When he died, he was buried in North Side’s Union Dale Cemetery. 
Mike Smith Ars Longa Art Card
  • 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. 
  • 1886 - RHP Cy “Slappy” Slapnicka was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He pitched pro ball from 1906-20, working 10 games in MLB. His last stint was with the 1918 Pirates, who bought his contract from Birmingham of the Southern Association in late June. Slappy, then 32, went 1-4/4.74 in seven outings (six starts) and was released. Though he did have a long and solid career in the bushes, Slapnicka made his name after he retired. He did a little administrating and minor league managing but was a big-time scout for the Indians, signing Bob “Rapid Robert” Feller, Roger Maris, Herb Score, Lou Boudreau, Bobby Avila and several other A-Listers. 
  • 1893 - RHP Remy “Ray/Frenchy” 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, leading the NL in ERA in 1926 and 1927 and claiming a pair of victories in the 1925 World Series. What's more amazing is that he didn't make his major league debut until he was 31 years old after spending nine campaigns in the Pacific Coast League! But he didn’t come with a senior discount; the Pirates, in battle with the Cubs for his services, sent pitchers George Boehler and Earl Kuntz, infielder Spencer Andrews, and a reported $20,000 to the Oaks in exchange for Kremer, who also got a little slice of the pie after he threatened to hold out after the deal. 
Ray Kremer 1933 Goudey Big League
  • 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 and became a highly respected reverend in the Hill District. 
  • 1914 - Writer Wendell Smith was born in Detroit. He was the baseball writer and sports editor for the Pittsburgh Courier from 1937-47. Smith covered the Homestead Grays, Pittsburgh Crawfords and the Pirates. He chronicled the early days of Jackie Robinson and was reputed to be one of the industry insiders to recommend Jackie to Branch Rickey. Wendell also was a tireless advocate of baseball integration, pushing teams (including the Pirates) to try out Negro League players such as Josh Gibson. 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. He finished his career in Japan, then did some broadcasting, scouting and took a gig building the Trans-Alaska pipeline. 
  • 1948 - Pirate announcer Lanny Frattare was born in Rochester, NY. Lanny was the voice of the AAA Charleston Charlies in 1974-75, and got in the booth for a couple of Pirates games after the minor league season at Bob Prince’s invitation, getting to announce an inning or so. He was officially part of the Pirate broadcasting team from 1976-2008, starting out as Milo Hamilton’s color man, 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. In 2008, he was nominated for the Ford Frick Award, given by the Baseball Hall of Fame for excellence in broadcasting. 
  • 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.