Sunday, June 6, 2010

Sunday Morning...

Some notes and thoughts for a gray Sunday:

-- GW took a look at Ryan Doumit's pedigree at first base, as provided by Baseball Reference. Dewey has 32 MLB games at the position, 29 as a starter. Most of the work came in 2006; the last time he appeared there was in 2008. He played the position twice in the minors.

Doumit has more games in right field - 42 - in the show than at first base. He's been the team's primary catcher since 2008, when he took over from Ronny Paulino.

We don't think it'll cut too deeply into the platoon system now in place at first, and it would help an injury-prone Dewey stay in the lineup; in his six big-league seasons, he's only had one year that he's had over 280 at-bats. If he can get 500 swings this year, he's on track for a 20-homer, 75 RBI season.

But it could be a prelude to a full transition if Tony Sanchez is fast-tracked, or it could be a move to add some value before the trade talks heat up. Or, as Freud said (or was it Bill Clinton?), it could be a case of a cigar just being a cigar. We'll see.

-- Lost in the ado over his hot start at the plate is Neil Walker's smooth transition to second base. Considering he had fielded all of 21 games at the position in his minor league career, his glove looks like it could play there pretty well with experience.

The first couple of games at second, Walker looked like an out-of-water Pine Creek bass at times. But since then, he's gotten more comfortable by the day, and the Pittsburgh Kid has made a couple of nice hustle plays, has shown at least league-average range, a decent arm, and looks strong at both starting and turning a DP, crucial for a pitch-to-contact staff.

-- The beat guys report that the suits are planning to give Zach Duke an extra day's rest. Because of tomorrow's rain make-up, no one in the rotation can pick up the slack unless Paul Maholm goes on short rest Wednesday. Could a call-up from Indy be in the works?

-- Charlie Morton's fatigued shoulder is said to be doing fine. There's no schedule for his return; it's expected that he'll soon make a couple of rehab starts at Indy (he's already there, but not on the roster yet) before being cleared for action. He's due to come off the DL June 12th. Morton still has an option left, so those rehab starts could determine whether he ends up in Pittsburgh or stays at Indianapolis.

-- Steve Pearce is out of his splint, and he's on the way to Pirate City to work on strengthening his ankle. He's still a few days away from a minor-league rehab assignment, so he'll be on the DL beyond his June 9th return date.

-- With the draft almost here, Frankie Piliere of Fanhouse reports that the Pirates are down to prep school guys RHP Jameson Taillon and SS Manny Machado as Monday's pick.

If so, it'll be an interesting choice; do they go with the 99 MPH flamethrower or the media-anointed next A-Rod? Stay tuned.

-- Last year, the Pirates took five highly-touted HS pitchers in the first eight rounds - Brooks Pounder, Zach von Rosenberg, Zack Dodson, Trent Stevenson, and Colton "Billy" Cain - and all will start the year in short-season State College after extended training at Pirate City.

In 2008, they took two HS arms in the first 20 rounds. Quinton Miller (2-3, 4.47 ERA) is having growing pains at Class A West Virginia (and arm pains; he's been out for a weeks with elbow tendinitis), and Chris Aure was released.

In the past two years, they've inked four HS position players taken in the first 20 rounds. They are, from 2008, IF Jarek Cunnigham (WV - .282/5/16; missed 2009 with a torn ACL); OF Robbie Grossman (Bradenton - .219/2/16), OF Wesley Freeman (WV - .155/0/6) and 2009 IF John Gourley, who is a seldom-used sub at Bradenton.

Prep pitchers have a long road to the MLB; they have to deal with command/control issues, develop a secondary pitch, and learn the book on batters so they can attack them. It's a combination of art and science that they're asked to master.

The position players' major issues are handling professional pitching (ie, lay off the slider and hit the curve) with wooden bats, developing an eye, and sometimes dealing with how their bodies eventually mature.

So there's a pretty steep and lengthy learning curve involved for prep players, and that makes them all high risk/high reward selections.

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