Sunday, October 31, 2010

Rangers Use Longball, Lewis To Get Back In Series

Colby Lewis and the Texas Rangers beat the San Francisco Giants last night, 4-2, in Arlington to cut the SF's lead in the World Series to 2-games-to-1.

Lewis allowed five hits in 7-2/3 innings and struck out six. Tow of the hits were solo homers surrendered to Cody Ross and Andres Torres.

They were more than offset by
Mitch Moreland, who hit a second inning three-run homer, and Josh Hamilton, who added a blast in the fifth frame. Both bombs were served up by Jonathan Sanchez.

A reclamation project who pitched in Japan for a couple of seasons, Lewis has beaten the Yankees twice, won three games, and compiled an ERA of 1.71 in four playoff starts.

Tommy Hunter takes on Madison Bumgarner in Game 4 tonight.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Pirates: Right Field

This was the most up-in-the-air position on the team last season. The reason was simple: with PNC Park's left field dimensions, the suits decided that a dual-CF approach was the road to take.

So the RF spot was the corner for a thunder stick, but no matter how hard they tried, the FO couldn't find anyone to fill the bill.

First, Brandon Moss, 27, was thought to be the answer. He wasn't, and is probably not going to earn a spot on the 40-man roster this year. Ryan Church, 32, was given ample opportunity for PT; instead he got a ticket to Arizona.

Lastings Milledge, 25, was moved over from left when Jose Tabata arrived, but hasn't shown the power or glove to be a comfortable fit. Ryan Doumit, 29, got his moment in the sun, John Bowker, 27, got an audition in September, and Alex Presley, 25, sipped a cup of coffee with mixed results. Delwyn Young, 28, got a spot start or three.

The verdict? Garrett Jones, 29, is probably the best answer right now. And he has a split that begs for a RH bat to platoon with in front of the Clemente Wall. But he may remain at first base in 2011, too. Aye carumba!

With the talent on hand and assuming no off-season moves, the best scenario is a platoon between Jones (.262/15/59 in 424 AB vs RHP in 2010) and Milledge (.320/4/17 in 125 AB vs LHP in 2010). The fielding is the difference maker; Jones had a -3.5 UZR/150 and Milledge a -4.1 rating, vastly superior to Bowker (-17) and Dewey (-40). And Thrilledge is the only RH hitter in the bunch.

But if Jones sticks at first, Bowker and Doumit offer comparable sticks as platoon players: Bowker's line against lefties in his career is .248/17/68 in 491 AB; Doumit's is .282/11/35 after 277 AB in 2010.

We like Presley, but as a fourth-outfielder type, where his speed and punch-and-judy offense play better off the bench. One-year wonders are more common than guys that suddenly saw the light; next season should show which category Presley's 2010 season falls in.

Moss had a nice AAA year, but didn't appear any better suited for MLB duty in September than he did in March.

Their contract years are ticking away, too: All but Presley are out of options, while Milledge and Young are up for arbitration. Both are on the bubble but should return; the price is right and no one is really pushing them from within the organization.

For the Pirates to maximize what they now have, it's key that they utilize a platoon system. JR, for whatever reason, was lukewarm to the concept, and cost himself some production by his dartboard lineup choices.

As for the fielding, well, the new skipper will hopefully value versatility a little less than consistency and try to get guys in their everyday positions during the spring instead of waiting until mid-season.

There is no help on the horizon; Gorkys Hernandez, 23, is the most MLB ready, and he's a speedy top of the order CF/LF candidate; Sterling Marte, who turned 22 this month, may migrate to a corner, but he is still at least a couple of seasons removed from the show and has yet to show much power at the plate.

Andrew Lambo, 22, Quincy Latimore, 21, and Rogelios Noris, 20, are the best of the true minor league corners. Latimore and Noris hit from the right side, an added bonus. All have youth, the ability to launch a baseball, and time on their side right now. That may not be true in a couple more seasons, as none is a slam dunk to reach PNC Park.

Robbie Grossman, 20, a sixth round high-school pick in 2007, may also fit into the mix. He played center at Bradenton last year, although he's probably slated for a corner position. Grossman struck out too much and showed little muscle, but he's young for a High A player and may still develop.

Another possibility is Exicardo Cayones, the 19 year old (he turned 19 in October) Mexican OF signed for $400K in 2008. He's just beginning his pro career and seems destined more as a LF type in Pittsburgh. Cayones has shown no power yet, but that's not unexpected for an kid who playing pro ball as an 18 year old.

The Bucs could use some outside help to solidify right field. Assuming that they're not looking at Jayson Werth, guys like Jonny Gomes or Jason Kubel would make sense; unfortunately, both had their options picked up. That leaves a slim group led by Austin Kearns available on the market.

In lieu of a free agent, resolving both Doumit's status and the first base logjam would at least limit the options a bit and help set the lineup in 2011.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Giants Run With Home Advantage

The San Francisco Giants took a 2-0 lead in the World Series by blanking Texas 9-0 Thursday behind the strong pitching of Matt Cain and an eighth-inning implosion by the Rangers relievers.

Cain held the Rangers to four hits in 7-2/3 shutout innings as he extended his post-season scoreless streak to 21-1/3 frames. CJ Wilson was tough, too, leaving with two outs and the bases empty in the seventh because of a blister, down 2-0.

The Texas bullpen walked four straight batters, followed by a single by Edgar Renteria, a triple by pinch-hitter Aaron Rowand and a double by Andres Torres to get the fat lady ready.

The series moves to Arlington for game three Saturday night with Colby Lewis slated to go against Jonathan Sanchez. Games four and five, if needed, will be played at Texas.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Thursday Olio

-- Texas coach Clint Hurdle, who is thought to be on the Pirates managerial wish-list, is also supposed to be in the running for the Mets position. He was a candidate in Seattle for the job that went to Eric Wedge.

And Bo Porter may not be such a sure thing in Florida; there's still some heavy support for interim skipper Edwin Rodriguez to get a full season behind the helm.

-- Sean Casey was noted for his gregarious nature and charitable work during his twelve year MLB career, known by the players as the "Mayor" and active with Big Brothers, the Make-A-Wish Foundation and his "Casey's Crew" program.

The Upper St. Clair grad, now an analyst for the MLB Network, is still a champ of the underdog. He's aiming to raise $1M to build the county's second Field of Dreams for the Miracle League program. His will cover the South Hills, and will be built on Mayview Road in Upper St. Clair.

He's setting up a "Casey's Crew" to help fundraise; you can donate at Casey's Clubhouse. The Bucs have had a lot of great guys walk through the clubhouse; Sean Casey was among the best.

-- The Bing Crosby tape of Game 7 of the 1960 World Series will make its debut at Byham Theater on November 13th. Fans interested in tickets to the 6 PM event are asked to send an email to

The event will be hosted by Bob Costas and shown on MLB Network two days later. Bill Mazeroski, Dick Groat and Bobby Richardson are scheduled to attend the event.

-- Tim Wakefield was recognized for his community service today when he was named the 2010 recipient of the Roberto Clemente Award before Game #2 of the World Series. Bud Selig and Vera Clemente presented the award.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Pirates: First Base

If there's one position the Bucs can strengthen from the outside, the Gateway Base would be the one.

The Pirate FO can thank its lucky stars that their trawling of the huddled masses populating baseball's twilight zone pulled up Garrett Jones, because Adam LaRoche was the only steady presence - and that was briefly - there since the latter days of Kevin Young's career. Remember Randall Simon, Brad Eldred, Daryle Ward, Sean Casey, Xavier Nady and company?

Jones, 29, proved a competent banger with 42 HR in two seasons, though his glove wasn't the caliber of LaRoche's and his hitting splits (.282/RHP/.210/LHP) screamed "platoon player." And for a spell, it looked as if that may be what was going down, although at the time, it didn't involve Jones.

The much maligned Steve Pearce, 27, a nifty gloveman and a guy that drove the ball in the minors, split time with Jeff Clement, 27, in May, and in a very small sample put together a .276/.395/.414 line while raking LHP.

Clement wasn't ready for prime time, as his .201/.237/.368 line showed, but he did bop seven homers in 144 ABs and fielded the position better than expected, considering his quick switch from catching.

Pearce had ankle and knee injuries that finished his season, and Clement went to Indy and had knee surgery of his own, necessitating Jones to jog in from right and hold the fort at first base.

The Pirates were planning on an eventual Jones/Lastings Milledge platoon in RF and Clement/Pearce tag team at first in 2010, providing a lineup with some pop against righties and decent OBP/gap power against lefties. It didn't quite work out that way, and 2011 promises to start out in flux, too.

Jones looks like the heir apparent next season through default, although both Clement and Pearce are expected to be ready for camp after their visits to the chop shop. John Bowker, 27, also got a couple of games in toward the end of the season,

The Pirates will face some make-or-break decisions in camp. Clement, Pearce and Bowker are all 27 and out of options (Jones is out of options, too), and the team risks losing whoever doesn't make the 25-man roster in 2011.

Not only do the Pirates have to hash out who to shoehorn on the roster, but they'll do it knowing that there is no immediate help on the horizon from the farm.

The Pirates were empty at the position except for Pearce in the minors before the new bosses took over. The FO recognized that and drafted first basemen Matt Hague (#9 - 2008), Calvin Anderson (#12 - 2008), Aaron Baker (#11 - 2009), Matt Curry (#16 - 2010) and Jared Lakind (#23 - 2010) in last three drafts. All but Lakind were college players; the FO hoped to fast-track them through the organization.

Hague, 25, is the best of the crop and should start out in Indy in 2011. He's got a good eye, putting the ball in play and drawing some walks (career .300 BA, 12% K rate, 9% BB rate), but is more a gap hitter than power stick. Hague's also an excellent guy with the leather.

The Oklahoma State grad had 15 HR and 81 RBI for the Curve last season, and has to keep up his offensive numbers to rate a look at the show. Now he strikes us as a Steve Pearce type player, though without gaping righty-lefty splits. Still, for a power corner position, Hague hasn't shown the muscle to be a serious, every-day MLB candidate.

TCU's Matt Curry, 22, is a 6'2", 235 pound LH hitter and College World Series hero who got off to a strong start at State College last season, hitting .299/.421/.477 with 7 HR and 29 RBI, walking a lot (16%) and K'ing a lot (20%). He showed pretty good range, too. But the sample is awfully small; Curry will have to keep on at West Virginia/Bradenton next year to prove 2010 was for real.

Baker, who turned 23 in September, hit 18 HR at West Virginia with 73 RBI, but average (.253) and K's (115) are a problem, as is his defense. The lefty will have to step up his game to get on the radar; he'll have to work to hold off Curry.

Anderson, 23, is young and raw. He was drafted out of Southern University, and has moved a step at a time through the minors. Anderson shows a little pop, but the big guy (6'7", 240 pounds) struggles with the glove and with K's. He may repeat at Bradenton in 2011, as his .259/.328/.352 line and 11 HR don't suggest that he's ready for AA ball.

Lakind, 18, is a Texas high school kid who signed this year for $400K. He joined up late and got a little action in the GCL; he could be in State College next season. Lakind is projected to be a 1B/RF corner type with 20+ HR potential.

The Pirate minors don't have a guy ready to step in and play, and in fact have a little problem with Baker, Anderson, and Curry being the same age and creating a logjam at the mid-level minors, always problematic when the suits are trying to evaluate talent.

In the long term, Pedro Alvarez will likely end up the Bucco first baseman, and if the FO drafts Rice 3B Anthony Rendon as expected, that will only help to accelerate the transition. That will be a big move for the Pirate organization.

They need power out of their infield corners more than most teams because of the PNC Park layout and how they've chosen to defend its spacious pastures, using what amounts to a two-CF alignment and so removing a power bat from the LF corner.

In the short term, the team will either have to run a platoon at first or go hunting for an every-day guy. Of all the positions, outside of pitching, we believe this is the most likely spot the Pirates look to upgrade for the upcoming season.

The free agent crop includes Garrett Atkins (31), Derrek Lee (35), Adam Dunn (32), Carlos Pena (33), Nick Johnson (32), Paul Konerko (35), Jorge Cantu (29), Adam LaRoche (31), Aubrey Huff (34), Xavier Nady (32) and Lance Berkman (35).

Age isn't a problem; the Pirates are probably looking for a two or three-year deal at the longest. But some of these guys are already making big money with declining production and others are best suited as DHs, so caveat emptor. Pena is clearly the guy that should interest the FO the most; Nady could be a cheap fallback.

There may be a possibility of an interesting non-tender candidate or two; James Loney leads that class. Their deadline is December 2nd.


Friday could tell us a little about the Bucco skipper search, since it's the travel day for the Series, and teams traditionally don't do anything during WS game days that would deflect attention from the October Classic.

They could bring in Tony Pena then, though we think that's unlikely; he would have been interviewed at the start of the week if he was being considered. The FO could announce that one of the three remaining candidates, most likely Jeff Banister, is the new bossman.

Or they could sit on their hands, telling us that they're waiting on a series coach to free up, like the Rangers' Clint Hurdle or Giants' bench coach Ron Wotus.

Aces End Up Jokers

Well, so much for the highly anticipated pitching duel between Cliff Lee and Tim Lincecum. They gave up 16 hits and 10 earned runs, neither making it through the sixth, as the Giants romped 11-7 in the opening clash of the 2010 World Series.

Freddy Sanchez was one hitting hero; he went 4-for-5 with 3 RBI and 3 doubles off of Lee; Juan Uribe was the other, launching a three-run homer to help ice the contest in the sixth.

A game for the ages it wasn't; there were 25 hits and six errors banged out during the course of the evening. CJ Wilson and Matt Cain will try to restore some order tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Degree of Separation

Cody Ross' is the winner of the NLCS-MVP award, and it was all because of...John Bowker.

Bowker, after underwhelming the G-Men in 2008-09, lit up the Arizona sky during the past spring, launching longballs and even driving home seven runs in one pre-season match. He got the starting nod on Opening Day, out-battling Nate Schierholtz, who was favored to win the position.

Well, we all know that spring knocks don't necessarily carry over into the regular season, and they didn't for Bowker. He hit .207, Schierholtz got the job he was slotted for, and all was according to plan San Fran.

Except that Schierholtz didn't particularly smack the horsehide much better than Bowker, hitting .242 with three home runs in 137 games.

So the Giants' FO went fishing just like Neal Huntington likes to do. They landed Cody Ross, claiming him off waivers from Florida on August 22nd. On the 31st, they moved third-wheel Bowker, along with Joe Martinez, to the Bucs for Javier Lopez.

Bowker spent September in right field for Pittsburgh; Ross is spending October in right field for the Giants. And doing pretty well, too.

Ross is batting .324 through his first two playoff series with eight RBI and four home runs. He's four wins away from helping the G-Men to their first title since the Say-Hey days of 1954.

And it's all because John Bowker couldn't hang on to the starting job in San Francisco.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Monday Wash

-- Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors believes that Lastings Milledge is a borderline non-tender candidate this year. He expects that the Pirates will dangle him as trade bait up to the December 2nd deadline, when the FO has to decide whether or not to offer him arbitration.

-- We're not much on fall-ball reports, at least this early on. The Bucs have 11 pitchers and 11 position players participating in extra-curricular hardball, and no hurler has gotten 10 innings under his belt yet, nor any hitter more than 41 at-bats. Not much of a sample size so far.

For the record, the early fall heroes are: Brian Bass, who has a 0.93 ERA and 14 K's against just 1 walk in 9-2/3 innings of pitching for the Tigre de Aragua in the VWL, and Andrew Lambo of the Mesa Solar Sox, who is hitting .293/.356/.512 with 2 HR and 9 RBI in 41 at-bats.

-- The Toronto Blue Jays officially announced the hiring of John Farrell as their new manager today. He had been the pitching coach for the Red Sox and director of player development for the Indians.

It was a mild shocker that the Pirates didn't bring him in for an interview; it looks now like he had his target already in sight after the season, and Pittsburgh wasn't it.

-- Bengie Molina and Chris Ray, traded for one another in July by San Fran and Texas, will cash in twice for participating in the World Series. The San Jose Mercury News reported that the Giants voted full playoff shares to Molina and Ray, and the Rangers did the same.

Both may also be in line to get rings, no matter who takes the title. Sounds like a win-win to us.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Pirate Catching

We all know the street talk - Ryan Doumit is winter trade bait, Chris Snyder will hold the fort for a season or two, and then Tony Sanchez takes over.

It may play out just that way, but it's not the only scenario in town. Dewey and Snyder put together are the package the Pirates want; individually, they're both lacking.

Snyder came as advertised: low average, decent OBP, good power (.207/15/48), and capable defensively (except for the maddening inability to catch throws to the plate.) Doumit actually looked good as a twice-a-week catcher, though his bat (.251/13/45) was disappointing.

The team has a lot of bucks tied up in these two guys: Dewey makes $5.1M and Snyder $5.75M in 2011, with hefty options for both in 2012 (Doumit - $7.25M; Snyder $6.75M) that are quite unlikely to be exercised.

The Pirates, contrary to popular belief, can certainly afford to carry both of them in 2011. There is no guarantee that the FO can move Doumit without eating a good portion of his 2011 contract. The smarter play may be to try and rebuild his value somewhat and keep him in his hybrid role - backup catcher, occasional right fielder, and switch-hitting pinch hitter - for the short term. Snyder is a lock to start in 2011.

Whether Dewey stays or goes, though, the Pirates are faced with coming up with another catcher in the bigs. If Doumit remains on the roster, they may opt to use Neil Walker as an emergency catcher; he has the pedigree. If not, there are internal options, though none that are particularly rosy; they may have to go hunting for bench guy.

Tony Sanchez, 22, the 2009 first rounder, was ticketed to start in High A, go to Altoona, and be at Indy in 2011. But a beaning and broken jaw put him at least a half-season behind in those plans. It was a tough year anyway; he had shoulder problems early on, so a break may have been in his best long-term interest. He's in the Arizona Fall league now, trying to make up for lost time.

But his arrival in Pittsburgh is now pushed back to 2012 at the earliest; if he has any more injury problems or hits a roadblock at the upper levels, the Pirates' catching plans in 2012 are problematic.

And putting all the eggs in one basket does carry a risk: Ronny Paulino was the catcher of the future in 2006, then Ryan Doumit in 2008...

Jason Jaramillo has the glove to stick in the show, but a .149 BA isn't going to cut it. He still has an option remaining, so is likely to start out at Indy in 2011.

Erik Kratz was one of 2010s feel-good stories; he hit .118 and looked overmatched at the plate in the show. He was removed from the 40-man roster and is a minor-league free agent; the odds of him returning to the organization are fairly slim.

There are three interesting players in the system, Hector Gimenez, Eric Fryer and Kris Watts, that may play into the Pirate plans. Gimenez, 28, is a journeyman that raked (.305/16/72) for Altoona in 2010. He's a minor-league free agent, but the Bucs, given the catching situation in the upper levels, might be wise to get him inked and assigned to Indy, where he can provide a Raul Chavez type insurance policy.

Fryer, 25, was part of the return for Eric Hinske, and had a good, if shortened (he was another minor leaguer beaned in 2010, losing considerable playing time) season at Bradenton (.300/8/48). He's old for his level, but athletic with a good arm, and may have a future. We'll see shortly; he's Rule 5 eligible in 2011.

2006 draft pick Watts, 26, is a lefty with a little pop, so-so defensive skills, and a great eye; he's got a .360 OBP and generally walks as often as he whiffs. He's been a backup the past couple of seasons. Watts is Rule 5 eligible, and if he makes it through (which he should) will form the catching tandem with Fryer at Altoona.

The other guys are young: Ramon Cabrera (20), Dylan Child (19), Elias Diaz (19), Jairo Marquez (22), Joey Schoenfeld (19), and Matt Skirving (20). None are ready for prime time players yet.

Overall, this isn't a position of strength throughout the organization, from top to bottom. The future of the position pretty much depends on the development of Tony Sanchez. But, like the bullpen, it's a spot that can be bolstered through the market; every year unleashes a flood of good glove, so-so hit receivers to hold the fort.

Scrub Sveum

Jen Langosch of reports that Dale Sveum had joined the list of candidates who were one and done after their initial interview.

Still standing are Jeff Banister, Bo Porter and Carlos Tosca, plus whoever the FO brings in next week; we expect that they'll continue to kick a couple of tires before making a decision. That's not unusual; Toronto, which seems to be leaning toward Boston's John Farrell, is said to have interviewed twenty candidates.

Giants In; Will Meet Rangers

The Phillies jumped off to a 2-0 lead against Jonathan Sanchez, but wouldn't touch home again as they lost to the Giants 3-2 to lose the NLCS 4-2.

The game winner was again delivered by Juan Uribe, who hit a two-out, eighth inning homer off Ryan Madson that dropped gently into the first row of right field seats.

Cody Ross was selected as the series MVP. Not bad for a guy that was claimed off waivers from Florida in August, hey?

The Giants are seeking their first World Series title since 1954 when they were still in New York, while Texas is making its first October Classic appearance in the club's 50 year history.

Tim Lincecum takes on Cliff Lee to start the World Series on Wednesday at AT&T Park. The NL finally won an All-Star game to earn home-field advantage in the World Series, and that’s good news for the Giants. They're 9-0 in interleague play against Texas at the Bay.

Ex-Buccos Freddy Sanchez (.360) and Javier Lopez (1-0, 2.08 ERA) have pulled their weight through the playoffs.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Scratch Another One

The beat guys report that Murrysville's Ken Macha is no longer under consideration for the Bucco manager's job. That's no big surprise; he was an unexpected addition to the list to start with.

Eric Wedge and John Gibbons are out of the running, having landed gigs. That leaves Jeff Banister, Bo Porter, Dale Sveum and Carlos Tosca as candidates interviewed.

Porter is thought to be the favorite for the Florida Marlins' skipper position, although in an interesting twist, the Fish are supposed to be waiting for a chance to interview Tony Pena before reaching a final decision.

We'll see who gets added to the interview list now that the playoff coaches are becoming available. As we've said, there's no rush to fill the job.

Rangers Romp

Bad Vlad Guerrero drove in three runs and Nelson Cruz hit a two-run homer to lead the Rangers to a series-clinching victory over New York, 6-1.

Colby Lewis went eight innings, giving up three hits and K'ing seven, for his second win of the series. Josh Hamilton earned the ALCS MVP award. And even better for Texas, Cliff Lee will be rested and ready to pitch game one of the World Series, the Rangers' first in the 50-year history of the franchise.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Pondering the Pirates And Other Stuff

-- There's no rush for the Pirates to hire a manager, and it's to the FO's benefit to wait until a couple of playoff coaches shake free for interviews.

Rob Biertempfel of the Tribune Review speculates that New York Yankees bench coach Tony Pena, Rangers hitting coach Clint Hurdle, Giants bench coach Ron Wotus and Yankees third base coach Rob Thomson may be on the Bucco radar.

(Add some, lose some: Bob Dutton of the Royals Report tweeted the news that John Gibbons withdrew as a candidate to become Pittsburgh's next manager and will remain as the Royals' bench coach. Hasta la vista, John.)

The team's not a rudderless ship in October without a skipper; his only job is to give his two cent's worth on upcoming personnel decisions. A spanking new field boss isn't much help in that category.

So the brass can back-burner the manager for a bit and concentrate on who to protect on the 40-man roster, arbitration tenders, free agent/trade possibilities and the such. The new bossman should inherit a club that's already had its annual housecleaning.

-- The playoffs are validating the organization's decision to go pitcher heavy in the recent drafts; pitching is really the key this year. Look no further than the Giants with Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, and Madison Bumgarner.

Throw in Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, CC Sabathia...everybody has got a go-to guy (or two).

Maybe in three years the hot rotation will feature Bryan Morris, Jameson Taillon, and Luis Heredia. At least that's what Bob Nutting is hoping. And with guys like Stetson Allie, Zack Von Rosenberg, Billy Cain, Rudy Owens, Brad Lincoln, Quinton Miller, Nick Kingham and company in the system, a light at the end of the tunnel can finally be seen.

-- Baseball America has a look at the Pirates 2010 draft. It's behind a subscription wall, but Tim Williams of Pirate Prospects has the summary; some interesting names caught BA's eye.

-- Aaron Gleeman of Hardball Talk reports that "As if Jose Bautista hitting 54 homers this season wasn’t an amazing enough feat, now it turns out he did most of that slugging with a hernia (suffered in May). Bautista underwent surgery to repair a sports hernia today and is expected to be out of commission for 4-6 weeks."

-- Hey, Butler High has two ex-MLB pitcher's coaching up its jocks. Matt Clement is the basketball coach, and Todd Erdos, originally of little Washington, was just hired as the baseball skipper, reports Mike White of the Post Gazette.

Phils Live Another Day

Thanks to a huge boot by Aubrey Huff and some gutty pitching by Roy Halladay, the Phils took a 4-2 decision from San Francisco to maintain a pulse in the NLCS. The defending league champs are down 3-2 in the best of seven series.

Halladay, pitching with a funky groin in a steady Bay drizzle, outlasted Tim Lincecum, who gave up three runs in the third frame, two on a hard-hit ball that careemed off of Huff's glove. It was enough.

It was thew second time that Cy Young winners Halladay and Lincecum matched up; they've each won a game.

Philadelphia's win forced a Game 6 back home in Citizens Bank Park on Saturday, with Roy Oswalt scheduled against Jonathan Sanchez.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Giants, Rangers One Win Away

-- Well, Madison Bumgarner and Joe Blanton didn't exactly light them up tonight; both were in the shower before the fifth inning was done, leaving a 3-3 game to the bullpens.

The Giants won that battle and the game 6-5 behind two doubles and 2 RBI from Buster Posey plus a walk-off sac fly by Juan Uribe to claim a 3-1 lead in the NLCS over the Phillies.

San Francisco can take the series at home tomorrow when they send Tim Lincecum against Roy Halladay. The G-Men haven't won a World Series since 1954, when they were in New York (they have won three pennants by the Bay).

-- CC Sabathia pitched good enough ball, and the New York Yankees beat the Texas Rangers 7-2 today. The Evil Empire is behind in the series 3-2.

Nick Swisher, Robinson Cano, and Curtis Granderson smacked NYY homers, and Sabathia made the lead stand up although he gave up eleven hits in six innings, but just two runs.

The series resumes Friday night in Arlington, with Phil Hughes taking on Colby Lewis. If a game #7 is needed, the starters would be Cliff Lee and Andy Pettitte.

This is Texas' 50th anniversary as a MLB franchise, and they have yet to reach the World Series. Now they have two shots at home to break that streak.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


-- Matt Cain outpitched Cole Hamels as the San Francisco Giants beat the Philadelphia Phillies 3-0 Tuesday for a 2-1 lead in the NLCS.

Cain allowed two hits over seven innings, struck out five and walked three. It was his first playoff win and first W against the Phils. Hamels surrendered three runs and five hits in six innings. He struck out eight and walked one.

Joe Blanton will start for the Phillies tonight against Madison Bumgarner.

-- Bengie Molina hit a three-run blast off A.J. Burnett and Josh Hamilton added a pair of solo homers as the Rangers bombed the New York Yankees 10-3 last night for a 3-1 lead in the ALCS.

Today's game will match up CC Sabathia against C.J. Wilson, who were the mound opponents in the series opener.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

We Wonder...

There's been no smoke coming from the FO's campfire as they search for JR's replacement. None of the guys interviewed have come back for a second round of palaver.

We're wondering if they're waiting for a couple of playoff coaches to finish their runs - somebodies like Tony Pena of the Yankees or Ron Wotus of the Giants? Just sayin'...

The Prospects

This will a tough selection for a couple of years; the system is almost purged of Dave Littlefield picks (Brad Lincoln, Rudy Owens, Brian Friday, Starling Marte, Alex Presley, Tony Watson, Quincy Latimore and Danny Moskos are all that are left in GW's top 50).

Top prospects Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker, Jose Tabata, Steve Pearce and Pedro Alvarez are all on the big team now, decimating the old Pirate minor league boards. The Neal Huntington classes are young and pitcher heavy, so it'll be awhile before their books are written. Our take on the 2010 class of prospects:

1. Jameson Taillon, 18, RHP: 2010 first round power pitcher who throws a 92-96 MPH fastball with movement, a plus curve and slider, and a work-in-progress changeup. He's a big kid, too, at around 6'6'' and 225 lbs. He went straight to the Florida Instructional League after signing late for $6.5M, and will probably start 2011 at West Virginia.

2. Tony Sanchez, 22, C: The first round draft pick in 2009, he signed quickly at slot for $2.5M and started playing pro ball. He's hit over .300 at three levels. But he lost a big chunk of time to a beaning, and had a terrible time with base stealers (15% throw-out rate) because of a sore shoulder (although he was fine at the other defensive aspects of catching, especially handling the staff). Sanchez is playing in Arizona, and hopefully the time off during the season strengthened his arm. He should start at Altoona next season.

3. Bryan Morris, 23, RHP: He reestablished himself on the Pirate radar this season with a mid-90s fastball and hard curve. But a history of injuries and a lack of innings could hold him back. The last man standing from the Jay Bay deal, Morris has the upside to become a #2 pitcher in the rotation if he can build on 2010. He should start 2011 at Indy.

4. Luis Heredia, 16, RHP: Heredia was considered the top pitching prospect available on the international market, and the Bucs signed him for $2.6M. He's 6'6" and throws 92 MPH with movement and has rudimentary off-speed stuff. While anything can happen at his age, Heredia has the most upside this side of Taillon in the organization. He should start in the GCL next year, by-passing the DSL.

5. Zack Von Rosenberg, 20, RHP: The 6'5" righty throws 91-93 MPH with developing off speed pitches and good control. A 2009 prep pick in the 2009 draft, he inked a deal worth $1.2M. ZVR was strong at the finish of this season after a stormy start, and should move on to West Virginia in 2011.

6. Stetson Allie, 19, RHP: He has a rifle, throwing a mid-nineties heater that touched 100 and a hard slider. Allie signed late this season for $2.25M, and ended up in the Florida Instructional League after the season. He loses velocity as the game wears on, so whether he becomes a starter or bullpen guy is still very much up in the air. Allie should go to State College in 2011.

7. Rudy Owens, 22, LHP: Owens throws his heat at 91-92 MPH with a good curve, and a change-up. Her has exceptional control and can miss some bats. Owens has been the Pirates' Minor League Pitcher of the Year two years running, and is the most likely farm hand to compete for a starting role at Pittsburgh in 2011, along with Brad Lincoln, though he'll probably start off in Indy. He'll also join the 40-man roster, as he's Rule 5 eligible this season.

8. Brad Lincoln, 25, RHP: The Pirate arm of the future got rocked when he was called to the show, in all likelihood being the straw that broke Joe Kerrigan's back after JK messed with his mechanics. Lincoln has a 93 MPH heater and a sharp breaking ball, but has a history of giving up HRs and the big inning. He'll probably return to Indy to try to locate his old mojo in 2011.

9. Justin Wilson, 23, LHP: A 2008 #5 pick from Fresno State, Wilson had a good year at Altoona, with a low-90s fast ball, curve, and slider. GW has him a little higher on the list than most others, but we think he's just coming into his own. Wilson has a lot of movement on all his pitches, which often leads to control problems. If he can throw strikes, he could be a mid-rotation pitcher; he's pitching in the Arizona Summer League now to work on that issue. We expect to see him at Indy in 2011, where we'll have a better idea of his potential.

10. Jeff Locke, 22, LHP: He throws with low-90s velocity, and has a good hook and great control. His peripherals were also outstanding in a split season between Bradenton and Altoona. The lefty projects as a mid-rotation MLB starter. Locke is likely to start with the Curve in 2011 and be in line to be the first call up to Indy.

11. Starling Marte, 22, OF: A toolsy guy that hit .315 but rang up poor strikeout and walk rates in 2010 needs to smooth out the rough edges. He had hamate surgery, so 2011 will be a big season for him to improve his eye and power numbers; his glove and speed are already exceptional. Marte should be in Altoona to start 2011.

12. Quinton Miller, 20, RHP: He was on the DL with biceps tendinitis, a condition that has haunted him since high school. Miller throws 94 MPH with a slider and change-up. The Pirates fast-tracked him in 2009 after drafting him out of high school and hope to get a healthy season under his belt in 2011. He could stay at West Virginia or move up to Bradenton, depending on the numbers game and the condition of his arm.

13. Nick Kingham, 18, RHP: A 2010 fourth round prep draft pick from Washington, he throws a low-90s fastball with movement to go with a plus change and a in-progress curve. Kingham is considered to have big-time upside, and flew under the radar after the Taillon and Allie signings. He should start next season at State College after a brief appearance in the GCL this year.

14. Jarek Cunningham, 20, 2B: Missed all of 2009 with ACL surgery, but came back to hit .258/.309/.436 at West Virginia with 11 HRs. The only concession to his knee was a switch from SS to 2B. Cunningham has pop in his bat, but K's at a big rate, especially having problems with off-speed stuff. He should move to Bradenton in 2011.

15. Colton "Billy" Cain, 19, LHP: Cain was drafted out of high school in 2009, signing late for $1.25M. He throws in the low-90s, and has a plus curve and change with occasional control issues. Cain missed the start of the year after minor back surgery, so his year at SC was especially promising as he remained healthy. He'll be part of the West Virginia rotation in 2011.

16. Zack Dodson, 20, LHP: A 2009 prep draft pick out of high school who signed for $600K, he throws in the low 90s and his curve is his best pitch. Dodson had trouble with his control at State College but improved his command as the season went on. He's likely to move on to West Virginia in 2011, but his innings will be limited. Dodson only had 57 IP in 2010.

17. Chase d'Arnaud, 23, SS: d'Arnaud, 2008's 4th round pick, had trouble buying a hit this year, batting .247, but had a big championship series to end the year with a good taste in his mouth. He's still the top internal candidate for SS, so this will be a big year for him to prove he deserves that slot. d'Arnaud should start at Indy, but the Pirates have a logjam of SS's to be sorted out, so his assignment will depend on where other guys, like Brian Friday, Pedro Ciriaco and Argenis Diaz land.

18. Andrew Lambo, 22, OF: A former top prospect acquired in the Octavio Dotel deal known for his stick rather than mitt, he's trying to regain his star. He played AA ball as a 20 and 21 year old, young for the level, so that may be part of his problem. The Bucs thought enough of him to send him to the Arizona Fall League. Lambo should get a ticket to Indy in 2011.

19. Diego Moreno, 24, RHP: He missed nearly a month with a rotator cuff strain, and then got suspended for unspecified bad conduct. Moreno throws in the high nineties and is almost unhittable by righties. He's eligible for the Rule 5 draft and the Pirates will probably add him to the 40-man roster. The closer should open 2011 at Altoona.

20. Alex Presley, 25, OF: the Pirate Minor League Player of the Year, Presley showed that he can probably handle a fourth outfield position at the MLB level. He's likely to start 2011 at Indy as an insurance policy.

21. Nathan Adcock, 22, RHP: Adcock doesn't have a great heater or dominating off speed stuff, and profiles back of the rotation starter. He's also eligible for the Rule 5 draft, so the Pirates have to make a decision on him this season. If Adcock gets through the shuffle, he should be in the Altoona rotation in 2011.

22. Jordy Mercer, 24, SS: The third round pick in 2008, Mercer has played the middle infield with range and hit the ball well. He's another guy, like d'Arnaud, who's caught in the recent crush of upper-level middle infielders, but he's done his job fairly well over the past three seasons. He should be at Indy next year, but...

23. Robbie Grossman, 21, OF: Strikes out too much (although he improved in 2010), draws a lot of walks, and hasn't shown the power expected of him yet. he does have decent wheels, good range, and an accurate arm who has put together three decent OBP years. He'll probably start at Bradenton next season.

24. Gorkys Hernandez, 23, CF: Hernandez runs well and is very good defensively, maybe the best OF'er in the system, with a strong arm. He profiles as a top of the order bat with good base-stealing skills, and a fourth outfielder type behind Andrew McCutchen and Jose Tabata in Pittsburgh. Hernandez should begin 2011 at Indy.

25. Mel Rojas Jr., 20, CF: A third round junior college pick this year, he's raw but toolsy. He'll probably begin 2011 in West Virginia.

26. Nate Baker, 22, LHP: He throws between 88-92 with a slider and change, with good control. His stuff isn't dominating, and he doesn't miss too many bats, so each level up will be a challenge. Baker should start out 2011 at Bradenton, although Altoona is also a possibility.

27. Exicardo Cayonez, 19, OF: Signed in 2008 for a $400K bonus, he played in the GCL this season. Cayonez faded in August, having trouble hitting lefties. He's fairly toolsy, and the Bucs will move him on to State College in 2011 to continue his baseball education.

28. Brian Friday, 24, 2B: He was off to a good start as Indy's second baseman before a mid-season ankle injury fell him for awhile. Friday is Rule 5 eligible this year, making an interesting choice for the FO who have a ton of middle infield guys. If he stays with the organization, he should again be at Indy.

29. Matt Curry, 22, 1B: Curry was drafted out of TCU in 2010, and had a strong line of .299/7/29 at SC. He has a background as a good hitter, and will probably move up a level in 2011, although he could be jumped to Bradenton.

30. Zach Fuesser, 20, LHP: He's not a power pitcher, throwing 88-92 with a good curve and a developing change, and his control is an issue. But except for the walks, his peripherals were strong for SC, and he rebounded well from an early season broken finger. Fuesser was drafted in 2009, and signed for $125K. He'll start at West Virginia next season.

Rounding out the top fifty, in no particular order (except alphabetic), are: 3B Eric Avila, SS Yhonathan Barrios, SS Jorge Bishop, RHP Victor Black, OF Evan Chambers, SS Pedro Ciriaco, 3B Jeremy Farrell, C Eric Fryer, IF Josh Harrison, 1B Matt Hague, 2B Brock Holt, RHP Jeff Inman, 1B Jared Lakind, OF Quincy Latimore, RHP Brett Lorin, SS Drew Maggi, RHP Joe Martinez, LHP Danny Moskos, RHP Brooks Pounders and LHP Tony Watson.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Porter to Fish?

Bo Porter, one of the Seven Samurai who the Bucs interviewed, is said to be the front runner for the Florida marlin job, according to Joe Frisaro of

That would leave five candidates remaining of the seven the Bucs have interviewed: Jeff Banister, John Gibbons, Kenny Macha, Dale Sveum, and Carlos Tosca. The first man the Pirates talked to, Eric Wedge, was officially announced today as Seattle's new manager.

Craig Calcaterra of Hardball Talk thinks that John Gibbons should be da man.

We'd expect that the Pirates would expand the list; there's not much of a need to fill the position right away. But the FO works in mysterious ways...


-- The Phils evened their NLCS against the Giants yesterday with a 6-1 victory, fueled by a four-run seventh inning against Jonathan Sanchez and a posse of relievers. It was all Roy Oswalt needed; he gave up one run on three hits with 9 K's in eight innings of work.

-- Cliff Lee struck out 13 and held the Yankees to two hits over eight innings in pitching the Rangers to an 8-0 victory. Lee became the first pitcher to collect three 10-plus strikeout games in the same postseason.

Texas is up 2-1 in the ALCS.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Free Agents & Waiver Wire Deals

The draft and international signings are an organization's roots; the trades, FA's and to a lesser extent, waiver and Rule 5 claims, fill in the puzzle at the MLB level.

For a variety of reasons, the MLB product hasn't had much help from the marketplace. Primarily, that's the blowback from exploding the team and running an audition camp for prospects; the FO didn't want to block guys like Andy LaRoche, Brandon Moss, Lastings Milledge, etc. until they had proven themselves one way or another.

And players like Andrew McCutchen, Jose Tabata, Neil Walker, Pedro Alvarez, and Garrett Jones have shown that some guys were ready for the big city lights.

But the Pirates have done a pretty poor job of evaluating the FAs they have signed, showing a better eye for relievers than for bench players or rotation help. That could be because of supply and demand, or just a function of evaluation - and in some cases, desperation.

They have done a good job with Rule 5 and the waiver wires; any success from those sources is a rarity, and Pittsburgh has had a couple of success stories.

Here's the current FO history:

Free Agents:

RHP Octavio Dotel (1/21/10)
RHP Brendan Donnelly (1/18/10)
RHP D.J. Carrasco (1/16/10)
RF Ryan Church (1/13/10)
RHP Brian Bass (1/12/10)
LHP Brian Burres (1/4/10)
LHP Jack Taschner (1/4/10)
LHP Javier Lopez (12/18/09)
1B Bobby Crosby (12/10/09)
LHP Wilfredo Ledezma (11/30/09)

The Pirates did OK in 2010, improving their product before the deadline, then turning over the rental players for some young guys. They rebuilt their bullpen, and then tore it down to get James McDonald, John Bowker, Pedro Ciriaco, Andrew Lambo and Joe Martinez. But they had no eye for bench players; they were eventually traded away and replaced by pups.

OF Eric Hinske (1/30/09)
OF Craig Monroe (1/13/09)
1B Garrett Jones (12/22/08)
INF Ramon Vazquez (12/12/08)

A pretty poor class here; Hinske was traded, Monroe DFA'ed, and Vazquez cut with a year remaining on his contract. The silver lining was the signing of minor league free agent Garrett Jones.

INF/OF Craig Wilson (4/8/08)
1B Doug Mientkiewicz (2/11/08)
2B Luis Rivas (2/1/08)
RHP T.J. Beam (1/11/08)
C Raul Chavez (1/11/08)
INF Chris Gomez (12/12/07)

Dirt Dog Doug and Raul Chavez are probably the best pair of non-pitching FA's the Pirates have signed in the Huntington era, for what that's worth. But the Pirates couldn't turn these guys into July prospects.

Rule 5

2009 - John Raynor (returned)
2008 - Donnie Veal (kept, on DL)
2007 - Evan Meek (returned and reacquired, on roster)

Good eye for the first pair; Raynor was a garden variety OF whose speed was his calling card.

Waiver Wire:

RHP Chris Resop off waivers from Atlanta Braves (8/4/10)
RHP Chan Ho Park off waivers from New York Yankees (8/4/10)
RHP Sean Gallagher from San Diego Padres for cash (was DFA'ed 7/7/10)
RHP Hayden Penn off waivers from Florida Marlins (3/29/10)
RHP Chris Jakubauskas off waivers from Seattle Mariners (11/20/09)
LHP Justin Thomas off waivers from Seattle Mariners (10/29/09)

Resop is a keeper; Park will probably play out his free agency, and the rest provided varying degrees of depth except for Penn, who ended up in Japan. What's scary is that more waiver players dressed for Pittsburgh in 2010 than in 2008-09 combined.

RHP Steven Jackson off waivers from New York Yankees (5/18/09)
RHP Virgil Vasquez off waivers from the San Diego Padres (1/26/09)

Jackson has been up and down, and Vasquez is with a different organization.

INF Josh Wilson off waivers from Tampa Bay (12/3/07)
RHP Ty Taubenheim off waivers from Toronto (12/3/07)
RHP Jimmy Barthmaier off waivers from the Houston Astros (11/7/07)

Organizational depth, but it showed the new FO was aware that there was no help in the upper levels of the farm.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Giants, Rangers Win

-- Tim Lincecum outdueled Roy Halladay, thanks to a pair of Cody Ross solo homers, and the Giants beat the Phillies 4-3 in Game 1 of the NLCS. Jason Werth and Carlos Ruiz homered to account for Philadelphia's runs.

The pitchers both worked seven innings, with Lincecum whiffing eight and Halladay seven. The bullpens slammed the gate over the last pair of frames; ex-Bucco Javier Lopez worked 2/3's of an inning with a K.

Game two is tomorrow night; Jonathan Sanchez goes against Roy Oswalt.

-- This time, the Rangers hung on to an early 5-0 lead and whipped the Yankees 7-2 at Arlington today. Texas beat up on Phil Hughes while Colby Lewis limited New York to two runs over 5-2/3 innings and the bullpen closed the door afterward.

The Rangers snapped a 10 game playoff losing streak to the Yankees and a seven game losing streak at home. Cliff Lee and Andy Pettitte will hook up Monday in the Big Apple with the series knotted at one win apiece.

2010 Draft & Internationals

The Draft:

The FO stuck to the tried and true, going after over-slot, high school pitching, adding college position players later in the day. They got their top guns, but only signed six of their top ten selections, and just two of those before mid-August.

The Bucs paid $8.75M to ink their top two draft picks, high school pitchers Jameson Taillon ($6.5M) and Stetson Allie ($2.25 M), signing them on August 17th. Neither played; they instead reported to the Florida Instructional League after the season.

Other signees:

-- OF Mel Rojas, 20 (#3 - Wabash Valley JC) Rojas was considered raw but toolsy, and signed at slot, $423,900. In 164 at-bats for the SC Spikes, he hit .207 with virtually no power. Rojas will move to West Virginia in 2011.
-- RHP Nick Kingham, 18 (#4 - Sierra Vista HS): Signed for $480,000 and has a rep as a hard thrower. He's likely to end up in State College next year after pitching 3 innings of GCL ball in 2010.
-- RHP Tyler Waldron, 21 (#5 - Oregon State): Waldron signed at slot, for $173,500. He was 4-7 with a 3.90 ERA at State College with OK peripherals except being weak on the K rate. Waldron will move up a level next season.

Three high school pitchers, Jason Hursh, Austin Kubitza and Dace Kime, were drafted 6-7-8; none signed. Neither did #10 choice Zach Weiss, another prep pitcher.

-- RHP Brandon Cumpton, 21 (#9 - Georgia Tech): Cumpton signed for $124,500 and got three starts at State College; the college fireballer will advance to West Virginia next season.
-- OF Daniel Grovatt, 21 (#11 - Virginia): He went to State College, but as a mid August signee, only got in 11 at-bats. He's also due to move up next year.
-- RHP Vincent Payne, 19 (#12 - Cypress College): Payne went 2-2, 2.36 between the GCL and State College; he should start at SC in 2011.
-- RHP Bruce Weidman, 19 (#14 - SW Oregon CC): Worked 8 innings in the GCL and was shut down in mid-July. He'll probably move on to SC.
-- SS Drew Maggi, 21 (#15 - Arizona State): Inked to a $468,000 bonus, Maggi hit .156 in 18 games for State College, but should move to WVA next year.
-- 1B Matt Curry, 22 (#16 - TCU): The big lefty hit .299/7/29 for State College and will advance at least a level in 2011.
-- RHP Ryan Hafner, 18 (#17 - Lee Summit HS): Signed for $450,000 and pitched a couple of innings in the GCL. He's considered a project, and may start at the same level in 2011.
-- 1B Jared Lakind, 18 (#23 - Cypress Woods HS): Signed for $400,000, and reported to the GCL, where he homered once in four games; his rep is as a big bopper.

Other Draft Picks:

#20 - OF Justin Bencsko, 23 (State College: .188/0/3)
#22 - 2B Adalberto Santos, 23 (State College: .319/3/35)
#24 - 1B Justin Howard, 23 (GCL - .341/0/3)
#25 - RHP Casey Sadler, 20 (State College: 3-0, 3.00)
#27 - RHP Kevin Kleis, 19 (GCL: 0-1, 2.78)
#30 - C Matt Skirving, 20 (State College: .217/0/10)
#31 - RHP Jason Townsend, 22 (State College: 1-1, 3.60)
#32 - 3B Chase Lyles, 23 (State College: .241/6/33)
#33 - LHP Justin Ennis, 22 (State College/WVA: 3-3, 5.67)
#34 - SS Kelson Brown, 22 (State College: .293/0/26)
#36 - RHP James Archibald, 20 (GCL: 0-3, 5.40)
#39 - RHP Kevin Decker, 22 (State College: 8-1, 3.75)
#41 - RHP Bryton Trepagnier, 19 (GCL: 1-2, 4.74)
#49 - RHP Logan Pevny, 18 (GCL: 0-0, 5.79)
FA - IF Kevin Mort, 22 (GCL/State College: .281/0/21)

This draft is boom or bust. They got the two best power arms on the board with Taillon and Allie, although the jury is out on Allie's potential as a starter vs closer. Kingham and Hafner also have great upside; they're similar guys to 2009's Zach Von Rosenberg and Colton Cain.

Nobody's jumped out among the position players. Rojas is a physical specimen with uneven credentials who is far and away the most highly touted non-pitcher in the draft. Matt Curry had a good year; Adalberto Santos and Kelson Brown formed a pretty good middle for State College.

It's way too early to get a handle on this group, but it doesn't seem as deep as past classes, though it does have more potential star power.

Latin Players Signed:

The Buccos inked RHP Luis Heredia, 16, for a $2.6M, a Pittsburgh international record bonus. He's already a big kid, at 6'6" 185 pounds, and can throw 92-93 MPH.

They also added Venezuelan OF Willy Garcia for a $280,000 bonus, higher than any international bonus the team gave in 2009. Garcia, 17, is 6' 1", 200 pounds - they sure feed 'em good down south.

Others signed are are RHP Brayan Almonte, 18, (Dominican Republic): LHP Angel Sanchez, 17, (Dominican Republic); RHP Jose Luis Acosta, 18, (Venezuela): and 1B Jose Roman, 19, (Venezuela); SS Dilson Herrera, 16, (Colombia); RHP Yhonatan Herrand, 18, (Dominican Republic - $185,000 bonus); and RHP Oderman Rocha, 17, (Colombia).

The Pirates also inked OF Yunior Aquiles, 16; LHP Cristian Henriquez, 18, (Dominican Republic); RHP Yunior Montero, 16, (Dominican Republic); LHP Melvin Rosario, 18, (Dominican Republic); OF Miguel De Aza, 17, (Dominican Republic - $150,000); 2B Rodney Polonia, 17, (Dominican Republic: son of former big leaguer Luis Polonia); RHP Isaac Sanchez, 17 (Dominican Republic - $180,000 bonus); and C Heriberto Figueroa, 21 (Dominican Republic).

Actually, it was a good year for the Pirates below the border. Heredia is a stud, and Garcia, Herrand, Sanchez, and DeAza are all highly thought of prospects. It's a crap shoot, considering the age teams sign these kids, but at least the Buccos are rollin' dem bones again.

Rangers Snatch Defeat From Jaws Of Victory

Up 5-0 at the end of six and 5-1 at the end of seven, the Texas Rangers kept their home playoff futility streak (0-for-forever) going, allowing the Evil Empire to come all the way back for a 6-5 victory.

Josh Hamilton's three run, first inning homer off CC Sabathia looked like it would break the jinx, but A-Rod's two-run single, a ball hit to third that had DP written all over it until a bad hop at the last instant, keyed a five-run eighth that carried the NYY to the win.

Mariano Rivera worked the ninth for his 42nd career postseason save, extending his major league record.

New York has won 10 consecutive postseason games against the Rangers, who were knocked out of the playoffs by the Yankees in their only three previous playoffs appearances (1996, 1998 and 1999). Texas is 0-7 in home playoff games, five of those losses to the Yankees.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Wedge to Seattle

Larry Stone of the Seattle Times reports that Eric Wedge will be named the new manager of the Seattle Mariners, according to baseball sources.

That news sure makes the Pirate hunt a lot more interesting.

Our feeling was that Wedge was easily the most qualified of the candidates. Now, we kinda like Dale Sveum out of the remaining pack; he's hard nosed, played the game right, and didn't seem to antagonize his team. But we expect the list to grow now; it won't be limited by the current list of guys interviewed. So stay tuned.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

And Behind Door #7: John Tosca

The Pirates interviewed former Toronto Blue Jays skipper Carlos Tosca today, after was hired yesterday to become the bench coach in Atlanta for brand new Brave skipper Fredi Gonzalez, for whom Tosca worked with the Florida Marlins. Both were canned by the Fish in June.

Tosca, 57, became Toronto's bossman in 2002, and was dismissed during the 2004 season after putting together an 189-191 slate. He was Arizona's third-base coach from 2005-06 before becoming Florida's bench coach in 2007. Tosca also has 17 years under his belt as a minor league manager.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Dragnet Continues

Dale Sveum, 47, a back-up Bucco infielder in 1996-97 and again in 1999, became the sixth candidate interviewed for the Pirate skipper job.

Part of the Pittsburgh 1997 "Freak Show," Sveum also managed at Altoona from 2001-03, went to Boston's staff, and has served as a Brewer coach since 2006.

The others interviewed so far are: Eric Wedge, Bo Porter, John Gibbons, Kenny Macha, and Jeff Banister.


Yah, Green Weenie knows most of his Gen X readers are too young to remember the 1960 World Series and the excitement it brought to the City.

First, a little context. Back then, Pittsburgh was a city with an inferiority complex, known far and wide for its muscle, not its couth, nothing at all like the cultural mecca and knowledge HQ that the City has since become. In 1960, going to the museum and looking at a dead dinosaur's bones was as good as it got; heck, the sky was dark at noon. New York was...well, New York.

As far as baseball, it had been 33 years since a World Series appearance and 35 since a title for the sad sack Buccos, who suffered through a decade of defeat in the fifties, much like the times the team is going through today. But the Pirates were the City team; the Pens didn't exist, the Steelers were as bad as the Bucs, and college sports were for alums, not general consumption.

Everyone sat on their stoop with a cold Iron City and a transistor radio listening to the Gunner and the Possum, and in 1960, Benny Benack's "Beat 'Em Bucs..." "The Bucs Are Going All The Way, All The Way, All The Way, The Bucs Are Going All The Way This Year..." got played enough to make Elvis Presley envious.

Pittsburgh in 1960 and its Pirates were a match: scrappy, roll-in-the-dirt underdogs.

And hey, the Series was up and down between baseball royalty and its ragamuffins; alternately, the Yankees got nosed out, then the Bucs got clobbered. Game Seven was Pittsburgh's turn, and they took advantage, somehow outslugging the New York nine to an improbable 10-9 win.

Green Weenie was just a breakfast link then, a ten year old walking home from St. Wendelin's school in Carrick along Spencer Avenue with a transistor radio pasted to his ear when Maz unloaded. GW got home in time to see the mob scene on the black and white RCA TV, and later piled into the family wagon and joined the bedlam. Drunks, honking cars, and shredded newspapers filled the City.

So hey, when you see the graybeards gather in Oakland, remember that we're reliving more than a moment of our youth, but also our era, before we shuffle off and join the dinosaurs at the museum. And we hope that the Pirates leave you younger fans with a moment to remember, too.

(ESPN's Dave Schoenfield's piece "The Greatest Game Ever Played.")

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Bits And Pieces

-- Chuck Finder of the Post Gazette reports that the Pirates interviewed 25-year organization veteran Jeff Banister, JR's interim bench coach, and Monroeville native Ken Macha, late of the Brewers.

-- Jen Langosh of wrote than Ron Wotus, bench coach of the Giants and one-time back-up infielder of the Bucs, has expressed interest in the skipper's job, but isn't known to have a face-to-face set up with the FO. He joins Andy Van Slyke and Phil "Scrap Iron" Garner as guys hoping for a call from Neal Huntington.

-- Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors has his take on the upcoming Pirate arbitration class.

-- Baseball America selected its Top Twenty International League prospects; Buccos on the list are Pedro Alvarez (#9), Brad Lincoln (#15) and Jose Tabata (#16).

-- Bill Mazeroski will be honored by the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy and Pirate Charities when they unveil a sidewalk plaque honoring Maz's 1960 homer in a ceremony at the intersection of Schenley and Roberto Clemente Drives in Oakland tomorrow.

In keeping with the October 13th tradition, started by Saul Finkelstein in 1985, a tape of the original radio broadcast of the game will be played at the Forbes Field wall and in Schenley Plaza. A half dozen or more of the 1960 Buccos are supposed to be there; the festivities start at noon.

The Post Gazette reports that the first telecast of Game 7 of the 1960 World Series since it was played fifty years ago will air on the MLB Network on December 15th, and early Christmas present for Pirate fans.

-- BTW, old Bucco skipper Lloyd McClendon will get an interview for Seattle job.

-- The Rangers' Cliff Lee added to his October resume, striking out 11 in a 5-1, six-hit victory over the Rays. Weird series; the road team won every game, a first in major league history.

Now the championship series are set; San Francisco at Philly and the Yankees at Texas.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Giants - Phils In The NL

Bobby Cox started his retirement a little sooner than he hoped for, as Cody Ross homered and drove in the go-ahead run with a seventh-inning single to lead the Giants to a 3-2 victory over Atlanta tonight.

Brian McCann homered and had 2 RBI for the Braves. Again, an Atlanta miscue hurt; Alex Gonzalez's error loomed large in the Giant's two-run seventh.

Madison Bumgarner got the win with six solid innings; Derek Lowe took his second loss of the series. With Billy Wagner, Chipper Jones and Martin Prado all injured, the Braves never got it rolling.

They visit the Phillies at noon on Saturday, October 16th to kick off the NLCS.

A New Name

The Pirate beat writers are reporting that John Gibbons, the former Toronto manager and current KC bench coach, interviewed for the Pirate opening at skipper.

He was 305-305 with the Toronto Blue Jays. In his three full seasons (between 2005-07), he went 80-82, 87-75, and 83-79.; he was replaced by Cito Gaston in 2008.

Gibby is best known for his player confrontations with Dave Bush, Shea Hillenbrand, Ted Lilly and Frank Thomas.

-- John Perrotto of Baseball Prospectus writes that Cardinals third-base coach Jose Oquendo is also expected to be interviewed.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Playoff Report

-- Boy, do the Braves miss Martin Prado. His replacement, Brooks Conrad, committed three errors that allowed the Giants their first run and a few innings later, the winning run, as the G-Men rallied to take a 3-2 win and 2-1 lead in the NLDS.

Jonathan Sanchez was brilliant, striking out 11 in 7-1/3 innings while Tim Hudson quietly kept the Giants at bay. There was plenty of late-inning drama. First, Eric Hinske hit a two run homer in the eighth to give Atlanta a 2-1 lead, driving the tomahawk choppers into a frenzy.

The Braves were a strike away from victory in the ninth when an Aubrey Huff single tied it. Then Buster Posey smacked one to Conrad, and it went under his mitt as Freddy Sanchez sprinted home. Maybe the Braves miss Billy Wagner a tad, too.

They'll meet again tomorrow night in Atlanta.

-- Cole Hamels allowed five hits, no walks and struck out nine as the Phils swept their NLDS against the Reds by a 2-0 score. An Orlando Cabrera error allowed the first run to score, and a Chase Utley homer was the insurance. Johnny Cueto was the tough luck loser.

The Reds were the NL's top defensive team during the regular season, but wilted in the playoffs; six of Philly's thirteen runs were unearned.

-- Evan Longoria snapped out of his postseason slump with a homer and two doubles, Carlos Pena scored twice with a pair of extra-base hits, and Tampa Bay dodged elimination for the second day with a 5-2 victory over the Texas Rangers.

After losing the first two games of the ALDS at home, the Rays won both games in Texas (the Rangers historically are now 0-6 in playoff games at home) to force a deciding Game 5 at Tropicana Field on Tuesday night. It should be a dandy, with the Rangers' Cliff Lee going against the Rays’ David Price.

Tampa Bay, the AL’s best team in the regular season, is trying to become the only team other than 2001 New York Yankees to advance to a league championship series after losing the first two division series games at home.

-- Going into today, "highly questionable calls marred all but two of the first 10 division series games. Only Roy Halladay’s no-hitter and the Yankees’ clincher over the Twins were spared. Even Saturday’s Game 3 between the Rangers and Rays had two calls at second base that likely would have been reversed," writes Yahoo Sports Steve Henson.

Is replay or better umps the answer? MLB's gonna have to decide, and probably sooner rather than later.

The 2009 Draft & Internationals

Pittsburgh went pitching heavy in 2009, and singed a posse of high school arms. That makes this draft tough to analyze this soon; most of the hurlers worked at State College and are several steps away from making their mark. The Pirates did a nice job of signing their selections in 2009, inking the top 13 selections. The players are:

C Tony Sanchez (#1 - Boston College): The cries of cheapskate rang through the Pirate nation when Sanchez's selection was made and he was quickly signed, but the FO proved dumb as a fox; Sanchez, 22, may now be the top position prospect in the Pirate system. He hit .309 in 2009, mostly playing at Class A West Virginia (and was named Sally League Player of the Week) and moved to Lynchburg at the end of the season to join them in their championship run. Sanchez was hitting .314 at Bradenton before being felled by a broken jaw; he was on the USA Futures team and was named a Florida State All-Star. He'll play winter ball this year to keep on track, and should be at Altoona to open 2011.

RHP Victor Black (sandwich pick - Dallas Baptist): Black, 22, is a fireballer who had a nice start in 2009 at State College, where he was 1-2 with a 3.45 ERA in 31-1/3 innings; he K'ed 33 and walked 15. Control, or lack thereof, will dictate his future upside. 2010 was a throw-away season; he missed almost all of it due to bicep tendinitis and will probably start out at West Virginia next year.

RHP Brooks Pounders (#2 - Temecula Valley HS); Pounders, who just turned 20, is a big guy who relies on a four pitch mix rather than his average heat. He had a good rookie campaign in the GCL (2-2, 3.04 ERA) and not so hot a year at State College in 2010 (3-3, 4.46). Pounders was admittedly a project when drafted, and at 270 pounds, has conditioning issue to work through, too. He'll start at West Virginia next year to continue the process.

CF Evan Chambers (#3 - Hillsborough CC): Chambers, 21, is speedy, has a good glove and arm, and has all the tools but power. His OBP at State College and WV is .384, he's stolen 41 bases...and his BA is .239. Chambers is intriguing, but has to learn to be more aggressive in the box; he's hitting out of too many pitcher's counts, affecting his average and K rate. He should move on Bradenton in 2011 where they'll work on making him a little less patient.

LHP Zack Dodson (#4 - Castroville HS): Dodson, 20, signed late for a $600K bonus, and worked just an inning in 2009 for the GCL Pirates. He went to State College in 2010, where he posted a 2-6 record with a 4.84 ERA. Dodson relies on his curve; the high ERA is probably due to the Pirates' pounding fastball command into their young hurlers heads. The Texan is ticketed for West Virginia in 2011.

LHP Nathan Baker (#5 - Mississippi): Baker, 22, was one of the Top 150 prospects in the draft and dominated at State College in 2009. He continued to pitch well in 2010, splitting time between West Virginia and Bradenton, compiling a combined 8-8 slate with a 3.00 ERA. Baker doesn't miss many bats; there's still some internal debate whether to move him on or let him start at Bradenton in 2011.

RHP Zack Von Rosenberg (#6 - Zachary HS) Von Rosenberg, who just turned 20, was a late sign, getting a $1.2M bonus. He was 1-6 with a 3.20 ERA at State College in 2010, struggling early but improving as the year went on. His control was good, but his strikeout rate wasn't strong. He'll move move up to West Virginia in 2011, but probably with an inning limit; ZVR only worked 59 frames last year. The Bucs are hoping for a breakout year; he was considered among the top players selected in upside during the draft, as his bonus shows.

RHP Trent Stevenson (#7 - Scottsdale HS): Stevenson, 20, started in the GCL; in 2010, most of his work was done for State College. He was 0-2 with a 4.43 ERA there, and his peripherals weren't very strong. But he was drafted on potential; Stevenson was unpolished as a HS pitcher. He's another one that will move on to West Virginia to continue the finishing process.

LHP Colton Cain (#8 - Waxahachie HS): Cain, 19, also signed late for a $1.125M bonus. He started 2010 in the GCL, and did most of his work at State College, where he was 1-1 with a 5.03 ERA but good peripherals. Cain had back surgery and started the year late, but seems to be fine now. Baseball America ranked him the 10th best prospect in the NYPL. He should open 2011 at West Virginia.

2B Brock Holt (#9 - Rice): Holt, 22, has put himself on the Pirate radar, making the All-Star teams of both leagues he's played for. He hit .299 at State College in 2009 and was off to a sizzling .351 start at Bradenton before he suffered a knee injury in a collision, costing him the rest of the year. A good glove, Holt had been playing SS, and is in the middle infield mix; he should start at Altoona in 2011.

C Joey Schoenfield (#10 - Garden Grove HS): Schoenfield, 19, is a very raw catcher who has good enough speed and athletic ability to move to a corner position. He signed for $125K, and spent a little time in the GCL in 2009. He stayed there in 2010, hitting .281 as the back-up catcher; he only nailed 2 of 21 base stealers. He'll go to State College next year while the Bucs decide where to play him.

1B Aaron Baker (#11 - Oklahoma): Baker just turned 23, and showed some power at West Virginia, where he hit .253/18/79 with a lot of whiffs and walks. He'll go to Bradenton next season, and at his age will need a breakout season to become a serious prospect.

RHP Jeff Inman (#12 - Stanford): Inman, 22, signed just before the deadline for a $425K bonus. He threw his fastball 93-95 in a brief 2009 stop at State College, and was hitting 96 consistently during spring training. He was slated to open 2010 at West Virginia, but went on the DL and was shut down for good in mid-July with elbow problems.

RHP Ryan Beckman (#18 - Grayson County CC): Beckman, 20, is being groomed as a reliever. His stat line in the GCL and at State College were mediocre; he doesn't miss many bats, though his other peripherals were fine. His velocity picked up this year and he's a 2-1 ground ball pitcher, so he has some promise. Beckman will likely land in the West Virginia pen in 2011.

RHP Phil Irwin (#21 - Mississippi): Irwin, 23, dominated in State College in 2009. He spent 2010 at West Virginia, compiling a 6-3, 3.35 ERA line. Irwin had strong peripheral numbers, and his velocity increased from the high eighties to the low nineties. The Pirates moved him up to Bradenton for the playoffs at the end of the year, and he'll probably start 2011 with them. His stuff isn't considered overwhelming, so each level up will be a test for him.

OF Jose Hernandez (#23 - Texas at Arlington): Hernandez, 24, had a so-so year at State College in 2009, but did some damage with the stick at West Virginia with a line of .271/12/57. He's not much of a fielder and old for his level; he's probably an organizational player.

LHP Zack Fuesser (#34 - Walters State CC): Fuesser, 20, signed for a $125K bonus, and pitched pretty well in the GCL during 2009. At State College, he was 0-4 with a 3.64 ERA and decent peripherals except for walks; he needs work on his control. Fuesser throws in the upper 80s - low 90s range, and is tough on lefties; his future may be in the pen as a LOOGY.

This draft was a mixed bag; Tony Sanchez is the only fast-tracked guy in it, and that's to be expected of a high school and CC player dominated draft. But its youth makes it volatile; it could go bust as easily as boom. No one but Sanchez has broken from the pack.

The stat lines for most of the high school pitchers aren't overwhelming; but you have to careful about what you read into that. The Pirate mantra in State College is fastball control and command, so the pitchers are often one-trick ponies until they master the heater. They also dole out innings carefully. The Spikes use a piggy back pitching system, splitting games among two starters to keep the inning count down.

One oddity you'll note; the young pitchers are all on track to go to West Virginia, and there's only one ball, an inevitable problem when you overload with high school talent. The Pirates are aggressive with college players and cautious with high school guys; we'd expect more piggy-backing in West Virginia in 2011.

The Latino Signings:

This will go down as the year they blew signing Miguel Angel Sano. But they did pick up a boatload of signees, 36 in all, in 2009. So at least the numbers are in their favor.

LHP Joely Rodriguez (Dominican Republic) Rodriguez, 18, came to the GCL after a season in the DSL, and put up a 2-2-1 record with a 3.99 ERA, good stats for age, and even got a late call up to State College, where he held his own. J-Rod isn't a strikeout guy, but a groundball pitcher who may get to start out in State College next year, which would be impressive considering his age.

OF Gregory Polanco (Dominican Republic): Polanco, 19, spent a year in the DSL and was promoted to the GCL in 2010, where he hit just .202 with some power. He finished tied for fourth in the GCL in steals, and played right and center. Polanco played most of the year as an 18 year old, so the stats are a bit misleading. The Pirates have yet to determine if he'll go to State College or start in the GCL in 2011.

OF Gavi Nivar (Dominican Republic): Nivar, 21, got a cup of coffee in the GCL in 2010 after spending a year in the DSL. He may return to the GCL or be pushed to State College because of his age.

RHP Joan Montero (Dominican Republic): Montero, 21, was 1-3-3 for the GCL Bucs in 2010 with a 3.13 ERA working out of the pen. He had significant control problems, but because of his age could move up to State College next year.

OF Jesus Vasquez (Dominican Republic): Vasquez, 18, hit .265/5/40 in the DSL, and was named an All-Star. He should make it to El Norte in 2011.

LHP Martires Cadet (Dominican Republic) Cadet, 19, was 3-3 with a 2.31 ERA as a starter. He's a control pitcher and may be brought north in 2011.

SS Carlos Esqueda (Mexico) Esqueda, 18, hit .349 in his VSL debut in 2010. If he doesn't join the GCL in 2011, it'll only be due to his age.

Of the three dozen Latino players the Pirates signed in 2009, this is the best of the lot so far. Again, remember that these guys can sign when they're 16, so they're harder to project and more raw than even a high school draft pick. In fact, the DSL team had 35 players pass through it in 2010; three were old enough to buy a beer (in PNC Park, anyway!)

Other International Signees:

RHP Mitchell Fienemann (Australia) Fienemann started out in the GCL in 2009, and worked for State College this season. He went 3-3 with a 3.62 ERA working out of the pen, and all his peripheral stats were in line. Fienemann will probably move to West Virginia next season.

C Dylan Child (Australia): Child, 19, played in the GCL, hitting .181. A converted shortstop, he logged more innings at first than behind the dish. Child will probably make a return to the GCL in 2011.

RHP Jarryd Sullivan (Australia): Sullivan, 20, pitched mostly in the GCL with a brief call up to State College. Overall, he was 3-4 with a 4.46 ERA. He'll likely move up a level because of his age.

RHP Dovydas Neverauskas (Lithuania): Neverauskas, 17, was unearthed at a MLB tryout camp, throwing 88 MPH as a 16 year old. He pitched briefly in the GCL in 2010, working 10 innings. That's probably the level he'll start out at in 2011. Neverauskas is raw, but the fact that he's in the States instead of a Euro academy means the Bucs think he's got a shot.

RHP Sheng-Chin Hung (Taiwan): Hung, 19, was beat up in a brief showing in the GCL. He throws a 91 MPH fastball along with a curve and change. He'll be back in the GCL next season.

OF Daan Cornelissen (Netherlands): Cornelissen, 19, is a speedy corner outfielder that's in need of some plate discipline. He was overmatched at the dish in the GCL, and will return to the Rookie squad in 2011.

OF Ping-Hung Chi (Taiwan): A speedy (supposedly one of the fastest guys in the system) 19 year old that bats lefty is always a good thing to have. Chi was also was overmatched in the GCL, and will return there in 2011.

1B Chi-Wei Hsu (Taiwan): Hsu won't turn 19 until December. He played a bit in the GCL in 2010, and will return there in 2011.

There are no standout prospects in this group. The encouraging sign is that the Pirates are beginning to get some cred in the Pacific Rim, signing players from Australia and Taiwan.

Yanks In, Rays Still Alive

-- Phil Hughes pitched seven shutout innings, Marcus Thames and Nick Swisher homered and the Yankees beat the Twins 6-1 to complete a three-game sweep of Minnesota and return to the ALCS. The Evil Empire continues on its mission of world domination.

-- Tampa Bay avoided elimination in the ALDS with a 6-3 victory over the Texas Rangers. Tampa rallied in the eighth and ninth, scoring four times off closer Neftali Feliz and Dustin Nippert to cut the series deficit to 2 games to 1.

The Rangers, in their 39th season in Texas after 11 seasons as the Washington Senators, still have never won a home playoff game (0-5); they'll try again Sunday.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Middle Infield Mash

OK, right now the middle of the Pirate infield, in complete flux coming into the year after the deep-sixing of Freddy Sanchez and Jack Wilson, looks set with Neil Walker, 25, and Ronny Cedeno, 27.

That leads to a couple of interesting situations. Heirs apparent Brian Bixler and Shelby Ford self destructed, which led the Pirates to go afield and bring in Pedro Ciriaco, 25, and Argenis Diaz, 23, a pair reputed to be great glovers with questionable hitting skills, to man the fort at Indy. Ciriaco hit a respectable .265 in AAA this season, Diaz .248.

Brian Friday, 24, was there, too, a better guy with the stick but not as accomplished with the mitt, considered more of a dependable rather than rangy glove. His bat let him down at Indy, though, as he stroked at just a .257 clip, and he lost a hunk of time to an ankle injury. But to his advantage, he's the only player to accumulate any real time at both second base and short.

Easy enough, you say. One of the trio (probably Ciriaco, who is the toolsiest guy of the bunch) goes to Pittsburgh as the middle infield bench tender, and the other pair form the middle of Indy's defense. This flies in the face of Pirate SOP, but after throwing away money on Chris Gomez, Ramon Vazquez and Bobby Crosby, maybe they'll see the light and scrap the veteran bench fetish.

But here's where it gets complicated. Altoona won the 2010 AA championship, just as Lynchburg won the High A crown in 2009. Jordy Mercer, 24, and Chase d'Arnaud, 23, third and fourth round draftees in 2008, manned the middle for both of those squads and have been moving up a step at time. The next step due is Indy.

Mercer hit .284 for the Curve, and d'Arnaud had a bad year, batting just .247 while battling minor injuries and illness. Still, he was a replacement player on the Eastern League All-Star team, and ended up the MVP.

Not only do you potentially block a couple of future prospects if you keep Mercer and d'Arnaud at Altoona, but you also block Brock Holt, 22, and Josh Harrison, 23, too, gluing them to Bradenton. Brock hit .351 as the starting SS, and Harrison .300, seeing considerable time at second base.

Holt lost most of the year to knee surgery, and Harrison is more a corner guy than middle infielder, so cooling their heels might not hurt in the short term. But you want to keep the conveyor belt moving in the system; a logjam in the middle levels kills development and evaluation for the long run.

So that's one jagged piece of the 2011 jigsaw puzzle that the FO has to piece together. But here's another scenario (or more likely, just a blogger's fantasy):

A new manager comes in, and he's old school NL; his team has to catch the ball. He looks over the charts, and figures out that his current infield can't catch a cold.

Now he could just count on improvement by osmosis for Pedro Alvarez and Walker, and declare Cedeno's spot an open competition among Ronny, Ciriaco, and Diaz. With Steve Pearce back in the fold, he has a guy that can platoon and handle the gateway base in the late innings.

Or he could take a little longer view. Assuming that the Pirates grab Anthony Rendon in the draft, he could decide that rather than wait for him to claim the hot corner in two or three seasons, he could set things in motion now.

He takes a look at Pedro's bulky bod, sees film of Garrett Jones stabbing at pick-off tosses and trying to make throws to second, and pulls up Walker's UZR/150 (-16.8) on the ol' PC.

Suddenly, the Pirate infield is Walker back at third, Cedeno at short (holding off Diaz), Ciriaco at second, and Pedro at first, with Diaz/Friday and Pearce on the bench. Jones goes to right, gets 400 at-bats against righties, and hits .275 with 15 HR and 70 RBI.

Suddenly that BABIP goes from a league worse .321 toward the mean, .305. Those seeing-eye singles turn into DPs. The Pirate ERA drops from 5.00 to 4.50. And guess what - Mercer and d'Arnaud get to go to Indy.

Hey, a blogger can dream, can't he?

The 2008 Draft & Internationals

The Coonelly/Huntington FO made no bones about it; they were going to hang their hats on the draft. And in three years, they've made good on that claim, draining Bob Nutting's pockets of some $30M while filling a depleted farm system with prospects of varying pedigree.

The first draft was tilted toward college players, as the Bucs needed a quick fix for an ailing minor league system, though they did add a sprinkling of high school picks.

They hit the jackpot with their first pick, when they snagged Vandy's Pedro Alvarez as the second overall selection. He's in the majors to stay after a rocket ride through the system despite missing 2008 after signing at the midnight hour, and looks like a difference maker. His MLB line was .256/16/64, and El Toro is the cleanup hitter the Pirates have been lacking.

They couldn't sign Tanner Scheppers from Fresno State nor Drew Gignon of Liberty HS among their top ten picks, but brought home the other seven. They are:

SS Jordy Mercer (#3 - Oklahoma State): Mercer, 24, just finished his year at Altoona, where he hit .282/3/65. They've moved him around, mostly playing him at second and third. He should be at Indy in 2011, and remains in the Pirates' infield mix of the future.

SS Chase d'Arnaud (#4 - Pepperdine): d'Arnaud, 23, also played at Altoona. He put up a line of .247/6/48 in a year when he wasn't 100% physically. d'Arnaud is still considered the Bucco shortstop of the future, but he'll have to get his stick to warm up to live up to that tag. We expect him to land in Indy next season.

LHP Justin Wilson (#5 - Fresno State): Wilson, 23, signed late and missed 2008, but was aggressively placed in the Pirate system, and spent the year with the Curve. He posted an 11-8, 3.09 ERA at Altoona with 134 K's in 142 innings; he also walked 71 batters. Wilson has a rep as a big game pitcher, and projects as a mid-rotation guy if he can improve his control. He's likely to start 2011 in AAA.

OF Robbie Grossman (#6 - Cypress Fairbanks HS) Grossman turned 21 in September, and played mainly as a 20 year old in High A Bradenton this season, where he put up a line of .245/4/50. The jury is out on him; he hasn't developed the power they had hoped, though that's generally one of the last aspects of hitting to come around for a young guy. Grossman does draw a lot of walks, and strikes out a lot, too, though he improved dramatically this year in that department. He has a good chance of moving up to Altoona next year, but the corner outfielder is still very much a work in progress.

SS Benji Gonzalez (#7 - Puerto Rican Baseball Academy): Gonzalez, 20, spent two seasons in the GCL and last year at Low A West Virginia. Speedy and perhaps the best glove man in the organization, he's only hit .230 overall in his pro career, and a bat like that, especially in the lower levels, won't cut it.

3B Jeremy Farrell (#8 - Virginia): Farrell, 23, had a line of .298/9/43 at Bradenton, not a bad set of stats for 75 games, as he missed time with an infected shin. He's borderline old for his level, so his lumber should get him advanced to Altoona next season.

3B Matt Hague (#9 - Oklahoma State): Hague, 25, put together a line of .295/15/86 for Altoona last year. He has a good eye (62 K, 61 BB) and plays his new position, first base, well. Hague should move to Indy, but he'll have to impress as his age is working against him.

Other players drafted in 2008:

1B Calvin Anderson (#12 - Southern): Anderson played at Bradenton, and in the past two seasons, the 6'7" slugger has gone long 23 times and driven in 137 runs. He also strikes 31% of the time, and doesn't run or field particularly well. It'll be interesting to see if he moves up, with Matt Curry behind him.

RHP Mike Colla (#14 - Arizona): Colla, 23, started in Altoona, got whacked, was sent to Bradenton where he was sharp, and ended the year again with the Curve. His velocity is erratic, going from the upper eighties to the lower nineties, and his control is a little shaky. But his peripherals were decent, and he'll get another shot at AA to see if he can advance past the organization depth charts.

SS Jarek Cunningham (#18 - Mt. Spokane HS): Cunningham, 20, hit .258/12/49 and was third in the Sally League in extra base hits after missing last season with ACL surgery (he's settled in at second base now). The infielder has to cut down on his K's; he whiffed 132 times in 488 at-bats. His problem is two-fold at the dish; little patience and trouble with the off-speed stuff. Cunningham will probably move up to Bradenton next year to work on his eye. But he has age on his side and some pop in his bat, and remains very much on the Pirate radar.

RHP Quinton Miller (#20 - Shawnee HS): Miller, 20, threw sparingly for West Virginia last year. He had a history of tendinitis problems, and they returned last season, cutting down his workload and his velocity. He'll probably start 2011 in Low A again, and needs to get a healthy season under his belt to properly evaluate his potential.

We give good grades to the FO's first draft. They landed a possible franchise player in Pedro Alvarez, and have several guys moving to Indy. It was weak in pitching, with Justin Wilson and maybe Quinton Miller being big league prospects, but they did land a handful of position players that may claim some roster space in 2012.

Latin signees:

C Ramon Cabrero (Venezuela): Cabrero, 20, played at West Virginia in 2010, hitting .269/1/40. He's been promoted aggressively, with a year in the VSL, and 2009 split between the VSL and GCL. Cabrero doesn't have much power and doesn't walk, but he bangs out doubles and is a young switch hitter. He threw out just 21% of attempted base stealers, but catchers develop slowly. Cabrero has a good chance of making it to Bradenton next season.

SS Jonathan Barrios (Colombia): Barrios, 18, signed with the Pirates for $250,000 during the summer 2008 signing period. He'll probably move to 2B or even 3B in the pros because of his bulky frame. Baseball America thinks he has a strong bat with some power potential. The Pirates thought enough of him to bring him to the Florida Instructional League in 2009, a rarity for young Latino players, and assigned him to the West Virginia roster in 2010. But it's a good thing he's young; after a year in the VSL, he missed all of 2010 to injury.

3B Elevys Gonzalez (Venezuela): Gonzalez, 20, had a .275/6/31 line at West Virginia. His bat doesn't project as a corner player, though; he'll have to show he can play some middle infield. Gonzalez should step up to Bradenton in 2011.

OF Exicardo Cayonez (Venezuela): Cayonez turned 19 in October. He was one of the Pirates' top international signings in 2008 and got a bonus of $400,000. Cayonez is touted to be a speedy outfielder with a nice lefty bat. He had a good year in the VSL in 2009 and hit .263 in the GCL this season.

SS Jorge Bishop (Panama): Bishop, 19, played second base in the GCL this year and put up a line of .257/4/40, showing some pop and earning him a cup of coffee at Bradenton.

C Elias Diaz (Venezuela): Diaz, 19, was a back up catcher for the GCL in 2010 after starting in the VSL in 2009. He hit just .218, but he's young and has a rifle; he threw out 41% of the larcenists he faced, and that may be enough to get him to State College next season.

RHP Yerfi Taveras (Dominican Republic): Taveras, 21, was a late signer, not inking a deal until he was 19. He pitched in State College and got an injury call-up to Bradenton this year. His stats weren't much, but he has a curve and a slider, and may be a late bloomer.

OF Junior Sosa (Venezuela): Sosa just turned 20, and hit .296 for the GCL Bucs. He's a lefty punch-and-judy hitter that draws walks and steals bases. He may go to West Virginia next year, but has to get stronger to become a prospect.

RHP Fraylin Campos (Dominican Republic): Campos, 20, was the ace of the DSL Pirates in 2009. He went 2-1 with a 4.01 ERA and 26 Ks in 24-2/3 IP in the GCL this year.

RHP Emmanuel De Leon (Dominican Republic): De Leon, 19, signed for $50,000, and debuted in the DSL. He worked a few innings in the GCL, putting up a lot of Ks, a lot of walks, and giving up a lot of hits.

RHP Oscar Verdugo (Mexico) Verdugo, 20, posted a strong 2009 in the VSL, but after a brief outing in the GCL in 2010 disappeared from view. We assume he was hurt or sent to the Florida Instructional league; maybe both.

RHP Yomar Pacheco (Venezuela): Pacheco, 21, had a 1-3 record and 4.85 ERA in the GCL, giving up 7 homers in 29-2/3 innings.

SS Jodaneli Carvajal (Dominican Republic): Carvajal signed for $350,000, one of the larger Latino bonuses the Bucs have ever dished out. He's a burner with an great glove; his bat is the question. He's played in the DSL the past two years, hitting .259 in an injury-shortened 2009 and .304 in 2010. Carvajal is probably due in Florida in 2011.

RHP Roberto Espinoza (Mexico): Espinoza, 18, started for the VSL Pirates in 2010. His stats weren't overly impressive, but he's young and he has fastball that goes in 88-93 range and a slider.

LHP Porfirio Lopez (Dominican Republic): Lopez, 20, has been a starter the last two years in the DSL, putting up ERAs of 1.23 and 1.58 while holding opponents to sub-.200 BA. He's struck out 105 batters in 103 innings during that span; he should be stateside this year.

LHP Raul Ruiz (Venezuela): Ruiz, 19, was the VSL Pirates' top reliever in his second year from the pen. The lefty has posted ERAs of 0.53 and 1.63 the past two seasons with an 8-1-21 record. Ruiz isn't a big strikeout guy, but has pinpoint control and a strong ground ball ratio.

They made their first serious foray into Latin America in years. The results of that are still down the road, but it's promising that several of the players signed in 2008 have come north to play in 2010 and a few more should be stateside next season. In the Littlefield days, a Latino player had to put in three seasons before coming to North America; the current FO move the players more aggressively.

(OF Starling Marte & since-departed RHP Yoslin Herrera were signed in 2006, and OF Rogelio Noris in 2007, if you're wondering. And check out Wilbur Miller's "Latin American Prospects" page for the dope on Pirate Latino prospects.)

Other International Signees:

2B Gift Ngoepe (South Africa): Ngoebe, 20, got a lot of ink, but hit just .205 for State College this season.

LHP Rinku Singh (India) Singh, 22, one of the famed "Million Dollar Arms," got out of the GCL, where he pitched well (2-0, 2.61 ERA), and got a taste of State College.

RHP Dinesh Patel (India) Patel, 21, pretty much got beat up in the GCL.

The first wave of non-Latino international signings hasn't produced any prospects, but it opened the door, and the Pirates are at least looking at what the world outside the America's has to offer MLB.

Saturday Notes

-- John Perrotto tweets that "Assistant GM Peter Woodfork leaves the Diamondbacks; Excellent chance he fills same job with the Pirates."

Woodfork, 34, had been the director of baseball operations/assistant director of player development for the Red Sox from 2003-05, when he joined Arizona. Before that, he worked in the Labor Relations department for Major League Baseball.

Frank Coonelly served as Senior Vice President and General Counsel of Labor in the Office of the Commissioner, so he and Woodfork should be familiar with one another.

Woodfork had long-term ties to former Arizona GM Josh Byrnes, and new D'Backs GM Kevin Towers probably wants to hire his own man, according to a tweet by Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports.

The Pirates don't have an Assistant GM position per se, but they do have five special assistant to the GM positions and a bevy of director/assistant director slots.

-- Ricky Ankiel hit an eleventh inning bomb into McCovey Cove to even the Giant-Brave series at one game apiece with a 5-4 win. Alex Gonzalez hit a game-tying, two-run double in the eighth against SF closer Brian Wilson, who led the majors with 48 saves this season.

The Giants gave up a four run lead in the defeat.

-- The Reds also squandered a four run lead to hand a gift-wrapped 7-4 win to the Phils and fall behind 2-0 in the NLDS. Philly scored twice in the fifth on back-to-back errors by Scot Rolen and Brandon Phillips.

In the seventh, a questionable attempt at a force play by Rolen was followed by Jay Bruce losing a soft fly in lights, allowing a sure out to roll to the wall; with a shot at the play at the plate, Phillips dropped the relay throw. It turned into a three run frame.

Cincy had been the best fielding team in the NL this year, but committed a pair of two-boot innings. The Phils had two errors themselves; it wasn't a very pretty game. Only five of the eleven runs that plated were earned.

One thing we learned tonight is that a four run lead doesn't mean what it used to this playoff season.

-- Baseball management, players and umpires will have a summit on the state of umpiring on December 3rd, just before the start of the winter meetings. The meeting was called at the request of the players' association, which has been logging an increased number of complaints from players this season about umpires and their on-field conduct.