Monday, March 31, 2014

Bucs Take Opener 1-0

Francisco Liriano gave the Bucs what they needed - six shutout innings, and the bullpen did the rest until Neil Walker banged a 3-2 changeup off Carlos Villanueva into the right field seats beyond the Clemente Wall to give the Pirates a 1-0 Opening Day win in ten frames. They did it in front of a rockin' house - the attendance of 39,833 was the largest regular season in PNC history, and they celebrated The Kid's first walk-off homer (or for that matter, hit) raucously.

Frankie's line was six IP, four hits, 10 K with three walks on 104 pitches, and his whiff total tied AJ Burnett, Bob Veale and John Candelaria for strikeouts rung up on Opening Day. He was rattled twice, when the Cubs had runners on first and second with no outs in the fifth and sixth, but a 1-5-3 DP bunt thwarted one threat, and a K-popup-K the other. The double play became baseball's first challenge when Ron Renteria asked for a review of the out call; it was upheld and in fairly good time, taking maybe 90 seconds.

Tony Watson, Mark Melancon, Jason Grilli and Bryan Morris did the rest, with Morris getting the W. Mark the Shark had a runner on third who was thrown out at the dish in the eighth and Grilli stranded a Cub at second in the ninth. All in all, the Windy City nine left eight runners on base and went 0-for-11 with RISP.

Jeff Samardzija held up the Chicago end of the pitching battle, tossing seven shutout innings on five hits, two walks and three K.

Travis Ishikawa had a pair of hits and Starling Marte added a double. Pedro, who sat out the last week of camp to work on his swing, went 0-for-4 with two whiffs and a DP. Can't excuse the strikeouts, but the double play was a low liner up the middle, but hit right into a shift. We're curious to see how he performs at cleanup; his bat could make a big difference there if he gets comfortable in the spot.

Barry Bonds received a mixture of boos and cheers while presenting Cutch with his MVP award pre-game, but the noise quickly turned by the fans into McCutchen's familiar "MVP" chant. The remainder of the old Bucco stars - Dick Groat, Jimmy Leyland and Jack Wilson - were greeted with open arms.

The teams are off tomorrow, with a night game scheduled for Wednesday and get-away day on Thursday.

  • Elias Sports: Neil Walker is the second player in MLB history to hit a walk-off HR in a 1-0 game on Opening Day. 
  • Baseball Reference: In the last 100 years, there have been just eight extra-inning 1-0 games on Opening Day.
  • Ex-Bucs: Jason Bay is retiring, as is Jeff Clement.

Opening Day Lineup, Notes

Tim Kurkjian of ‏ESPN: "I just walked over the Roberto Clemente Bridge into PNC Park on Opening Day. Seriously, who is the luckiest man on earth?"

  • The Opening Day lineup: Starling Marte LF, Travis Snider RF, Cutch CF, Pedro 3B, Russ Martin C, Neil Walker 2B,  Travis Ishikawa 1B, Jordy Mercer SS and Francisco Liriano P. Not exactly as we expected, but there it is.
  • The 1:05 game will be televised throughout the planet. It's on ESPN, WGN and Root Sports. If you're stuck by a radio, 93.7 The Fan will have the call. And here is the Opening Day ceremonies info by the Bucs, plus the week's promotional schedule.
  • Jeff Samardzija will be the first pitcher ever to pitch consecutive openers at PNC Park today - and that's counting Pirates. This will be the second Opening Day gig for Liriano. He opened for the Twins in 2009, losing a 6-1 decision to King Felix of the Mariners. The Bucs lost last year's lid lifter to Samardzija and the Cubs 3-1 as AJ took the L in front of 39,078 PNC fans.
  • Everybody has an opinion: Ken Rosenthal, Jon Paul Morosi and Rob Neyer of Fox provide their 2014 team outlooks. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports has his MLB picks by division. The  Eye on Baseball writers also make their division picks, based  on their "confidence rating."
  • Ex-Bucs: Josh Beckett appears to have won the fifth starter job in LA over Paul Maholm. J-Mac was placed on the 60-day DL by the Cubs. The Phillies have re-signed Ronny Cedeno to a minor league deal and sent him to  AAA and released IF Jim Negrych. The Blue Jays sent C Erik Kratz to AAA.

3/31: Skeeter, Vince DiMag, Gene Tenace, Mike Bielicki, PNC Opener, Operation Shutdown, Bucs Baptize GAB, Shootout in Atlanta...

Skeeter, Vince DiMag, Gene Tenace, Mike Bielicki, PNC Opener, Operation Shutdown, Bucs Baptize GAB, Shootout in Atlanta...

  • 1895 - OF Carson “Skeeter” Bigbee was born. He played eleven years for Pittsburgh, his only MLB club, from 1916-26, and hit .287 lifetime. His best seasons were 1921-22, when he batted .323 and .350, scoring 213 runs over that span and leading the NL in singles both years. 
  • 1945 - The Pirates traded OF Vince DiMaggio to the Philadelphia Phillies for P Al “Lefty” Gerheauser. Both were near the end of their playing days; DiMaggio hung up the spikes after the ‘46 season and Gerheauser won just seven more games in three years. 
  • 1984 - C Gene Tenace ended his 15-year career when he was released by the Pirates in spring training. He had hit .177 for the Bucs in 1983 as a 36-year old. 
  • 1988 - The Chicago Cubs traded minor league LHP Mike Curtis to the Pirates for RHP Mike Bielecki. Bielecki turned into a journeyman pitcher, working 14 years in MLB while Curtis never got out of AAA, ending his career as an independent league pitcher. 
  •  2001 - PNC Park hosted its first MLB baseball game when the Pirates and Mets played an exhibition. The game was a sellout as the Mets won 4-3. 

 Play ball...

  • 2002 - “Operation Shutdown” OF Derek Bell was released, telling the media he would sail into the sunset on his yacht. He did.
  • 2003 - Pittsburgh helped the Reds christen Great American Ballpark. Cincy played second banana for the yard’s opening act; the Bucs won 10-1 behind homers from Reggie Sanders, Kenny Lofton and Jason Kendall, all banged in a six-run second inning. 
  • 2008 - In an Opening Day shootout at Turner Field, the Bucs beat the Braves 12-11 in twelve innings. Damaso Marte and Matt Capps blew a 9-4 ninth inning lead, capped by a fly ball dropping between LF Jason Bay and CF Nate McLouth with two outs to tie the score. Pittsburgh reclaimed the lead in the top of the 12th on a Xavier Nady three-run bomb, but Atlanta almost tied it again with two runs in their half before Franquelis Osario nailed down the save. The X-Man had four hits while McLouth, Freddy Sanchez and Ryan Doumit had three to prime a 17-hit attack.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Notes & Links

While Francisco Liriano and Jeff Samardzija prepare to get it on tomorrow, we have a lotta links; the daily sports pages have cranked up the coverage today.
  • Don't let the morning snow fool ya; it'll be baseball weather (or at least what passes for it in March in Pittsburgh) tomorrow for the Opener. It will hit almost 60 with the sun shinin' away.
  • Travis Sawchik of the Tribune Review has a piece on the increasing velocity of today's pitchers and how it's changing the game.
  • Dejan Kovacevic of the Trib examines the new Pirate dynamic on the field, in the locker room and in the stands.
  • Joe Guzzardi has a look at the Pirates quick experiment with a Havana-based camp and Cuban baseball in the fifties in the Post Gazette.
  • John Perrotto of the Beaver County Times has a way-back machine look at former Buc catcher and current announcer Joe Garagiola.
  • Ron Musselman of the BCT takes us back to the days when America's favorite crooner, Bing Crosby, was an active and passionate Bucco owner.
  • The Bucs cut minor-league OF'er Quincy Latimore. He was traded to the Cleveland Indians last year for Jeanmar Gomez after six years in the organization, and was signed again in the off season by Pittsburgh after being dropped by the Tribe and playing for the Washington Wild Things. 
  • The guy the Bucs were supposed to be on, SS Didi Gregorius of Arizona, will start the year in the minors. We also wonder if the Bucs have any interest in the recently released C George Kotteras as Russ Martin's temporary caddy, allowing Tony the Tiger to get his innings in Indy.
  • Ex-Bucs: Xavier Nady, 35, will break camp with the Padres.

Your 2014 Pirates...

Yes - we will join every other Pirate blogger and MSM person at the keypad and add our two-cents outlook on this year's Bucco squad now that the season is about to spring.

Like last year's team, this edition will be built on pitching. The starters are strong again, even with AJ being swapped out for Edinson Volquez. Wandy's back and Gerrit Cole has 20 starts under his belt, including one in post-season. Charlie Morton is here for the opening bell, and Frankie is coming off a career season.

We're not that that worried about Volquez (someone has to go when Jameson Taillon is ready) even if he does appear to be the reincarnation of James McDonald. Our major concern is health and depth. We're in fingers-crossed mode that Wandy can return to his 30 start days and that Ground Chuck shows some durability. We'll see how Frankie goes - he has a long history of being unable to post good back-to-back campaigns, but he and Cole look like dependable inning eaters at the top-to-mid range of the rotation.

And the top four have to step up. The Pirates only had one guy go over 165 IP last year, and he's gone. Two returning starters made more than 20 starts in 2014. The Pirates will be in great shape if they can get four guys to toss 30 starts /180 IP. There's no guarantee than Taillon will be a horse like Cole come July.

The Bucs are thin behind that gang. Jeff Locke is just stretching out again - he worked three innings in camp on Thursday, but is on the DL - and Taillon has a sore elbow. Brandon Cumpton showed that he can hold up the back end of the staff pretty well in a small sample, and Phil Irwin is back after missing last season. Kyle McPherson may even be ready for a September run. Stolmy Pimentel and Jeanmar Gomez both are ready to step into the breach if needed.

But with the possible exception of Taillon, all the above have shown that they can keep their head above water in the show, but would be hard pressed to replace one of the top four pitches for a long stretch. And the bullpen is in much better balance with Pimentel and Gomez than without them.

Pittsburgh has the same bull pen crew returning, minus Vin Mazzaro and plus Pimentel, and are deeper at Indy than the starters on paper. So the pen should again be solid, especially if Pirate starters can get into the seventh and eighth innings a little more this season.

The Pirates had five relievers pitch 70 innings or more, although Clint Hurdle shuffled them enough than none surpassed 80 IP. Still, their 545-2/3 frames represented the second highest NL workload. None of the other NL playoff clubs worked more than 475 frames. A little less work would go a long way is preventing any regression from the relief corps.

We actually think the much maligned offense will improve in 2014, even without any hired guns coming in. It sputtered along at an average rate with a 98 wRC+, even with their low .245 BA and .230 BA with RISP. Their ball-in-play stats were all in line, except for an unlucky .294 BABIP, and RISP tends to match overall BA, so it looks like even with the same gang, they should pick it up this year in hidden vigorish.

Gaby will see the lions share of work at first, and if he can put up his .256 BA and .742 OPS against righties, as he did as a full-timer with the Fish, and with just a little help from Travis Ishikawa, the position will be improved. The Kid is due for a bounce-back year, though his back may be a chronic position. For Jordy Mercer, it will be is show-me year. Pedro needs to improve just incrementally - if he can get to .250 with 175 K, he'll be a monster. Josh Harrison and Clint Barmes are versatile in the field, but not threats in the box.

Russ Martin will continue as always - good power, low BA, high OPS and great D.  Tony Sanchez should be ready with the bat, but the fact that John Buck played ahead of him in September says it all concerning just where he's at as a MLB catcher in the eyes of the Pirate brass.

The outfield will be led by Cutch, who has been consistent over the past couple of years (we'd expect his power numbers to be more like 2013 than 2012) and another .300+, 100 RS season should be in the cards. Straling Marte is a little tougher to predict; he doesn't walk and getting pinged by a couple of dozen pitches a year can't be a good thing. So he could regress this year, although his speed should keep him from a prolonged slump. We think Travis Snider and JT are not a bad duo in right; Greg Polanco should get all the time he needs to mature.

The biggest problem we see, and it happened often last year, is that the Pirates don't match up well because of a lefty-heavy lineup, both in the lineup and in the late innings, when the club is out of RH batters. Walker improving from the right side and Gaby producing would help ease that problem a bit. But wide splits and bench balance because of platooning are real problems for Clint Hurdle.

Defensively, the gloves are there. The middle infield is average, the corners good, the outfield spectacular and the catching top shelf. The Bucco shifts help to accentuate those abilities.

The call du jour is to pick this team to win 85 games, give or take a couple. We don't think that they're a 95 win club, but 90 wins and another playoff appearance is within reach with some luck on the injury front and a little more run production. The tale will be told early; April consists of nearly all NL Central games, and Pittsburgh will determine its place in the pecking order early on.

3/30: George van Haltren, Hal Rhynes, Deacon Phillippe, Ricardo Rincon, Brian Meadows

George van Haltren, Hal Rhynes, Deacon Phillippe, Ricardo Rincon, Brian Meadows...

  • 1866 - OF George Van Haltren was born in St. Louis, Missouri. He played briefly for the Pirates in 1892-93, hitting .325 but expendable because of a deep outfield. A borderline HoF player, Van Haltren was sold to the New York Giants, where he spent the next decade putting up a .321 BA.
  • 1899 - IF Hal Rhynes was born in Paso Robles, California. He began his career in Pittsburgh (1926-27) and hit .258. He was a .250 batter in his seven MLB years and a minor league lifer, spending 20 years on various farm clubs.
  • 1952 - Deacon Phillippe passed away. The RHP tossed 12 seasons (1900-11) for the Bucs with a 168-92 record and 2.50 ERA, winning 20 games six times and never suffering through a losing season. He won three World Series games against Boston in 1903, beating Cy Young in the opener and tossing five complete games, winning three. Toward the end of his career, he worked six shutout innings in the 1909 Series against Detroit. In 1969, Pirates fans voted him as Pittsburgh's top all-time right handed pitcher.

Pittsburgh Baseball Hero Deck

  • 1997 - The Pirates purchased LHP Ricardo Rincon from the Mexico City Reds. In 1997-98, he went 4-10-18/3.17 for the Bucs, and was then traded to Cleveland for Brian Giles.
  • 2002 - RHP Brian Meadows signed as a minor league free agent with the Pirates. He was called up mid-season and lasted four years with the Bucs, converting from a starter to a reliever who made 133 appearances in his last two seasons with Pittsburgh. Meadows went 8-12-2 with a 4.20 ERA from 2002-05 with the club.

The image is from the Pittsburgh Baseball Hero Decks, available at: Heinz History Center - Sportzburgh, Pittsburgh Airport & Settlers Ridge Shopping Center - Hall of Cards, 300 Mt Lebanon Blvd - Allegheny General Hospital Gift Shop - Morini, The Mall at Robinson - Do It Best Hardware, Ambridge, PA - Washington Hospital Gift Shop - Synders Gateway Travel Plaza, Breezewood, PA

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Pirates Set Roster, Notes

The Pirates finalized their 25-man roster today, with Vin Mazzaro being the reliever left out. He was DFA'ed (and almost surely will be traded) while Andy Oliver was outrighted to Indy. Chris Stewart and Jeff Locke were placed on the 15-day DL, and Travis Ishikawa was added to both the 25 and 40-man rosters.

The roster is:

Pitchers: Gerrit Cole, Jeanmar Gomez, Jason Grilli, Francisco Liriano, Mark Melancon, Bryan Morris, Charlie Morton, Stolmy Pimentel, Wandy Rodriguez, Edinson Volquez, Tony Watson and Justin Wilson.

Infielders: Pedro Alvarez, Clint Barmes, Josh Harrison, Travis Ishikawa, Jordy Mercer, Gaby Sanchez and Neil Walker.

Outfilders: Starling Marte, Andrew McCutchen, Travis Snider and Jose Tabata.

Catchers: Russ Martin and Tony Sanchez.

  • There won't be a public practice tomorrow at PNC Park as in past seasons. The Bucs need the open date to meet the mandated three scheduled off days in the spring.
  • The Pirate-Phils game scheduled for this afternoon was cancelled because of rain. No last look for the bubble pitchers, tho it gives NH time to work the phones.
  • Here is the Altoona Curve roster for 2014 - the club looks awfully strong on the mound.
  • Greg Eckert of Paste Magazine picks PNC Park #1 in craft beers. And he should know - gotta be a long-time fan since he spells the city "Pittsburg."
  • Ex-Bucs: Daniel McCutchen made the Rangers roster, and Evan Meek won a job with the Orioles.

Bucs Win, Bryan Morris Earns Spot, Opening Day Ceremonies, Stats & Lotsa Notes...

Bucs Win, Bryan Morris Earns Spot, Opening Day Ceremonies, Stats & Notes...
  • The Pirates beat the Phils in an exhibition match 3-0 last night. Charlie Morton went three scoreless frames, followed by six relievers tossing more shutout ball. The rematch is this afternoon at 1:05 PM, and will be the free game on MLB.TV if you're anchored to a device. It will also be aired by Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan.
  • After the game, manager Clint Hurdle told the media that Bryan Morris will make the 25-man roster. We'd be sweating out the next 48 hours if we were Vin Mazzaro or Jeanmar Gomez.
  • Part of the Opening Day pre-game ado: Barry Bonds and Dick Groat will present Cutch with his MVP award, and Jim Leyland will present Clint Hurdle with his NL Manager of the Year trophy. Jack Wilson will present Cutch and Pedro Alvarez with their 2013 Silver Slugger hardware. Petrina McCutchen will sing the National Anthem and Scott Kiner, son of Pirates Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner, will throw out the first pitch. 
  • Dave Cameron of Fangraphs examines the team-friendly deal that Starling Marte just signed.
  • Pirate spring training stats are here if you're wondering who did what in camp.
  • The fans are geeked for the season to start - the Bucs announced that their season ticket sales have jumped 40%, and that's without making a peep in the off season.
  • Fangraphs has made its 2014 selections for NL playoffs and awards; they have the Bucs as the second wildcard and Gregory Polonca as a potential ROY.
  • On the league front, the MLB and the Player's Association have come up with a stricter drug use policy. Here are its highlights.
  • Matt Schwartz of The Hardball Times has a piece about the revenue growth drivers of MLB and how it's not trickling down to the players. It's long, but not written in sabermetric patois, so it's a good read for baseball insider fans.
  • Ex-Bucs: St. Mary's ol' man river, Joe Biemel, made the Mariners roster.
  • Bucco history: 1894 - LHP Bob Steele was born in Cassburn, Ontario. Steele hurled for the Bucs from 1917-18, when they had some fairly poor clubs. He was 7-14, but his ERA was 2.87.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Friday Notes

The countdown begins...
  • The Bucs face the Phils tonight and tomorrow afternoon to tune up for the season. Both games will be on 93.7 The Fan; Saturday afternoon's 1:05 game will be on Root Sports.
  • The roster is about set; the only hanging chad is an extra reliever, and we suspect they'll work out a minor deal to address that excess. They look ready to give Gaby Sanchez a shot at becoming the everyday first baseman, as he was in his Marlin days.
  • Charlie Wilmoth of Bucs Dugout has a piece worth reading on the Bucs chances in 2014 - and their quiet offseason. 
  • Mark Simon of ESPN-NY has his NL win predictions.
  • Jake Seiner of looks at the Buc system and its shining stars in his Prospect Primer.
  • Tell us something we don't know: Trip Advisor named PNC Park the nation's top ballyard.
  • Matt Capps was assigned to AAA Columbus by the Indians. He still has issues with his shoulder. Mike McKenry, who was added to the 40-man roster, was sent to AAA Colorado Springs by the Rockies. He had one option remaining.

3/28: Chief Yellowhorse, Cum Posey, Tommy Sisk, Buddy Solomon, Mark the Shark, Bryan Morris, Neal Heaton...

Chief Yellowhorse, Cum Posey, Tommy Sisk, Buddy Solomon, Mark the Shark, Bryan Morris, Neal Heaton... 
  • 1898 - RHP Moses “Chief” Yellowhorse was born in Pawnee, Oklahoma, appropriately enough as he was a full-blooded Pawnee. His MLB years were 1921-22 and spent in Pittsburgh, where he went 8-4 with a 3.93 ERA, but had three different arm injuries that ended his career. He was one of the first, if not the pioneer, full-blooded Native American to play MLB ball. It wasn’t all peaches and cream; he once drilled Ty Cobb between the eyes in an exhibition game for bad mouthing him during an at-bat. But he was a fan favorite during his short time in Pittsburgh. 
  • 1946 - Cum Posey, who owned the Homestead Grays from 1911-46, died in Mercy Hospital from cancer. He was part-time player until 1929, and managed until 1937. Posey was a big-time owner, and his teams played regularly in Forbes Field and Washington DC’s Griffith Stadium. The Grays won eight Negro League pennants and three World Series titles. 
 Cumberland Posey
  • 1969 - The Pirates traded RHP Tommie Sisk and C Chris Cannizzaro to the San Diego Padres in exchange for OPF Ron Davis and IF Bobby Klaus. Sisk was on the backside of his career while Davis and Klaus never become big-time performers, but Cannizzaro became an All-Star in 1969 for the expansion Padres (albeit with a .220 BA) and had a 12 year career that ended after 1974. 
  • 1980 - RHP Buddy Solomon was traded by the Atlanta Braves to the Pirates for minor league player Greg Field. Solomon worked 1980-82 for Pittsburgh, going 17-15-1 with a 3.58 ERA before being traded at the deadline to Chicago for 3B Jim Morrison. 
  • 1985 - RHP Mark Melancon was born in Wheat Ridge, Colorado. Melancon came to Pittsburgh in 2013 from the Red Sox and as a versatile back-ender, working both as set-up man and closer, earned a spot on the All-Star team. He went 3-2/1.39 with 16 saves and 26 holds. 1987 - RHP Bryan Morris was born in Tullahoma, Tennessee. Acquired in the Jason Bay trade, he’s been part of the Bucco bullpen since 2012. 
  • 1989 - LHP Neal Heaton was traded by the Montreal Expos to the Pirates for RHP Brett Gideon. Heaton worked four years for the Jimmy Leyland playoff teams of the early nineties and made the All-Star team in 1990.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Bucs Break Camp With 4-2 Loss To CC, Team Notes...

Bucs break camp and head north...
  • The Yankees defeated the Pirates, 4-2, at McKechnie Field in the final Grapefruit League game of camp. The Bucs ended up with 14-9-2 record in the GL, and now pack up and head to Philly for a pair of exhibitions before opening against the Cubbies on Monday. They still have some roster trimming to do, and the clock's ticking if they want to bring in an extra gun.
  • The average attendance this spring at McKechnie Field was 7,587. That mark easily set the record, breaking the old mark of 6,229 set last spring.
  • Drew Silva of Hardball Talk has the 2014 Pirate preview.
  • Fangraph's Dave Cameron ranks Pirate starting pitching as just #22 in MLB.
  • CBS Sports has its pre-season predictions and award winners. 
  • The Pirates assigned C Nevin Ashley and RHP Kyle McPherson, who is still recovering from TJ surgery, to minor league camp. 
  • Matthew Kory of Sports on Earth has a piece on the great nicknames of baseball, and the Waner brothers - Big & Little Poison - are included.
  • Ex-Bucs: Alex Presley was waived by the Twins and claimed by the Astros. The Mariners signed pitcher Chris Young to a one-year contract. Mike "Gonzo" Gonzalez agreed to a minor league deal with the Nats and was assigned to AAA Syracuse.

Starling Marte's Deal: Figures, Facts, Sidebars...

Starling Marte's contract:
  • The Starling Marte deal is for $31M over 6 years with two club options.That covers his arb years and at least one FA season. If the options are exercised, he'll be a Bucco thru 2021. It took some effort; this contract took three offers before Starling OK'ed it. The final figures, per CBS' Jon Heyman: $2M signing bonus. salaries of 500K, $1M, $3M, $5M, $7.5M, $10M with a $2M buyout. The options could reach $12.M, $13.5M.
  • Both sides rolled the dice a bit: Marte, 25, has less than two seasons in the league and a small sample size to work with. He also has injury problems caused by 100% play on the field (he still wears his "oven mitt") and ball magnetism at the dish. But in 2013, he hit .280 with 12 home runs, 41 stolen bases and owned left field, saving 22 runs with just his glove and has a 5.7 WAR in 182 games as a Pirate. 
  • BTW, he was scratched from the lineup yesterday not because of any injuries, but so he could take his physical for the contract. He's leading off today.
  • Marte signed with Rene Gayo and the Pirates out of the Dominican Republic for $85,000 in 2007. That may have been an even better deal.
  • The cost certainty allows the Pirates to budget for the future more efficiently and gives the lineup some stability over time. Cutch, Charlie Morton and now Marte are tied up, so the FO looks like it's identifying its core contributors (tho they may want a mulligan on Jose Tabata) and trying to keep them home. 
  • Don't look for Pedro to ink a deal. Scott Boras takes his guys to free agency, and Pedro will almost surely take home a much bigger pile of loot from the market than the Pirates. The same holds true for Gerrit Cole, who with El Toro is one of the two guys the Bucs would love to sign long-term.

Liriano Good To Go, Cumpton Sent To Indy, Bucs-Yankees Close Camp, More Notes...

Last day of Grapefruit League as the Bucs break camp...

  • The Bucs beat the Twins 2-1 yesterday; Brandon Cumpton tossed five goose eggs. It didn't help; the Pirates optioned him to Indy. That clinched the fifth spot for Edinson Volquez, who Cumpton outpitched in camp by a wide margin, for what spring performances are worth.
  • The Bucs host the Yankees today at 1:05, with Stolmy Pimentel on the bump v CC Sabathia. The lineup: Starling Marte LF, Jordy Mercer SS, Cutch CF, Gaby Sanchez 1B, Russ Martin C, Jose Tabata RF, Josh Harrison 3B, Neil Walker 2B and Tony Sanchez DH. The game will be carried on audio webcast.
  • The Pirates break camp today. They'll go to Philly's Citizen's Park for Friday and Saturday exhibitions, finalize their roster, and open up Monday after an off day.
  • Francisco Liriano went through a three inning, 55 pitch game yesterday and told the beat crew that he felt good afterward, so unless he tightens up today, he'll be good to go Monday. Volquez threw, too,  but was limited to an inning and 20 pitches.
  • Bruce Herman of Athlon Sports lists a bunch of record-setting done last season. Pittsburgh contributed a pair: knocking home a run in each of his first six postseason contests (Pedro Alvarez) and defeating former Cy Young Award winners in each of his first two MLB starts (Gerrit Cole).
  • The Pirates made a minor deal today, and Rob Biertemfel of the Tribune Review connects the dots a bit: "OF Keon Broxton was acquired from the D-backs for a PTBNL and was assigned to Altoona. This is merely an educated guess, but this trade tells me the Pirates were indeed talking with Arizona about Didi Gregorius and Broxton’s name kept coming up in potential packages. Sometimes, the trades you don’t make lead to others that you do complete."
  • Forbes Magazine rates the value of the MLB franchises. Pittsburgh is not first.
  • Ex-Bucs: Vic Black has been optioned to the minors by the Mets. He had control problems all spring, but was among bubble bullpen arms, losing out to Jose Valverde.

3/27:Bill Burwell, Steve Blass, John Cangelosi, Marte-for-Guerrier...

Bill Burwell, Steve Blass, John Cangelosi, Marte-for-Guerrier...

  • 1895 - RHP Bill Burwell was born in Jarbalo, Kansas. Burwell pitched but one year for the Pirates, going 1-0/5.23 in 1928, but later served as a Pirate coach and scout (1947–1948; 1958–1962). Burwell was acting manager of the Pirates for the final game of the 1947 season, after player-manager Billy Herman resigned, and beat the Cincinnati Reds, 7-0. He was the pitching coach for the 1960 WS champs, and as a minor league assistant, he helped develop Vern Law by teaching him how to change speeds and throw a change-up. 

  • 1975 - The Pirates released RHP Steve Blass, who went from Game Seven World Series winner in 1971 to a pitcher who had no idea where the ball was going once it left his hand, a condition that to this day is known as the “Steve Blass disease.” Blass is now a member of the Pirate broadcast team for Root Sports. 
  •  1987 - OF John Cangelosi was traded by the Chicago White Sox to the Pirates for RHP Jim Winn. Cangelosi became a useful bench piece for the Bucs, spending four seasons in Pittsburgh, while Winn worked two more years in the show. 
  •  2002 - The Pirates sent LHP Damaso Marte and minor league IF Edwin Yan to the Chicago White Sox for RHP Matt Guerrier. The Bucs would get Marte back a few years later and while Guerrier never tossed for the Pirates, he ended up with a 10-year MLB career that’s still going.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Marte Signed for Six Years, Bucs-Twins, Top 20, 2014 Payrolls

Last Grapefruit League road game...
  • Jon Heyman of CBS Sports announced that Starling Marte agreed on a six-year deal with an option (other sources say two options), while Jim Duquette of MLB Radio and Enrique Rojas of ESPN tweeted that the basic deal is for $31M. Another team-friendly deal for the FO. We'll announce the details after everything's firmed up and confirmed.
  • The Pirates travel to Ft. Myers to face the Twins in a 1:05 PM game, with Brandon Cumpton making his second start (and sixth appearance) of the spring. The game can be seen live on MLB.TV or via webcast on Edinson Volquez, who was supposed to get the start, will instead pitch a two-inning simulated game in camp, no reason given.
  • The lineup: Josh Harrison LF, Travis Snider RF, Cutch CF, Pedro 3B, Neil Walker 2B, Gaby Sanchez DH, Travis Ishikawa 1B, Tony Sanchez C and Jordy Mercer SS.
  • Edinson Volquez and Fracisco Liriano will both stay in camp today and work controlled sessions, Volquez to search for the strike zone and Frankie to check out his leg.
  • John Sickels of Minor League Ball has the Bucs Top Twenty Prospects with grades and a brief breakdown.
  • The new cast of fringy FAs after the latest round of cuts as compiled by the Daily Dish.
  • And for your reading pleasure (you'll note that more teams shell out $100M+ now than don't; provide your own commentary):
Team payrolls (Associated Press)
  1. Los Angeles Dodgers: $235,295,219 
  2. N.Y. Yankees: $203,812,506 
  3. Philadelphia: $180,052,723 
  4. Boston: $162,817,411 
  5. Detroit: $162,228,527 
  6. Los Angeles Angels: $155,692,000 
  7. San Francisco: $154,185,878 
  8. Texas: $136,036,172 
  9. Washington: $134,704,437 
  10. Toronto: $132,628,700 
  11. Arizona: $112,688,666 
  12. Cincinnati: $112,390,772 
  13. St. Louis: $111,020,360 
  14. Atlanta: $110,897,341 
  15. Baltimore: $107,406,623 
  16. Milwaukee: $103,844,806
  17. Colorado: $95,832,071 
  18. Seattle: $92,081,943 
  19. Kansas City: $92,034,345 
  20. Chicago White Sox: $91,159,254 
  21. San Diego: $90,094,196 
  22. New York Mets: $89,051,758 
  23. Chicago Cubs: $89,007,857 
  24. Minnesota: $85,776,500 
  25. Oakland: $83,401,400 
  26. Cleveland: $82,534,800 
  27. Pittsburgh: $78,111,667 
  28. Tampa Bay: $77,062,891 
  29. Miami: $47,565,400 
  30. Houston: $44,544,174
NL Central in bold.

3/26: Jack McCarthy, Chuck Klein, Mackey Sasser, Matt Herges...

Jack McCarthy, Chuck Klein, Mackey Sasser, Matt Herges... 
  • 1869 - LF Jack McCarthy was born in Hardwick, Massachusetts. McCarthy started for the Pirates in 1898-99, and hit a robust .298. But the Pirates landed Fred Clarke, also a LF, when they absorbed the old Louisville team and sold McCarthy to the Chicago Orphans. He played until 1907 and had a lifetime .287 BA. 
  • 1940 - After being released by the Pirates‚ Chuck Klein signed up for his third go-around with the Phils. Klein was a Hall-of-Fame OF who hit 300 homers, helped greatly by the Philadelphia Baker Bowl’s short porch. He played 85 games for Pittsburgh, hitting .300 with 11 HR, but was released at age 34 and became a bench player for Philly through the war years. 
  • 1988 - C Mackey Sasser and RHP Tim Drummond were traded to the New York Mets for minor leaguer Scott Henion and 1B Randy Milligan. Milligan hit .220 for the Bucs before having some solid seasons at Baltimore while Sasser caught the next six seasons for the Mets, batting .286 for NY. 

 1988 - Donruss Rated Rookie Series

  • 2003 - The Pirates released RHP Matt Herges, for whom they had traded RHP Chris Young to the Padres in December. SD reclaimed Herges on April 1st, keeping their reliever and getting a young front line pitcher for free from Pittsburgh’s GM Dave Littlefield.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Bucs Win Big, Trade for Worley, Ponder the Roster...

Bucs win big, trade for Worley, ponder the roster...
  • The Blue Jays didn't mount much of a fight today, going down 22-5 to the Buccos. Starling Marte, Jose Tabata and Wandy Rodriguez all homered. Marte was 5-for-6 with three RBI and 3 runs scored while Tabata went 4-for-4 with four RBI.
  • There is still time for the Bucs to work on the rosters. The teams have until 3PM Sunday to set their 25-man rosters, and the brass have already suggested it may take that long to finalize the team's make-up. There aren't many open spots lefts, so that indicates to us that there are still some trade/FA irons in the hot stove fire.
  • The Twins sold RHP Vance Worley, 26, to the Pirates for cash. It's a minor league deal, as Worley was not very good last year and is another project on the "to do" list for the coaches. But he did have a solid 2011, sooo.....
  • Ex-Bucs: Ronny Cedeno was released by the Phillies. The Brewers informed Rule 5 choice LHP Wei-Chung Wang, taken from the Bucs, that he made the club's Opening Day roster, as did Zack Duke.

Lambo Sent Down, Cuts, Marte, Rotation Set, Bucs-Jays, Notes...

Cuts, Bucs - Blue Jays, Marte, Season Starting Rotation...
  • Pittsburgh hosts Toronto at 1:05 today after being rained out yesterday. The game can be heard over 93.7 The Fan. The lineup: Starling Marte LF, Russ Martin C, Cutch CF, Pedro 3B, Gaby Sanchez 1B, Jose Tabata RF, Neil Walker 2B, Jordy Mercer SS and Wandy P. Mark Melancon and Justin Wilson also are scheduled to pitch.
  • Well, that's settled. Andrew Lambo was optioned to Indy, meaning Travis Ishikawa (who has to be added to the 40-man roster) has win the 1B battle. We don't think that's too bad a thing; Lambo, 25, could use some AAA time and should still be a piece of the Pirate puzzle down the road. Ishikawa is a journeyman and is just keeping the spot warm for someone - maybe even someone this season, as the Bucs are said to still be in the 1B market.
  • Beside Lambo, Jared Hughes and Jaff Decker were optioned to Indianapolis. Jay Jackson, Adam Wilk, Zack Thornton, Chris Dickerson, Omir Santos, Michael Martinez, Dan Schlereth and Robert Andino were assigned to minor league camp.
  • Jon Heyman of CBS Sports wrote that the Bucs offered Starling Marte a six-year deal that he turned down, but doesn't have the financial package.
  • The Buc rotation when the season opens, health permitting: Francisco Liriano, Charlie Morton, Wandy Rodriguez, Gerrit Cole, Liriano again (following an off day) and Edinson Volquez.
  • Fangraphs continues to rate teams by position. The Pirates are #6 in left field and #22 in right.
  • Ryan Gaule of Bleacher Report picked his All-Time Bucco squad.
  • Ex-Bucs: The Nats released C Chris Snyder. Nyjer Morgan, on the other hand, looks like he landed a spot on the Tribe roster. And Vic Black, part of last year's Marlon Byrd deal, is ready to take a spot in the Mets' bullpen, maybe with Kyle Farnsworth.

3/25: Mazzilli, Mazeroski, Jay Bell...

Mazzilli, Mazeroski, Jay Bell... 

  • 1955 - OF Lee Mazzilli was born in New York City. Mazzilli spent four of his 14 seasons as a Pirate, playing fairly regularly for his first two years (1983-’86) and hitting .244 overall. 
  • 1965 - Camp isn’t all fun and games. Bill Mazeroski broke a bone in his right foot and was out of the Bucco lineup until May. He came back to hit .271 and earned another Golden Glove for his trophy case. It was the only time between 1964-67 that he didn’t appear in every game; Maz played in 130 contests after his foot healed. 

  • 1989 - The Pirates sent SS Felix Fermin and UT Denny Gonzalez to the Indians for SS Jay Bell to complete a PTBNL deal from November 28th, 1988. Bell manned the SS spot for eight years and earned an All-Star berth in 1993 for the Bucs. He returned to the team in 2013 as their batting coach before moving on the following season.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Gregorius On the Radar, Cutch, Kiner, Rainout

Rainy day notes...
  • The Bucs-Tigers were rained out today. They'll host Toronto tomorrow afternoon.
  • Per Jon Morosi of Fox Sports "Source: Pirates have had trade talks with Diamondbacks about shortstop Didi Gregorius." Arizona needs a starting pitcher, which the Bucs have if they're confident of their depth, and Gregorius has a .275/.355/.419 slash against RHP, albeit with a small sample size of 303 PA. He has a pretty solid glove at shortstop and seems like a good match with Jordy Mercer. The pair could shore up the SS situation in Pittsburgh for the foreseeable future (tho Alen Hanson plays SS, he's projected to be an MLB 2B) if the FO pulls the trigger. The big question is the D-Back's asking cost. The Mets, Reds, Tigers, and Yankees are also considered suitors.
  • ESPN dethroned Cutch, dropping him to the #2 CF'er in baseball, behind Mike Trout. Buster Olney of ESPN the Magazine interviewed McCutchen for the March 31st issue.
  • The Pirates will wear a #4 patch on their jerseys this season to honor Ralph Kiner.

Pitching Depth Taking Hits, Lineup, Notes...

  • The Pirates are on ESPN today at 1PM against the Detroit Tigers, with Wandy Rodriguez facing Rick Porcello. The lineup: Starling Marte LF, Russ Martin C, Cutch CF, Gaby Sanchez 1B, Neil Walker 2B, Jose Tabata RF, Josh Harrison 3B, Jordy Mercer SS and Wandy. It's raining in Bradenton, so we'll see...
  • Pittsburgh and Baltimore played to a ten inning, 7-7 tie. Cutch and Starling Marte went deep for the Bucs while four Birds homered, three coming off Gerrit Cole, who went 6-2/3 innings. A couple shots were no-doubters, but it was a blustery Florida day, so it's hard to spot a trend quite yet.
  • That deep Pirate pitching is getting tested. Edinson Volquez is still a project, Francisco Liriano has a tight back and will miss his next Florida start (he's slated to throw a bullpen Wednesday) and maybe the beginning of the season, and Jameson Taillon has elbow soreness. He passed an MRI, which showed no structural damage, but is still getting a second opinion. Jeff Locke is just beginning to throw again after an oblique tweak...guess that's why the FO likes to go into camp eight deep.
  • If you're wondering who in the Bucco farm system should be on your radar, here's John Sickel's list of 42 from Minor League Baseball.
  • John Dreker of Pirates Prospects reported that the Bucs cut six more minor league players; none were from the upper levels.
  • Ex-Bucs: Joel Hanrahan is recovering well enough that he's now working out in Florida and getting ready to throw his first showcase for the scouts.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Bucs-Baltimore; Marte Extension; Taillon, Glasnow Nursing Minor Injuries, & More...

Almost...the Pirates head north on Thursday...
  • The Bucs visit the Orioles in Sarasota today, with the game beginning at 1:05 PM and aired by 93.7 The Fan. The lineup: Starling Marte LF, Travis Snider RF, Cutch CF, Pedro 3B, Neil Walker 2B, Travis Ishikawa 1B, Tony Sanchez C, Jordy Mercer SS and Gerrit Cole P. Cole will be followed by Bryan Morris, Andy Oliver, Jay Jackson and Daniel Schlereth, if needed. It's a big boy batting order and marks the first time a pitcher will swing this spring; the season must be around the corner.
  • Rob Biertempfel of the Tribune Review wrote that the Bucs are trying to hammer out a multi-year deal with Starling Marte. He's nixed a couple of offers, but is willing to talk extension. Marte won't be arb-eligible until 2016.
  • Tim Williams of Pirates Prospects reported that Jameson Taillon will sit out the start of the season with a minor elbow issue, Additionally, Tyler Glasnow has a tight back and will miss some time.
  • Cory Giger of the Altoona Mirror takes a look at the upcoming Curve roster, with a Stetson Allie/Brad Eldridge segue.
  • Ex-Bucs: Erik Bedard opted out of his Tampa Bay deal and is a free agent.

3/23: Mike Smith, Ray Kremer, Wendell Smith, Johnny Logan, Lanny Frattare...

Mike Smith, Ray Kremer, Wendell Smith, Johnny Logan, Lanny Frattare...

  • 1868 - OF/P Elmer “Mike” Smith was born in Pittsburgh. Smith was a pitcher that was converted to the OF, and played from 1892-97, then briefly again in 1901, for the Pirates. He was a good hitter with a .325 BA, .415 OBP and 136 OPS+ during his Bucco years. Smith also tossed for the Pirates in 1892, going 6-7/3.62. He remained a local boy after his 14 year career in MLB, and when he died, he was buried in North Side’s Union Dale Cemetery. 
  • 1893 - RHP Remy “Ray” Kremer was born in Oakland, California. Kremer pitched ten seasons for the Pirates (1924-33), his only MLB club, and went 143-85, winning 20 games twice and leading the NL in ERA in 1926 and 1927. What's more amazing is that he didn't make his major league debut until he was 31 years old! 

 Pittsburgh Baseball Hero Deck

  • 1914 - Writer Wendell Smith was born in Detroit. He was the baseball writer and sports editor for the Pittsburgh Courier from 1937-47. Smith covered the Homestead Grays, Pittsburgh Crawfords and the Pirates. He chronicled the early days of Jackie Robinson, and was reputed to be one of the industry insiders to recommend Jackie to Branch Rickey. He was recognized by the BBWAA Spink’s Award in 1993. In a bit of irony; the group had turned down his membership application while he was with the Courier, though in 1948 they finally relented and admitted him as one of its earliest black members, behind only Sam Lacy. 
  • 1926 - IF Johnny Logan was born in Endicott, NY. Logan spent the end of a productive 13 year career with the Pirates (1961-63) as a reserve, getting in 152 games and hitting .249. 
  • 1948 - Pirate announcer Lanny Frattare was born in Rochester, NY. He was part of the Pirate broadcasting team from 1976-2008 and announced over 5,000 Bucco games during those 33 seasons, becoming the Pirates longest-tenured voice ("...and there was no doubt about it") before moving on to academia. 
The image is from the Pittsburgh Baseball Hero Decks, available at: Heinz History Center, Sportzburgh, Pittsburgh Airport & Settlers Ridge Shopping Center, Hall of Cards, 300 Mt Lebanon Blvd, Allegheny General Hospital Gift Shop, Morini, The Mall at Robinson, Do It Best Hardware, Ambridge, PA, Washington Hospital Gift Shop, Synders Gateway Travel Plaza, Breezewood, PA

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Bucs Beat Phils 5-3, Dark Horses Stay In the Race...

The season Opener is just around the bend...
  • Pittsburgh rallied to beat the Phils 5-3 today to run their Grapefruit record to 12-9-1. The Buccos drew 8,566 to the game, a McKechnie Field record and the fourth consecutive sellout at Bradenton. Loud crowd, too - AJ had words with a heckler as he left the park. The Pirates visit the Orioles tomorrow afternoon.
  • Some Buc longshots are stayin' alive. Travis Ishikawa homered off Brad Lincoln to continue his late push for the first base spot as Andrew Lambo (.095 and with options) falters. In the outfield, both Chris Dickerson and Travis Snider banged out a pair of hits, and their showing is why JT is expendable (well, that and Greg Polanco). The bullpen still has more arms than spots available. Only the starters seem set. The last week of camp should prove to be interesting.
  • At Pirate City yesterday, Charlie Morton tossed seven scoreless innings with 7 K's against the Yankees High A team.
  • Hey, welcome to CBS' Eye on Baseball's Bucco day. Mike Axisa has the Pirate 2014 preview while Dayne Perry adds his team likes and dislikes and his over/unders.

Pirates-Phils, Notes

The weekend beat...
  • The Phils visit McKechnie today, with AJ going against Stolmy Pimentel (with Tony Watson & Jason Grilli to follow) beginning at 1:05. The game is on 93.7 The Fan. Today's lineup: Chris Dickerson CF, Russ Martin C, Travis Snider RF, Pedro 3B, Andrew Lambo 1B, Travis Ishiwaka DH, Michael Martinez 2B, Jaff Decker LF and Clint Barmes SS.
  • Forgot to mention that Dan Marino tossed out the first pitch yesterday. He wore a Yankee jersey (oh, the humanity!) and threw out both a baseball and football. 
  • ESPN picked its Top Ten lefties, and Francisco Liriano made the list.
  • Tim Williams of Pirates Prospects reported that a couple of top guns are down and out. OF Austin Meadows has a hammy issue that will keep him in Pirate City for awhile while 1B Stetson Allie is just coming back from an oblique injury.
  • The Dodgers and D-Backs opened the 2014 season in Australia at the Sydney Cricket Ground this morning. LA won 3-1 as Clayton Kershaw outpitched Wade Miley. And yes, March 22nd is the earliest a MLB season has ever started. 
  • Ex-Bucs: RHP Chris Young was ready to retire until Nat docs determined his injury was a nerve problem in his neck, not a shoulder issue. Now he's competing for a spot in the rotation.
  • Be happy with what you've got: Chris Jaffe of The Hardball Times did his history homework and noted that it's been 25,000 days since the Cubs played a World Series game...and they lost.

Yanks Roll to 4-0 Win; Phils On Deck

 Quick recap and Jimmy Sebring...
  • Pittsburgh was dropped by the Yankees yesterday 4-0 as CC Sabathia went seven frames. The Bucs helped him early, ending the first four innings on DPs, two being of the ol' strike 'em out, throw 'em out variety as the base running continues to be spotty in the preseason. Edinson Volquez had a couple of rough innings to start, then pitched three scoreless frames and finished by retiring 12 of the last 13 Bronx Bombers he faced. He kinda reminds us of James McDonald - good stuff for stretches, but bitten by a couple of costly frames where his focus isn't there.
  • The Pirates face the Phils and AJ today at 1:05 PM, with Stolmy Pimentel taking the hill for Pittsburgh at McKechnie Field. Lineups later...
  • In Pirate history today, RF Jimmy Sebring was born in Liberty, PA, near Willamsport. He played for Pittsburgh from 1902-04, hitting .261. In 1903, he became the first MLB player to homer in a World Series game and hit .333 against Boston in that first WS. The talented OF’er had a rift with the team over different personal incidents and was traded. He then skipped to a couple of outlaw teams, and his promising career was sidetracked. Sebring was on the comeback trail when he passed away in 1910 at the age of 27. 
 Jimmy Sebring - Fleer 2003 Fall Classic series

Friday, March 21, 2014

Cuts & Keeps, Late News, Lineup Changes

The only constant is change...
  • Clint Hurdle made two lineup changes: Josh Harrison will play left, replacing Starling Marte, who has a headache, and Mike Martinez will play second, bumping The Kid to DH. Clint Barmes played a game at Pirate City this afternoon and won't make the trip.
  • NH announced to the media gang that Tony Sanchez will back up Russ Martin while Chris Stewart (who is back at camp, albeit on crutches) is on the mend.
  • The Pirates have reassigned five players to minor league camp: Utility man Chase d'Arnaud and pitchers Jake Brigham, Cody Eppley, Josh Kinney & Yao-Hsun Yang. They also optioned three players to AAA Indy: P Phil Irwin, 1B Chris McGuiness and 3B Brent Morel. That leaves 42 active players in camp (22 pitchers, 4 catchers, 9 infielders and 7 outfielders).
  • The Pirates rank pretty high in Jason Collette of Fangraph's CF ratings
  • Pirate prospect Clay Holmes just had TJ surgery, per Tim Williams of Pirates Prospects.
  • Ex-Bucs: The Rockies have added C Mike McKenry to the 40-man roster, meaning he's won the backup job at Colorado. Also, the Astros have talked to OF Robbie Grossman, who was part of the Wandy trade, about an extension.

Bucs Visit NY, Camp Notes

The clock is ticking...ten days to the opener:

  • The Buccos visit the Evil Empire in Tampa tonight. The game starts at 7:05 at Steinbrenner Field and will be on MLB Network, Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan. Edinson Volquez gets the ball for the Bucs. The lineup: Starling Marte LF, Neil Walker 2B, Cutch CF, Gaby Sanchez 1B, Tony Sanchez C, Jordy Mercer SS, Jose Tabata RF, Josh Harrison DH and Robert Andino 3B.
  • Pittsburgh lost to Baltimore 4-2 last night; Cutch remained en fuego with another homer. Francisco Liriano had a strong outing, but left in the sixth inning with tightness in his groin, which he said was minor but certainly bears watching as Opening Day approaches.
  • ESPN has ranked Pedro Alvarez as MLB's #10 hot corner performer.
  • Rob Biertempfel of the Tribune Review reported that Jeff Locke tossed a couple of pain-free frames in a sim game at Pirate City yesterday.
  • NRI Travis Ishikawa is getting on the radar as a first base candidate, thanks to the less than encouraging performances of Andrew Lambo and Chris McGuiness, according to Tom Singer of
  • Doug Thorburn of Baseball Prospectus dissects Tyler Glasnow in his article "Raising Aces."
  • Tim Williams of Pirates Prospects reported that the Bucs released four minor league pitchers: lefty hurlers Zac Fuesser and Dalton Friend, along with right-handers Kevin Kleis and Ethan Hollingsworth.
  • Ex-Bucs: The Nats' optioned Ross Ohlendorf to AAA Syracuse.
  • Ken Rosenthal tweeted that the Reds expect Aroldis Chapman to be out 6-8 weeks before he can begin pitching activities again after undergoing surgery to repair broken facial bones.

3/21; Mysterious Walker, Lefty Killen, Bill Brandt, Manny Sanguillen, Vance Law, Pittsburgh Associates...

Mysterious Walker, Lefty Killen, Bill Brandt, Manny Sanguillen, Vance Law, Pittsburgh Associates...

  • 1884 - RHP Frederick “Mysterious” Walker (his moniker came from pitching under a fake name for the San Francisco Seals) was born in Utica, Nebraska. He didn’t play much or well in Pittsburgh: in 1914, Walker pitched for the Pittsburgh Rebels of the outlaw Federal League and appeared in 35 games, tossing a career-high 169-1/3 innings with a record of 4–16 and a 4.33 ERA. During the fall of 1914, Walker served as an assistant football coach under Bob Folwell at W & J College. That’s it - he made the timeline cut just because of his cool nickname. 
  • 1893 - The Pirates traded C Duke Farrell and sent $1500 to the Washington Nationals for LHP Frank “Lefty” Killen in a win-win deal for both clubs. Farrell played 13 more years as one of baseball’s better hitting catchers, retiring in 1905 with a career .277 BA. Killen tossed six seasons for the Bucs with a 112-82/3.71 line and set the team record for wins with 36 in 1893, one of two thirty-win seasons he had for Pittsburgh. 

 Frank "Lefty" Killen - 1896, image from Wikipedia

  • 1915 - RHP Bill Brandt was born in Aurora, Indiana. Brandt spent his brief career (1941-43) as a Pirate, going 5-3 with a 3.57 ERA and getting just 80-⅔ IP over that time. He was effective as a minor leaguer, but after serving his country from 1944-’45, Brandt never pitched above AAA ball again, topping out at Hollywood in the PCL. 
  • 1944 - Former Pirate C and current PNC restaurateur Manny Sanguillen was born in Colon, Panama. In 12 years with the Bucs, he batted .299 and was on three All-Star teams. Manny hit .282 in two World Series and five NLCS bouts. 
  • 1982 - The Pirates traded SS Vance Law and RHP Ernie Camacho to the Chicago White Sox in exchange for pitchers Ross Baumgarten and Butch Edge. Law, at the beginning of his career, played nine more MLB seasons, once as an All-Star, and Camacho pitched for eight more years. Baumgarten and Edge never panned out for the Bucs. 
  • 1986 - The Pittsburgh Associates, a coalition of 13 public and private investors, formally purchased the Pirates from the Galbreath family for $21.8M in a deal that had been essentially hammered out in the previous fall.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Bucs Bop Bosox, Host Orioles, Notes

The night games begin...
  • Pittsburgh picked up a 4-2 victory over the Red Sox last night, with Wandy and Brandon Cumpton both looking strong. Travis Ishikawa homered. The Pirates swiped four bases in the game and have 20 stolen bases in 19 Grapefruit League matches. The go-go Bucs also lost a couple or three guys in rundowns, so the basepaths are proving to be a half-full glass.
  • The Bucs host the Orioles tonight at McKechnie Field at 7:05, with the game on 93.7 The Fan. The lineup: Starling Marte LF, Andrew Lambo DH, Cutch CF, Pedro 3B, Russ Martin C, Neil Walker 2B, Gaby Sanchez 1B, Jose Tabata RF and Jordy Mercer SS. Francisco Liriano will start, followed by Vin Mazzaro, Bryan Morris and Jay Jackson.
  • Well, that was quick. Chris Cotillo of the Daily Dish tweeted that C Chris Stewart had a minor procedure done on his knee today. Bill Brink of the Post Gazette wrote that the procedure was to "shave down the meniscus in his right knee... His recovery timetable depends on how the swelling in the knee progresses during the next few days, but four to six weeks is the hopeful estimate." That means we're looking at a possible May return. The brass are noncommittal as to who will cover the backup role until Stewart returns.
  • Ken Davidoff of the NY Post notes that the Pirates have a bullpen excess and the Yankees have a catcher overload, making them perfect trade partners for the moment. 
  • Megan Filipowski of the Inside Pitch gives a preview of the prospect-heavy potential starting rotation for Indy, and a couple of guys knocking at the door.
  • Jameson Taillon and Gregory Polanco made Baseball America's Top Twenty Prospect list. Sorta interesting that Polanco is #9, the Reds' Billy Hamilton #10 and the Cards'  Oscar Taveras #11. Looks like a lot of top guns for the Central.
  • The Bucs signed RHP Seth McClung to a minor league deal earlier in the year, but it didn't work out - he was released yesterday. He hopes to catch on with another club before calling it a career.
  • Spring isn't all fun and games. The Reds' Aroldis Chapman took a liner off the face, and was carried off the field on a stretcher with fractures above the eye and nose.

3/20: Walter Schmidt, Josh & Judy, Blas Minor & The Great One...

Walter Schmidt, Josh & Judy, Blas Minor & The Great One...

  • 1887 - C Walter Schmidt was born in London, Arizona. He donned the tools of ignorance for Pittsburgh from 1916-24, hitting .257. 
  • 1937 - The Homestead Grays acquired future Hall of Famers Josh Gibson and Judy Johnson for $2,500 in cash and a pair of journeymen players after Pittsburgh Crawfords owner Gus Greenlee was forced to unload his stars as salary dumps.

 Pictured (left to right) are William "Buck" Leonard, Wille "El Diablo" Wells, Rudolfo "Rudy" Fernandez, Sammy Hughes, John Henry "Pop" Lloyd, James "Cool Papa" Bell, John "Buck" O'Neil, Bill "Daddy" Bird, William "Judy" Johnson, Andrew "Rube" Foster, Joshua "Josh" Gibson, Leroy "Satchel" Paige, Jackie Robinson, "Hammerin" Hank Aaron and "Smokey Joe" Williams. (image by Speed Illustrations)

  • 1966 - RHP Blas Minor was born in Merced, California. Working out of the Buc bullpen from 1992-94, he had an 8-7-3 record for Pittsburgh with a 4.76 ERA. 
  • 1973 - In a special election held by the BBWAA‚ Roberto Clemente was voted into the Hall of Fame. The Board of Directors waived the five year eligibility period for Clemente, and he was inducted on August 6th as the first Hispanic player to enter Cooperstown.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Trade Stuff, Notes, and the Red Sox on TV Tonite

Trade talk swirls and the beat goes on...

  • The Pirates were off yesterday and face the Bosox tonight at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers at 7:05 PM. The game will be aired by Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan. The lineup: Jaff Decker CF, Jose Tabata LF, Travis Snider RF, Pedro Alvarez 3B, Tony Sanchez C, Andrew Lambo 1B, Josh Harrison SS, Travis Ishikawa DH and Clint Barmes 2B. Wandy Rodriguez gets the start.
  • Two possible names on the catching radar if the Bucs go outside the organization are The Fort, who is in a dogfight for a job with the Rox, and Kelly Shoppach, who the Bucs brought in ever-so-briefly last year.
  • As far as first base is concerned, we still think the Bucs will go internal to fill the spot, although the FO hasn't exactly covered itself in glory with the way they handled the situation, putting all their eggs in the Andrew Lambo basket. Kendry Morales is an arm-and-a-leg, first born son expensive; Ike Davis, who is back on the market, hasn't played the field yet because of a leg injury; and Mike Carp is a possibility, along with Justin Smoak, only through the process of elimination.
  • And don't automatically write off Lambo as a Quad A player quite yet, no matter how camp ends up for him. He has just half a season of AAA ball with 224 at-bats under his belt, all three of his player options are intact, is a lefty with 25+ HR power and he's just 25.
  • The local media is beginning to name names as to who the Bucs are shopping. Don't let the list fool you - anyone that's an outfielder not named Cutch, Marte or Polanco is on the market, as is any bullpen pitcher. Those are the two areas where Pittsburgh is overstocked, and now the Pirates are hoping to cash in on any spring holes that pop up around the league.
  • For those who care a little bit about the spring, Fangraphs has the Top 100 hitters in camp by OPS. Cutch and Russ Martin are in the top five, and the only other rep, somewhere in the middle of the pack, is Josh Harrison.
  • Jake Seiner of Minor League Baseball wrote that the Bucs will convert catching prospect Wyatt Mathieson to third base, give Reese McGuire the bulk of the catching duties and play JaCoby Jones every day at short in Class A West Virginia.
  • Batting Leadoff's Josh Martin has the Bucs Top Ten prospects.
  • Travis Sawchik of the Tribune Review reported that the Bucco new agers are now measuring the effect of workouts on the players thanks to a bit of chip technology.

3/19: Paul Smith, the O'Brien Twins, Jose Castillo, Bill Landrum...

Paul Smith, the O'Brien Twins, Jose Castillo, Bill Landrum...

  • 1931 - 1B/OF Paul Smith was born in New Castle. He was used sparingly in his Buc career (1953, 1957-58), though his stick was solid, hitting .275 for Pittsburgh. 

 Topps series 1954

  • 1953 - The Pirates signed bonus baby twins Eddie and Johnny O’Brien, two-sport (basketball and baseball) stars at Seattle University for $25,000 each. They could pitch and play infield, but neither made much of a mark with the Bucs. 
  • 1981 - 2B Jose Castillo was born in Las Mercedes, Venezuela. He was considered the long-term answer at second, but after four Bucco years (2004-07) and a .256 BA, he was released and replaced by Freddy Sanchez. 
  • 1992 - The Pirates released RHP Bill Landrum, who had saved 56 games over the past three seasons. He was due $1.7M, and by releasing him this early in camp, the Bucs were on the hook for just a quarter of his salary. Landrum only lasted two years after his release, so performance as well as payroll issues may have played into the decision.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Camp Decisions...

The five starters are pretty well in place now. Francisco Liriano, Gerrit Cole, Charlie Morton and Edinson Volquez were projected as the rotation, with Wandy Rodriguez penciled in, health permitting. Wandy's looked good so far, and if he can eat up 150-175 IP, he'll go a long way toward easing the loss of AJ. Volquez has been a BP pitcher this spring, but the brass have nary a discouraging word to say about him, so we see him as holding down the five spot.

Jeff Locke is close to recovered from an oblique tweak, Jameson Taillon is on the horizon, Brandon Cumpton can fill in, and the Stolmy Pimentel/Jeanmar Gomez duo can spot start from the pen. Phil Irwin also looks healthy, so the cavalry is ready.

Jason Grilli, Mark Melancon, Tony Watson and Justin Wilson are locks in the bullpen.Vin Mazzaro, Bryan Morris, Gomez and Pimentel are out of options and working the bottom end of the pen, with three spots open for the four of them. Mazzaro and Gomez are the weaker links; both Morris and Pimentel have upside that those two lack.  So both are marketable products right now.  And it may cost the Bucs Watson or Wilson to get a first baseman, if the FO seeks one.

The pen is strong now, with nice spring performances by virtually all the NRI guys, so any wheeling and dealing by the Bucs should involve someone from this group, and it be one of the back-enders.

The first base spot was Andrew Lambo's to lose, and he's trying hard to do so with his .065 BA. Gaby Sanchez had a .742 OPS in 2011-12 v RHP as a Marlin, and he's making a case to man the spot himself as he did in his Fish days. Chris McGuiness and Travis Ishikawa have both been making solid contact in camp, and Kendry Davis is still out there, along with Mike Carp. So there are options for NH.

Travis Snider and Chris Dickerson are battling it out for a RF/bench gig behind JT, with Jaff Decker headed down thanks to a remaining option. That's as of now; Rob Biertempfel of the Tribune Review tweets that the Bucs are shopping Tabata. In fact, the Bucs will gladly move any of the current RF candidates for a hamburger today, as Biertempfel noted. With Dickerson and Decker, the team is well stocked with fourth and fifth OF types.

The interesting decision will come when Gregory Polanco is deemed ready by the club, a couple or three months down the road.

Is Tony Sanchez in as Russ Martin's caddy now that Chris Stewart is down? We're not very confident that's in the cards. Clint used John Buck ahead of Sanchez late last season, and the brass still have some concerns about his defense in a position they consider to be glove-first. The Bucs have Carlos Paulino, a good D guy, in the system, along with non-roster invitees Omir Santos and Nevin Ashley. Paulino and Santos have some MLB experience; Ashley doesn't.

We'd guess that if Stewart's knee doesn't keep him out for a terribly prolonged period, the Bucs could cover a few weeks in house. If it's an injury that's going to take til the All-Star break to heal, the FO will go outside the organization and bring in a fringe vet with a mitt. In either case, Sanchez is likely to still catch every day at Indy. We just don't sense that the FO feel that he's a finished enough product yet, and catching twice a week won't add any polish.

Camp began with the lineup card pretty well determined - Starling Marte, Cutch, Pedro, The Kid, Jordy Mercer and Russ Martin were set in stone. So now the Bucs are filling in around the fringes, and in fact many of the starters are seeing more time at Pirate City than in Grapefruit League competition as the bottom end of the roster is determined. The only noteworthy observation from this group is that Martin is getting a lot of looks batting second; it seems like he and Neil Walker may see time in that spot.

This off season shows that the FO is hoping for growth within. If the pitching staff can come close to last year's performance - and that's certainly not a given - they can keep the team afloat. But the next step is to improve the attack to support that pitching, and there's where this season's question marks abound and where the club's ultimate finish will be determined.

Off Day Stuff...

Notes now, camp report later this afternoon...
  • The Bucs were rained out yesterday and are off today. They resume action tomorrow night when they visit the Bosox at 7:05, with the game on both Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan.
  • ESPN is selecting their top MLB players by position, starting at second base. Neil Walker earns the #8 spot with an arrow.
  • C Chris Stewart injured his knee a few days ago and is looking at surgery; the Pirates think it may be a torn meniscus. The extent of the injury and the amount of time he'll miss will determine if Tony Sanchez breaks with the big club or still opens the year at Indy.
  • Russ Martin told Dan Martin of the NY Post that replacing him with Brian McCann was "an expensive mistake" by the Yankees.
  • Ex-Bucs: RHP James McDonald's bid to earn the last spot in the Cubs' rotation suffered a blow Monday when he was pulled after two pitches because of right shoulder soreness. RHP Jose Contreras is considering retirement after the Rangers told him he will not make the team. RHP Joel Hanrahan is throwing 90-92 mph after last year's elbow surgery and could sign with a team soon.
  • Long time Post Gazette Pirate beat writer Charlie Feeney passed away yesterday. In 1996, Feeney received the the J.G. Taylor Spink Award from the baseball Hall of Fame. A story from his obit: "On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being a great relationship, I probably had a 4 with Clemente," Feeney once recalled. "I told that to Maz one day and he said, 'Pally, you'd better make that a 3.' "

3/18: Nixey, Elbie, Dick Littlefield, Brian Fisher...

Nixey, Elbie, Dick Littlefield, Brian Fisher...

  • 1874 - Pirate skipper Jimmy “Nixey” Callahan was born in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. Callahan was the Buc manager in 1916 and part of 1917, never sniffing the first division and replaced midway through his second year by Honus Wagner after compiling an 85-129 record at the helm. 

Jimmy "Nixey" Callahan - Image from

  • 1916 - 1B Elbie Fletcher was born in Milton, Massachusetts. He played first for Pittsburgh for seven seasons (1939-43, 1946-47) with two years off during WW2. Elbie put together a line of .279/79/616 as a Bucco, and was an All-Star in 1943. 
  • 1926 - LHP Dick Littlefield was born in Detroit. The journeyman southpaw worked from 1954-56 for some pretty sad Pirate teams and put up a 15-23 record with a 4.29 ERA. 
  • 1962 - RHP Brian Fisher was born in Honolulu. A second round draft pick of the Yankees, the Bucs traded for him in 1987. He was a workmanlike starter for two years, but suffered from arm problems in 1989 and was released by Pittsburgh after a Bucco line of 19-22/4.72 ERA.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Sure and Begorra...Bucco Notepad

Sure and begorra, even with St. Patrick circling green bases at Bradenton, it's been a quiet spring...

  • The Bucs beat the Phils 5-0 yesterday. Neil Walker homered, and from the right side, praise the Lord. It also had the spring rarity of a beanball battle. Bryan Morris ended up with a warning when he dinged one of Philly's hitters; four batters were bopped and several buzzed during the match.
  • Stolmy Pimentel will start when the Bucs host the Yankees at McKechnie Field at 1:05 PM today. Also scheduled for the hill are Dan Schlereth, Andy Oliver, Jake Brigham and Jay Jackson. The game is scheduled for Root Sports and will be run on delay by the MLB Network at 10 PM. 93.7 The Fan will also air the game. The lineup: Starling Marte LF, Andrew Lambo 1B, Cutch CF, Pedro 3B, Russ Martin C, Neil Walker 2B, Gaby Sanchez DH, Travis Snider RF and Clint Barmes SS.
  • Steeler coach Mike Tomlin is expected to give the Bucs a pep talk before today's game, as he's passing by camp while on a scouting mission.
  • Jeff Locke had no lingering effects from his bullpen session Friday and will toss live BP today as he recovers from a mildly tweaked oblique. He's the only Bucco that's walking wounded.
  • The Bucs are off tomorrow, and we assume that a couple more cuts will be forthcoming with two weeks remaining to the opener.
  • Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe kept the local hot stove stoked when he wrote that the Bosox have six MLB-ready OF'ers in camp for five spots, leaving Mike Carp available...
  • Tomorrow: what exactly has been decided at camp...if anything.
 Happy St. Paddy's Day!

3/17: Hot Rod, John Smiley, Caracas, Denny Neagle...

Hot Rod, John Smiley, Caracas, Denny Neagle...

  • 1956 - LHP Rod Scurry was born in Sacramento. Scurry tossed for the Bucs for six years, (1980-85) going 17-28-34 with a 3.15 ERA. The first round pick of 1974 was using coke during his playing days, and never kicked the habit; he died in 1992 of cocaine-induced heart failure. 
  • 1965 - LHP John Smiley was born in Phoenixville, near Valley Forge. He spent his first six seasons (1986-91) in Pittsburgh with a 60-42/3.57 line. 1991 was his best season, going 20-9 with a 3.08 ERA and All-Star selection. In the off season, he was traded to Minnesota for Denny Neagle, and went on to win 126 games in his 12 year career. 

 Leaf series 2004

  • 1972 - The Bucs watered their Latin roots by playing and sweeping a three game pre-season series against the Reds in Caracas, Venezuela. 
  • 1992 - The Pirates traded LHP John Smiley (on his birthday!) after a 20-8 season to the Twins in exchange for LHP Denny Neagle and OF Midre Cummings. Smiley went on to toss eight more seasons, mostly with the Reds, while Neagle won 43 games in his 4-1/2 year Bucco stint and would pitch until 2003. Hot prospect Cummings ended up a bench player who got parts of 11 MLB seasons to his credit.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Phils on TV, Notes...

The Bucs are fast approaching the regular season; player action should pick up next week...
  • The Bucs lost 6-3 to the Rays yesterday, as Edinson Volquez and Jared Hughes were both roughed up, although two errors behind Volquez didn't help his cause. Win or lose, the locals have been loving the team - Saturday's sellout was the Pirates' fourth at McKechnie Field this spring.
  • Today, the Pirates play at Clearwater against the Phils at 1:05, with non-roster invitee Adam Wilks getting the start, and will be on MLB Network at 1. The lineup: Starling Marte LF, Neil Walker 2B, Cutch CF, Travis Ishikawa 1B, Brent Morel 3B, Andrew Lambo DH, Tony Sanchez C, Jaff Decker RF and Jordy Mercer SS.
  • Jeff Locke, who had an oblique issue, tossed his first bullpen session since being hurt yesterday. No word yet on how he recovered today.
  • Travis Sawchik of the Tribune Review has a nice article on Gregory Polanco being evaluated by eyeball and then coming up in the Pirate organization. The year of the Central Division rookie outfielder bonanza is a bit delayed with Polanco and St. Louis' Oscar Taveras both already assigned to AAA, but come June there's a great chance they'll join the Reds' Billy Hamilton, who looks like Cincy's starting CF'er right now, in the show.
  • Ex-Bucs: The Brewers are seriously considering keeping Wei-Chung Wang, the lefty they claimed from the Pirates in this year's Rule 5 draft.
  • James Santelli won a SABR award for an article he wrote last season about the Pirates' defensive shifts. Congrats to James and the site. The award is a big deal; every blog, web site, magazine and paper in the country are eligible for the honor.

3/16: Patsy, Little Poison, Pie and Abraham...

Patsy, Little Poison, Pie and Abraham... 
  • 1865 - OF Patrick “Patsy” Donovan was born in Queenstown, Ireland. He played for the Pirates from 1892-99, hitting .307, and spent 17 years in the big leagues with a lifetime .301 BA. Patsy put up six consecutive .300+ seasons and served as player-manager from 1897-99.

 Patsy Donovan - Out of the Ballpark series

  • 1906 - OF Lloyd “Little Poison” Waner was born in Harrah, Oklahoma. The Hall-of-Fame OF had a .319 BA over 17 seasons with Pittsburgh. 
  • 1972 - Pie Traynor, enshrined in Cooperstown, died at age 72. The 3B played 17 years for the Pirates with a .320 BA and had a second career as the "Who Can?- Ameri-can" spokesman. 
  • 1976 - IF Abraham Nunez was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. The utility man - he played SS, 2B and 3B - spent eight seasons (1997 - 2004) with Pittsburgh and hit .238.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

St. Paddy Notes

Sure and begorra, the season is a couple of weeks away...
  • Pittsburgh rallied late to take a 6-5 win from the Phils yesterday; Cutch homered. 
  • Edinson Volquez starts today against the Rays at 1:05 PM at McKechnie Field, with the game broadcast by 93.7 The Fan. The lineup: Chris Dickerson CF, Russ Martin C, Travis Snider RF, Pedro 3B, Gaby Sanchez 1B, Travis Ishikawa DH, Jose Tabata LF, Robert Andino SS and Michael Martinez 2B. So far this spring, Martin has spent a lot of time in the two hole, even when JT is in the lineup.
  • The Cubs named Jeff Samardzija as their Opening Day pitcher. He'll match up March 31st at PNC Park against Francisco Liriano to kick off the 2014 season.
  • John Lembo of the Bradenton Herald points out that the outfield defense may not get the mad love that infield defensive shifts do, but in Pittsburgh's case is integral to shaving runs against.
  • David Schoenfield of ESPN's "Sweet Spot" thinks highly of the Pirates top five core players - and none are pitchers.
  • Marcus at Hidden Vigorish takes a look at Neal Huntington's trade partners, an always interesting exercise. The Bosox and Yankees have provided the bulk of NH's return so far.
  • Ex Bucs: Zach Duke is impressing the Brewers with his stuff as he transitions to a full-time bullpen gig. Brett Lorin, who the D-backs took from Pittsburgh in 2012 as a Rule 5 pick, was released tho he had a solid season in AAA last year.

3/15: Nellie King, Big Deal, Jim Bibby, Hit Man, Ian Snell...

Nellie King, Big Deal, Jim Bibby, Hit Man, Ian Snell...

  • 1928 - Nellie King was born in Shenandoah, near Pottsville. As a righty, he had a four year (1954-57) MLB career, all spent in Pittsburgh, going 7-5-6/3.58. He later was Bob Prince’s announcing sidekick from 1967-75 on KDKA, and moved on to work at Duquesne University as their long-time Sports Information Director. Nellie returned to the Pirates' broadcast booth as a guest commentator for the final game at TRS on October 1st, 2000. 

 Topps 1957 series

  • 1977 - IF Phil Garner, P Chris Batton and IF Tommy Helms were traded to the Bucs by Oakland for OF Tony Armas, P Doug Bair, P Dave Giusti, P Rick Langford, P Doc Medich and 1B Mitchell Page. 
  • 1978 - The Pirates signed free agent RHP Jim Bibby. In five years with the Bucs, the big righty went 50-32 with a 3.53 ERA. Originally inked to be a closer, he instead became a key member of the 1979 World Series rotation and was an All-Star in 1980. 
  • 1979 - The Pirates sent minor leaguers George Hill and Martin Rivas along with cash to the Red Sox to get back OF Mike Easler, who had been sold to Boston during the off season. Good thing the FO had a change of heart. Easler ended up a .302 hitter with the Bucs between 1979-83 and was a key bench/platoon player for the 1979 World Series club, also earning an All-Star bid in the short 1981 season. The “Hit Man” went back to Boston after the ‘83 season for P John Tudor. 
  • 2008 - Five days after unilaterally renewing his contract, the Pirates signed RHP Ian Snell to a three-year deal worth $8M with options for 2011-12. The 26-year old, who was arbitration eligible after 2009 season, had a 24-26 record after two years in the show.