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31 March 2009

News, Notes, and Buried Treasures 4.0

  • The Pittsburgh Pirates spring training record is 15-13-2.
  • The Battle for #5 - The top 4 rotation spots have been secured. Paul Maholm, Ian Snell, Zach Duke, and Ross Ohlendorf are locks. The battle for #5 is still on going with Jeff Karstens and Virgil Vasquez both getting one more start this spring to make their case for coming north with the club. To me, this is more than a sad affair, as neither has given any reason to be on the big club, but if I was a betting man, I'd give the nod to Karstens. The "loser" in this last rotation battle could possibly start the season in the bullpen.
  • Ohman Is Out - Well, another free agent, another disappointment. The Pirates recently ramped up their pursuit of relief pitcher Will Ohman. The pursuit of Ohman had jumped so much that his agent said the Bucs were showing more interest than anyone. However, Ohman made a visit to the LA Dodgers complex over the weekend, and with the money they have, it was almost guaranteed he would not leave with out a deal. Ohman signed a 1 year contract with the Dodgers with a club option for a second year.
  • The Business Before the Game - On Monday, prospects Brian Bixler and Andrew McCutchen were reassigned to minor league camp and both will start the season at AAA Indianapolis. Both players had been playing well and with McCutchen going 5-5 at the plate on Sunday with a home run and 2 doubles, the timing seemed almost not fair. I'm sure the wrath of fan opinion was not noticed in Bradenton, Florida, but back in Pittsburgh, what the little media coverage the Bucs draw, the move was not welcomed. This is a classic case of business over the game, and something that is not new to any MLB clubs. To keep from going into this deeper than need be, and making my already long posts, longer, the bottom line is this. McCutchen, by being assigned to AAA, and not being called up to Pittsburgh until after June 1st, will save one year of options on him, therefor guaranteeing controlling his MLB service time and rights by one more year. Not the most popular move on many accounts, as it shows they have not brought the best 25 players north on the big team, but a smart move for down the road, as one more year of the kid in his prime is guaranteed. Expect both Bixler and McCutchen in Pittsburgh later this year. Understanding the nuances of the business and understanding the big picture more so than the please me now attitude of the world is an odd thing, eh Mark Madden?
  • Pearce and Diaz Reassigned -Steve Pearce and Robinzon Diaz were both reassigned to minor league camp and will start in AAA as well. Diaz lost out to Jason Jaramillo for the backup catchers spot after spraying the ball all over the diamond going 11-26 this spring. Manager John Russell cited the need for a better defensive catcher early in the year and felt Jaramillo brought that to the team more than Diaz. It also doesn't hurt that you have played for the coach in the past. Pearce lost hope of making the big club early in spring training after suffering an injury and never getting the reps he needed. The Bucs plan to have him play first base almost exclusively in Indianapolis in order to groom him as Adam LaRoche's successor.
  • Jack a Bucco for Life? - Shortstop Jack Wilson and his agent have approached the Pirates management about a contract extension. The Pirates were very open to this , however neither party would comment. This news comes as a shocker, as Jack has been rumored of being traded for several years now. Jack Wilson in the past has said he would love to retire a Pirate and has expressed interest in only playing 2-3 more years beyond his current contract which ends after this year. Both sides will continue talks and don't be surprised to see a deal get down on a discounted level. It might be smart for Jack to get a no trade clause.
  • Flu Bug - The Bucs Spring training locker room has been raided by the flu bug, knocking several players out of commission over the last week or so. Evan Meek, Ian Snell, Andy LaRoche, Craig Hansen and trainer Brad Henderson have come down with the sickness. Hopefully this bug works it's course and all are healthy come April 6 in St. Louis. UPDATE - It is being reported this morning that Evan Meek has also come down with bronchitis. This is a tough blow for the kid as he vies for one of the bullpen openings.
  • Bum Bullpen - I was going to try and break down the possible bullpen battles that have been on going, however it's almost disheartening to discuss. So, in the spirit of being positive, I am going to refrain from touching that area of the team until the roster is finalized. Basically, it is a need spot for our club, and something management is desperately seeking outside acquisitions to help stabilize. Here's to hoping they find help, and here's to hoping they are better than expected.
  • Maholm is the Man - Pirates #1 starter Paul Maholm was recently named the opening day starter against St Louis on April 6. This will be Maholm's 1st opening day start of his career.
  • Cardinals Set - The Cardinals will start Adam Wainwright in the opener followed by Kyle Lohse, Todd Wellemeyer and Chris Carpenter.
  • More to come.....
  • 6 days till opening day!!!!

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