Results tagged ‘ Chris Snyder ’

Why the Pirates have been slumping

Catcher- Chris Snyder just came back and is starting to produce. Ryan Doumit is still not the answer defensively and his hitting was not good either. Jason Jaramillo was sent down and was the best of the three thus far as Snyder was injured. Jaramillo continued his good hitting from Spring Training and defensively is a clear improvement over Doumit. It seemed like the team never traded Doumit and the three catchers either are good offensively or defensively but never both. Thus they all are missing a part of the game and it sets the team back.

First Base- Lyle Overbay has been a mixed bag. This “great defender” blew a play the second game of the season which cost the team a game. Overbay hit a nice home run against St. Louis, but hs hitting is not great. Much like Adam LaRoche, the lefty Overbay is known as a slow starter and this haunts the team. Overbay has not had a hit against lefties and in a power position, and he cost a good deal of money for not producing. He is going to have to do more, or else Steve Pearce may get some looks at first base.

Second Base- Neil Walker has been one of the best performing Pirates. He has picked up where he left off last season. The average is down and the strikeouts are up, however the power has improved and he is showing that he can defensively handle the second base positon. Walker will need to continue hitting like this, and he will have to hit better against lefties. He also struggled during the homestand and he will have to hit better for the hometown crowd.

 Shortstop- Aki Iwamura gave up his position to Neil Walker, and if Ronny Cedeno is not careful, he could be next. Pedro Ciriaco had no reason to be sent down, especially since we have seen Cedeno and Josh Rodriguez get off to less than stellar starts. Cedeno usually starts off fast, and offensively he has not done much and he just is not getting the job done. Rodriguez has also had some good looks and he is just as bad. He was kept for his power, and I don’t see any power and I see a lack of patience at the plate. Cedeno has made a couple of spectacular plays at the shortstop position, however the routine plays such as grounders and turning the double play are just not up to snuff. Every time a grounder is hit his way, I hold my breath as it is an adventure. The shortstop position will need to produce more offensively and defensively will need to field their position.

Third base- Pedro Alvarez is expected to be the next big thing here in Pittsburgh. He is expected to be a power hitter and as a free swinger, is being compared to Adam Dunn. This season he has not met expectations. He is a notorious slow starter and in AAA last year hit in the .220′s this season. Alvarez will heat up when the weather gets hotter. His fielding is another story. His weight is in question and his fielding is inconsistent. He can make the plays half the time, and his arm strength is strong sometimes a little too strong. Steve Pearce has had looks at third and offensively hasn’t done much and defensively hasn’t done anything wrong, but hasn’t been truly tested. For all we know, he can do well but otherwise is could be another Delwyn Young experiment gone wrong.

Outfield- Jose Tabata has been the most complete player this season. He showed commitment to the team by putting on muscle and playing in the winter. He has already stolen seven bases and has added the home run to his game. He did well hitting leadoff but last night was bumped to the number two spot in the order. Despite his speed, he seems unsure in left field when he has to backpedal. Andrew McCutchen is known as a slow starter, however fans expected more from him after he tore the cover off of the ball in Spring Training. It seemed initially as though it would work as he hit two homers to start the season against the Cubs, but has since slumped. Clint Hurdle has tried to get him going again batting him leadoff but he struck out four times and was not a part of the offense. Furthermore McCutchen has as many steals for the team as I do right now- ZERO. McCutchen said at PirateFest that he wanted to have that “Ricky Henderson mentality” and know that the base was his when he would steal a base. He has looked like Lastings Milledge out there as the other day he was caught in a run-down. He like Alvarez will heat up soon. The platoon of Matt Diaz and Garrett Jones has not worked out well so far, with Jones hitting the lone homer. Diaz has been starting more as of late and he got two of the Pirates four hits on Wednesday against the Milwaukee Brewers. They need to produce now as that has been a part of the offense that has been missing. Finally we have not had a good look at John Bowker yet, but we know that he earned his spot with a solid Spring Training. He has been relegated to pinch hitting but has not done much with that. I say give him a start and see what happens.

 Starters- The ace has been Kevin Correia and minus one inning on his start on Wednesday, he has pitched magnificantly. Correia gave up that homer to Fielder and was unable to field a bunt on Wednesday and that cost him, but he was able to pitch well in his previous starts. He will have to continue to pitch well as he is the ace, but I am unsure as to how long he can keep this up. Paul Maholm had his second great start on Thursday against the Brewers but took the loss giving up two runs in the first inning and was not helped by the offense or lack thereof. Paul has looked like Zach Duke at times as he has looked very hittable. He will have to be able to pitch inside more like he is trying to do. Ross Ohlendorf was the weakest looking of the starters, as he pitched ok at best in his first start against the Cubs and now is injured and Jeff Karstens has been forced back into the starting rotation when he will pitch tomorrow against the Cincinnati Reds. Charlie Morton has been nothing but stellar for the team, getting a complete game win last night. He changed his arm angle in Spring Training and the walks are finally down. I believe that before he was tipping his pitches, and now is getting a ton of groundballs due in large part to that newfound sinker. James McDonald was slated to be the team’s ace until his injury in Spring Training. I don’t have much on him, but now he should be able to pitch deeper in the games. He just needs to stop those innings where he labors. He seems to pitch 30-40 pitches in an inning and it effects how far he can go in his starts.

Bullpen- The plesant surprise has been Mike Crotta. That new sinker has proven to be vital and he already is a staple in the bullpen. Chris Resop had some trouble against the Chicago Cubs in the second game of the season, but since has looked pretty good and has picked up from where he left off last season. Joe Beimel is back off of the disabled list and we soon will find out what he has. He can be used in many different capacities and is the lone lefty in the bullpen after Garrett Olsen was designated for assignment. He was ok at best, but he was a good filler. Beimel is in his second tour of duty with the Pirates. Daniel McCutchen was called up during the season and he will now serve as the long reliever with Jeff Karstens now in the rotation. His ERA was a bit high last season and he will have to limit the mistakes. Jose Veras slow the pace of play when he pitches and earned the loss on Saturday against the Colorado Rockies when he gave up three runs in that infamous sixth inning. He has good stuff but needs to place his pitches in more adventageous positions so that he can take command of the batter. Evan Meek is finally coming back after the shoulder injury and before had a couple of bad outings in a row. Meek was sick it cost him dearly as his placement was off. He would leave pitches up to where hitters had no problem hitting him. When he came back Wednesday against the Brewers, his fastball topped at 92 when it usually tops out at 96-97 so the arm is not 100% yet. Lastly, Joel Hanrahan has done a solid job. He is not being called upon to close the game as much as the team only won one of six total games thru the first homestand. Hanrahan is the only closer in the NL Central who has not yet blown a save and he just seems to have extra competitiveness when he squares off against the hitter. Hanrahan is showing the Pirates that the made the right decision when it came to who would close the game.

My interviews at PNC Park 4/13/11

 *Note: Before I begin, I do want to say that I left a couple of quotes out, but these do not affect what you are reading. Enjoy!

Pittsburgh Pirates Media Interviews

Pregame:

Manager Clint Hurdle:

1.      What does a rainout do to you, particularly the pitchers?

“It’s plays out in different ways. There’s times you really prefer to keep playing and there’s times when a day off is nice. We had the day off, and I don’t think that anyone was clawing or scratching and kicking their teeth or was going to walk out the door and head home.”

2.      On Evan Meek being ready for tonight’s game

“He’s fit for duty. He really well could be (in terms of is he still sick).”

3.      Lined up rotation for Cincinnati

“We still have a TBA (to be announced) on the 17th. Friday and Saturday will just fall in order with (Charlie) Morton and (James) McDonald.”

4.      On whether Jeff Karstens is available in relief for Brewers series

“He will be available thru the series.”

5.      Season breakdown in days or weeks?

“I usually break things down into ten game sets. It allows you to look at everyone a little bit.”

6.      Thru ten games now

“I think we have done some things right and some things wrong. There is room for improvement in some areas.”

7.      On Josh Hamilton’s slide and advising players against sliding headfirst

“Yes all of the time. There’s two players in the Major Leagues right now Rafael Furcal and Josh Hamilton that were hurt for sliding first.”

8.      Is there any leeway when a manager argues balls and strikes?

“You are not gone automatically. If you leave the dugout you have a good chance of being gone automatically. I have had running commentary with every ump since the start of the season, some more then others. There are a couple of umps that don’t even acknowledge the fact that you’re there, I’m sure for all the appropriate reasons. Most guys will say, ‘that’s it, any more and you’re gone’.”

9.      On Garrett Jones not being in the lineup

“Yesterday, I was looking at a lineup from the standpoint that we were going to play the three games series and that there were going to be two left-handers. Right now, Matt is swinging the bat better, so this Marcum kid he’s an interesting pitcher, his lifetime splits are reversed. Right handers are hitting 108 points higher against him than left-handers. I already am throwing three left-handers in the lineup today. I’ve encouraged people in the past to live outside the box and be creative and initially I did not do that yesterday and I got to sleep on it for a night, and I thought ‘let’s go do it’.”

10.  On getting switch-hitter Ryan Doumit to bat from the right side of the plate

“We’ve had the talk. I wouldn’t force anybody to do it.”

Charlie Morton:

1.      Where do you weigh in on the whole Electric Stuff groups online?

“Electric Stuff? Do I endorse it (laughs)? I mean I think I have good stuff, do I endorse it, sure (laughs). I appreciate the support.”

2.      On his new arm angle

“We actually started to tinker with it probably in the second week of Spring Training. It’s still kind of new. I think during Spring Training, I was so focused on competing and I hadn’t really adapted to it the way I wanted to. I think now, I’m getting used to it but the first couple starts, there’s going to be some control problems  but my misses are consistent, I’m missing down and in to a righty, and it just shows that I’m not making the adjustment but at the same time it is showing that once I do make the adjustment it will be consistent, I just got to work on it.”

3.      How do you plan on remaining confident and getting ahead of hitters in the count?

“I think what happened was mechanically, I was showing the ball really early. I may have been tipping pitches, I’m not sure, but I know that the hitters were seeing the ball really well. I adjusted some things, and release the ball a little later and as a pitcher, you can see the swings of the hitters, when I started seeing guys late on pitches after the adjustment, even if they were right down the middle, I knew was heading in the right direction, and that allows me to be confident.”

4.      Comparison of new arm slide to Roy Halladay

“An arm angle is one thing, results are another. Is it good that people like my arm angle? Yeah, it’s really good. If I can pitch like him, then I’ll be perfectly happy. I feel that when I can throw a ball down in the zone I’m going to get groundballs.”

5.      Rivalry with Brewers

“It’s similar to what we have struggled with in the past; winning the games on the road. We had a great first road trip, and I think we have something to prove. The key is not dwelling in the disappointment from things that have happened in the past. If we focus on those things, it’s going to bring us down.”

6.      On the fan incidents that happened this week

“I heard about it, I saw a picture of it and someone said it was on YouTube, I haven’t researched it. I heard about the usher that was killed, and stuff like that is more disappointing.”

7.      Anything to add?

“Go Bucs!”

Mike Crotta

1.      The sinker

“It’s got a lot to do with arm slot and just how you finish with your pitch. It’s a little easier for me to throw and Charlie’s pretty much the same way.”

2.      Is that your out pitch?

“That’s generally what I go to, especially being out of the ‘pen, You don’t want to get beat with anything but your best pitch, so I throw it more often then not.”

3.      Secret in terms of bouncing back from a rough outing

“You just need to have short memory. You can’t worry good or bad about what happened yesterday because obviously it doesn’t matter now. There’s nothing I can do about what happened yesterday whether it’s good, bad or indifferent, you just need to look forward and be ready for today.”

4.      What did do between this year and last year to make the team?

“I had the opportunity of making the team, and all I thought about was keeping my pitches down in the zone, and not really worrying about anything else.”

5.      How have you embraced the all-in call that Manager Hurdle has put out?

“You have to, you can’t do anything in this game halfway.”

6.      On his unique ritual before warming up

“I just want to try and get everything going”

7.      Trying to stay fresh for a 162 game schedule

“This is my first time in the bullpen, so it’s going to be a trial by error and learn by watching other people and how they do it and I’m going to try and take bits and pieces of guys that have had successful careers and see if I can mold that into something of my own.”

Postgame:

Manager Clint Hurdle

1.      On Marcum

“It’s what he does when he’s effective. When he left, truth be told, we may have barreled one ball, Overbay’s single, Diaz snuck a single through the middle of the infield, but there were a lot of miss hits along the way. He changes speed very effectively.”

2.      On Correia

“The one pitch hurt. The breaking ball- we wanted it down, and he left it up and Prince hit it to the biggest part of the ballpark.”

3.      On whether it is true that people make Kevin pay for his mistakes

“Yeah. I think that’s accurate. As is the case with most pitchers unless you have top shelf velocity or something like that. If you hang a breaking ball in this league, you’re more than likely going to be backing up a base or rubbing up another one.”

4.      On whether Correia had a play if he had gone after the bunt

“Well, we won’t know. We work very hard on our bunt defenses, we don’t have many of the ones we have. That one was a pitcher priority with a line. You all stood out there in Spring Training, and watched us go through our PFP’s all the time, and his priority was the line. If he gets to the ball, we have to throw to third in a nothing-nothing game. We had a chance of not facing three and four in their lineup, rather than having to.”

5.      Do you ever look at the .500 threshold in terms of wins and losses?

“No. It’s too early. My focus on us is playing with complete games and finishing games, getting better in every aspect every day we’re out there. We weren’t able to generate any offense tonight. We made a couple of mistakes on the mound, and paid for them and those are the things I am focusing on.”

6.      Evan Meek’s return back onto the mound and the bullpen

“It was very solid, I thought. I like the way that Crotta came back in and threw strikes, like the way Evan came in, we’ll see how he feels tomorrow, but it would be a big help to have him back in the back end of the bullpen again.”

7.      After being called back into Hurdle’s office for “not talking enough about the team losing the game”, the statement given by Hurdle:

“We’ve optioned Jason Jaramillo back to Indianapolis and we will activate Chris Snyder for tomorrow’s game.”

Kevin Correia

1.      The pitch to Prince Fielder

“I just hung it a little bit.”

2.      Overshadow five good innings you had?

“No, it was a bad pitch but it never should have gotten to that. I should have been out of the inning before that, and just one play with the pitcher. I didn’t field the ball the way I needed to, so it is what it is.”

3.      Think that bunt was going to go to Pedro?

“I had the line on that play, we’ve worked on it and worked on it. I threw the ball and I got over there, and I don’t know what, I think he just bunted it hard, and the grass kind of ate it up, but I’ve got to field that ball.”

4.      What do you make of your first few innings?

“I was pitching well, just getting outs. It only takes one inning, and I had a bad inning at a bad time.”

5.      Enjoying the pitching battle

“We had a good game plan and it was working, and I kind of went against it that inning, and I got hurt. I was staying with hard pitches down, and then I just flipped a curveball up there and I hadn’t thrown him that pitch yet, he was just on it.”

Jason Jaramillo

1.      Snyder

” I didn’t really pay attention to what was going on, obviously they had to make a move, so I’m going to go do my job, and try to get back up here as soon as possible.”

2.      Benefit for playing more

“I’ve feel like I’ve shown that I deserve to play here, and was doing a great job.”

3.      Take out of spring training

“The atmosphere and just what Clint has rubbed off of all of us and how much fun it is again. I’ve had a lot of fun here and learned a lot.”

Lyle Overbay

1.      On Marcum’s repertoire

“You don’t get to see what it does exactly, but I kind of have an idea of what he’s trying to do and he doesn’t make mistakes and when you’re down in the zone, you’re going to get a lot of groundballs, and he did a pretty good job tonight.”

2.      Did Marcum do anything differently than what you prepared?

“No. He’s going to throw that pitch down and away or he’ll mix it in, mix the cutter in, and throw the changeup and he’s got a good changeup. You’ve got to see it a couple of times, and realize how good it is.

3.      On Marcum’s velocity possibly being down

“Usually that’s where he’s at, 84-86. That’s just one of those things where it looks good coming in, and then all of a sudden, he gets such late movement that by the time it gets to your barrel, it’s moved off the plate and you’re hitting it off of the end instead of barreling it up.”

Joel Hanrahan

1.      How does it feel to be the closer?

“I feel good about it. Obviously, it’s an important three outs at the end of the game, and I feel like I can handle the job, and look forward to the opportunity.”

2.      How do you feel that you’ve matured as a closer?

“I think it’s a little early to tell that, but obviously my mindset is to go out there and have fun and not put too much pressure on myself, when before every out was a pressure situation where I kind of take that pressure off myself and just go out there and have fun.”

3.      What is the most important thing for you being in the closer’s role?

“Well there’s 24 other guys and eight coaches that are depending on me to finish the job and I just want to go out there and do it for everybody. It’s a team effort, and as long as we can all hold the lead in the ninth.

4.      Any more exhilarating feeling for you than just the 1-2-3 ninth inning?

“That’s a great day any day you can do that. It’s a long season, long year, and the games are kind of long themselves, so once you get those three outs, everybody’s kind of relaxed a little bit more, and it’s one of the best feelings you can earn that day.”

5.      Embracing Manager Hurdle’s all-in philosophy

“When I have a pair of pocket aces, I go all-in. You can tell that he’s definitely got our back, and that’s a big thing to know that a manager has your back, and it makes you want to play a little harder for him. We’re just trying to embrace everything that he’s trying to teach us, and use it out there in the game.”

6.      How have you guys have struggled at home but done well on the road, a change from the past couple of seasons. How have you changed your success on the road ?

“Back to the home part, it’s been a tough home series for us, where got in late Wednesday night, and then turn around and play on Thursday morning where that was our first time coming to Pittsburgh, and half the team it is their first time being in Pittsburgh, and the adjustment period of being settled into your apartment, and trying to get back to the normal life is not easy. Our goal on the road, is to go up there and change the things that we did last year, and we started off good with the first road trip, and obviously we need to both at home and on the road.”

7.      In your time, what have you made of the Pittsburgh-Milwaukee baseball rivalry?

“Well it’s kind of been one-sided and we need to do our part to turn that around. They’re a good swinging ballclub over there, and they’re going to play hard all of the time and we just need to step up a little bit against them.”

8.      What do you make of the incidents that happened at the ballpark this home stand?

“It’s stupid. There’s no reason for anybody to go on the field during the game, and I’m not going to come into your office and streak through your office, that would be just stupid, right? It puts us in danger, because you never know what could be happening. The thing that happened the other night, apparently the guy was drunk, so it’s not safe for anybody. Better him going home with the cops then getting behind the wheel of a car.”

9.      Anything else that you would like to add?

“No, I gotta go home bud.”

 

 

Notes about my media experience AKA this is last post until I post the interviews

1. I arrived around 3:30 and was the first in line for clubhouse access at 3:30. I saw a few players and Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle said a quick and pleasant hello to me. Evan Meek then saw and remembered me and gave me a pound. Was he feeling better? I would think so, and he was available to pitch tonight and he pitched a 1-2-3 inning

2. I had no idea what to expect when I got into Clint Hurdle’s office. The only time I had ever seen an office was in Bob Knight’s autobiography, and his office was a MESS. I completely had no idea what was going to happen coming in and I had no idea who I would interview, and what I would ask. I walked in and saw Clint Hurdle waiting for us. We all put our recorders on the desk and asked questions of Clint. As a fan, it is easy to ask him a question, however I was a little overwhelmed by the situation. People were asking questions left and right, and I had no set gameplan and thus I just took it all in (no Clint Hurdle pun intended). The first question is always the hardest but when the postgame came, I got the last question and used it to talk about Evan Meek in the bullpen and breathed a huge sigh of relief.

 3. I then left the clubhouse and stayed on the field for all of Pirates BP.

 4. My first image of the field was all kinds of yellow jerseys, a large group likely the pitchers were in center with the players stretching directly in front of me by the third base side. I first was welcomed by Euclides Rojas and we shook hands. Pedro Alvarez, Rojas and Luis Silverio all were communicating to each other in Spanish. From what I saw the whole time of BP, Pedro was the LOUDEST of all of the players. Pedro then asked me a little later in English how I was and I tried to respond in Spanish to keep it going but he continued in English. Oh well, at least I tried to fit in.

 5. Andrew McCutchen then came on the field and he said hey to the Alvarez and Silverio and I totally expected him to walk past me. Everyone knows how I feel about Cutch, however at the ballpark, he is in his element, Mr. Personality. He was dancing in the outfield, singing along with Pedro in a girly voice during a song and usual antics. He actually said a “Hey boss” to me before quickly asking how I was, and responding to my reply. That likely was the best exchange we have ever had and I now respect him 1/22 more.

 6. Charlie Morton hit a BP homer and so did Paul Maholm who had to contend with the much tougher right field. The pitchers had a good laugh at Maholm’s expense when he hit five or six balls that hit the top of the cage and didn’t go much further. They had home run distance but kept connecting with the cage.

 7. When Pirates BP ended it started to get cooler than it already was and I just had a long sleeve dress shirt on. I went inside back into the press area. At this point, the players were changing and a saw a lot of bare body parts (nothing too graphic) and a lot of tattoos. Players were getting showers and they all were wearing sandals and hanging out. I decided to first interview Charlie Morton. Again, I had absolutely NO clue what I was going to ask anyone, and so I got the nerves out of the way pretty quickly. My first question to Morton was about the whole Electric Stuff buzz that was on Facebook and Twitter, and you will just have to wait for his response, but he was laughing and smiling the whole way which was the goal, to loosen him up. We talked about his new arm angle, comparisons to Roy Halladay, working on control of the arm angle, momentum and much more.

 Photo taken by Colston Cooper on a separate occasion

 8. An interview I really wanted to do was with Mike Crotta. I don’t hear much from the press about him and I wanted to really talk about his sinker and I was given that chance. It was an interesting interview and the sinker is the focal point of that interview. After this interview I went back to observe Brewers BP.

 Unrelated photo taken by my friend Kayla Thompson

 9. I tried to find out if they were going to increase security or do anything in response to the tasing, however I was told that nothing will be done. This confuses me, although next to no one would be/was at the game. It will be interesting to see if they consider changing in the future.

 10. After Brewers BP, I grabbed some dinner and then headed up to the press box, where I grabbed the pre-game sheets and then sat and enjoyed the game. I know what some people are thinking, and to answer your questions, yes I was able to watch the Penguins game as well, as it was on a TV right in front of me.

 11. The game had a very fast pace to it through the first few innings as both Kevin Correia and Brewers pitcher Shaun Marcum were pitching no-hitters, but Correia blinked first and then allowed a homer to Prince Fielder and the Pirates lost 6-0.

 12. Towards the end of the game I received a free media guide. The media guide much like the one I received in 11th grade was spiral bound. I also received a thumb drive which contained every MLB team’s 2011 media guide. I love reading the media guides and this is hours of great reading, and also potentially a lot of helpful ballhawking resources.

 13. I then went down with the rest of the press, and after the meeting with Hurdle and my question, we went into the clubhouse. We then were called back into Hurdle’s office where we were told that Chris Snyder would come up and Jason Jaramillo would be sent down. I am posting this again, just because I was one of a few people to first find out.

 14. We then interviewed Kevin Correia and I asked another question. Considering I heard that he was swearing upon entering the clubhouse, he was no problem in terms of speaking to.

 15. Jason Jaramillo agreed to his final interview before leaving Pittsburgh. He is sad not to be with the team but realizes that he likely will have more of a chance to play in Indy and hopes to be back up in Pittsburgh really soon.

 16. From there we all interviewed Lyle Overbay as he was a former teammate of Marcum’s.

 17. Things died down, and the other media members left for the night. I decided to spend one last interview being with Joel Hanrahan. We talked mainly about the closer position and also how he has grown as a closer and player since his Washington days.

 Photo taken Opening Day.

 18. It was an eventful and successful day for me, and not bad considering I had no gameplan coming in. I now know that I will need to plan for who I want to interview and at least have an idea of what to ask. Also there is a chance that I could get media credentials once a homestand, and that could be exciting.

 The next entry will be the transcript. What you just read before was a summary of what happened. There was quite a bit more, but you get the idea. Expect this next entry Friday or Saturday. I did take a decent amount of pictures, and I am unsure if I can get them to work or not.

Some brief notes AKA the recap before the recap

1.  I was not at the ballpark on Tuesday, as the game was postponed.

2. http://www.pointparkglobe.com/opinions/unruly-fans-disturb-baseball-game-involve-police-1.2160640 That is the link to the article I told you about that I wrote for my Point Park Student Newspaper. For some reason the ending cuts off and it should finish with “the better”… only two more words.

3. I was quoted in Wednesday’s Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, about the whole tasing situation adding to all of the press that I am getting. Here is a link to that: http://pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/news/columns/heyl/s_731935.html

 4. Although I was a media member tonight I still was able to get eight baseballs but returned them to the teams as I was on the field and a media member. I gave one away to a friend. For the first ball I got it for Pedro Alvarez and Luis Silverio. They said I could keep it but motioned to Herbie and asked him if he wanted it. He motioned yes and I threw a decent strike right to his waiting glove. I then got a few more during the Pirates bp that came my way and then more during the Brewers bp portion. Normally I would write a full entry about this, however I promise that I will more than make up for it, as I have a ton of quotes from the Pirates game that I will share with you. I will have this up on Saturday at the latest. My camera is not behaving, and pics on this blog sometimes work and sometimes don’t, so we will see on pics.

5. One thing I will reveal, is that Clint Hurdle called us back into his office after the postgame meeting as he had forgotten to tell us that Jason Jaramillo was optioned back to Triple-A Indy and Chris Snyder will come back up. This is effective immediately, as Snyder will join the team tomorrow. Despite packing his things to leave, Jaramillo stopped to speak with us. This was the first ever time I had to be a part of an interview with a player who was sent down, and it had to be tough, but I have a whole lot of respect for him for doing the interview.

 I am going to make one more post now to discuss who I interviewed and some other notes from Wednesday’s media fun.

4/9/11 Pirates vs Colorado Rockies PNC Park

 The Home Opener was great for me in every way besides the final score and from a ballhawking perspective, there were WAY too many fans and it made it tough to navigate and outfield toss-ups were seemingly out of the question. Still I snagged four balls and it was a great start.

 I decided to make my goal for this game the exact same as the last game; four balls. This would be a tall task, as I was still under the weather and with the weather not being as great as it was during the home opener not many home runs would be hit.

 I got to the ballpark quite early and was close to the front of the line and threw with Nick Pelescak and Erik Jabs on the Clemente Bridge. Both were at yesterday’s lengthy win against the Colorado Rockies but neither even came close to making it the distance as the weather got quite cold and most likely unbearable.

 The throwing on the Clemente Bridge was the first time I was able to get a ball in my glove, so I knew that I would be ready for anything this game had.

 Things got off to a rocky (again, no pun intended) start as I entered the ballpark rather quickly but with Erik and Nick ahead of me searching for Easter Eggs in the lower deck, I again went up to the bleacher general admission area and unfortunately found nothing. Erik and Nick each found a ball, right by the bullpen so I almost certainly would not have had anything anyways.

 The Pirates portion of BP was rather slow for me, as all kinds of lefties came up. I always love a fellow lefty but myself and the other Pirates season ticket holders are only allowed in left field for the first half hour on weekdays and hour on weekends so this was bad. Pirates BP is likely not going to contribute much to my cause as only Matt Diaz really has the capability to hit the ball into the left field bleachers with much regularity. Hopefully Chris Snyder can come back soon so we have another reliable right presence to fill up our gloves.

 I got shut out during the Pirates portion of BP because of this as well as because there were lots of girls and kids and they got all of the toss-ups so quite a slow time for me.

 I quickly changed into my Rockies gear and sneaked up to the second level where I walked to the baseline box seating area. I actually could relax here, since the pitchers were only starting the long toss. I then realized that I had made another mistake, I had left my roster it home. It wouldn’t help anyways since almost all of the players had their numbers covered, but any little tidbit of information I can use is always appreciated.

 So there were a couple of reasons why I made the trek to the baseline area. For one, nothing really otherwise was happening. That night’s pitcher Greg Reynolds was hitting and he doesn’t have the power to hit it into the left field bleachers and no one was there to toss us baseballs. Also, when someone does a long toss, there is a great chance for an overthrow and a baseball so for me, the decision was obvious.

 Many of the Rockies pitchers were at different stages. I got into the wheelchair portion of section 1, and had my glove and waited for an overthrow.

 As this happened I ran into my buddy Matt Lindstrom who ended up getting the save later on in the game. I call him my buddy because he was responsible for two important and historic snags of mine. He gave me ball number 69 last season which allowed me to meet the fifth goal I had set for myself last season of 64 baseballs, and also was my last ball of the season. He also gave me ball number 71 which put me over 70 and was the first player I ever got two balls from in two different uniforms.

 Looking back at it now, I can’t help but realize how similar this moment felt to my 64th snag. The only possible difference besides the team was that I had the section entirely to myself.

 Lindstrom struck a conversation with me as he did with the other two snags and said, “You may want to move back, these balls are coming fast and you may get hurt.” This was the first time in three conversations that he was not sarcastic to me and my first worry upon seeing him was that he would remember me from Thursday especially since I had the same outfit minus my yellow Pirates themed shoes I had on because I didn’t have room for my blue ones.

 Lindstrom then told me, “Don’t worry, I will throw you a ball”. I found this all weird, because I did appreciate him telling me to be careful, but I had a glove and can catch and I would not have put myself that close to the action unless I was sure that I was safe.

 Still I waited and sure enough Lindstrom called me out and threw me a ball. The toss was terribly underthrown but with no one around me I walked forward and picked up ball number 1.

 I was still well behind the mark and needed to make at least one more snag. Enter Esmil Rogers. Rogers was the starter on Thursday for the Rockies and he was throwing with what looked to be Rafael Betancourt. When the two came to wrap up their session, Betancourt uncorked a wild and high throw which I fielded. Before Rogers had much time to think, I threw him back the ball. The toss was a little wobbly and feeble, but practically every toss is after you see how hard and accurate they throw the ball. After they finished, Rogers turned to me and fired ball number 2. The ball itself was my 75th career snag and put me only 25 more snags away from the century mark.

 I then played center field for the Rockies portion of BP. Nothing much came our way home run wise and no matter how hard I tried none of the toss-ups were going my way. I even started to try to ask Ubaldo Jimenez to throw me the ball in Spanish and my voice is shot.

 Frustrated mostly because nothing was coming my way, I decided to take on the challenge of right field. I was right about where I expected to be and figured a change of scenary could better things. There were quite a few homers hit to right so I figured why not give it a shot. The last ball of bp was a homer to right, but I was a couple of rows low and a section away and could not make up the ground fast enough. With that BP was over and I had to assess the situation.

 Things were not looking bleak for a four ball day quite yet as there still was potential. Colston, my friend who also went to the game did a full walk of the second floor. We said a nice hello to a family friend for a while and then continued on. The new main attraction is a store with Pirates memorabilia with Hunt Auctions. The prices were ludicris, seriously $60 for a Clint Hurdle signed baseball. $110 for a signed Andrew McCutchen? Really? I didn’t even give it a serious look after that, I find that to be so insulting and you would have to be a moron to overpay that badly. Ok, I digress, this is a post about my ballhawking.

 We finally made it to the bullpen and waited for Charlie “Electric Stuff” Morton to grace us with his sinker and his presence. After a while he did and although I tried I did not get any toss-ups from either him or the seemingly always reliable Herbie Andrade.

 Defeated, I went to my seat and re-assessed my situation. I was still at two balls, an average fan has not snagged two baseballs in their entire time yet in less than two short years, my outlook on this has drastically changed. I was going to have to snag an Andrew McCutchen toss-up and then get some help from the bullpen. The centerfield sections were all packed which meant that being in section 141, I had only one chance to get the toss-up.

 McCutchen had the toss-ups in the odd innings, and I paid close attention to where he threw the baseball both times so I could position myself properly.

 Before the fifth inning toss-up though, I tried my luck at the bullpen and that did not work so well. The bullpen was never crowded at all that entire night which I have never experienced, and sure enough I always was given the best spot I possibly could have, I just was dealt every bad card in the deck. I came over twice before the McCutchen toss-up, and left again sprinting to center to choose my position.

 Erik had already chosen his position and the spot I was eying actually was still there. It was directly behind the last row before the two steps leading to the section. There was not anyone in those seats so I was in the clear. When it came time for McCutchen to toss it up, I had a good vibe. His throw sailed to my right and was short and it was going to take a miracle. I tracked the path of the ball and at least two people bobbled it. For once, the ball bounced right into my waiting glove for the luckiest ball number three that I will ever have.

 I still have not gone to bed yet, and as I type this part of the blog it is 1:25 AM here in Pittsburgh and I am running on empty. As a journalist it is something that I am actually quite used to.

 There is a reason why I am probably not fast asleep right now. Outfielder Seth Smith hit a home run to right center to give the Rockies a 3-2 lead in that top part of the fifth and it was very close to where I was standing. It would have been a rather easy catch, not nearly as easy as the Hunter Pence home run I described in a previous blog post, because this one was on the fly, but there would have been no competition for it. As it stands, the ball two hopped into the river where it hit either a boat or a raft or something like that.

 As the night continued, it got colder and colder and I only had a Pirates t-shirt and Pirates Dugout Jacket to warm my body. I was by the bullpen as I had no chance to snag another toss up as right field was packed, left field was packed and Jose Tabata just throws it without much care and center was still packed. I was trying to snag a ball, when a lot of noise came from the bleacher general admission area.

 Earlier a few people were thrown out of the ballpark in that area and were escorted by police. This time a man was not cooperating after a few police took him down the stairs and they beat and tased him before arresting him. This led to a lot of people in that area chanting many things such as “U-S-A! U-S-A!”. The police threatened to beat others who interfered with them and I saw a lot of this happen as I was close by in the bullpen area. The police took a good handful or so of people to the Riverwalk where one woman was arrested and a man who took a couple of steps to oppose the decision and defend her was almost beaten himself. The section in general was just drunk out of their minds and it impaired their decision making abilities. It was quite sad to watch especially after a fan ran onto the field on Thursday’s game. As an aside, one woman was so drunk that when she was arrested, she couldn’t walk and thus had to be taken out on a wheelchair.

 I still had business of my own to tend to. The Pirates would go on to lose the game 6-4 despite a nice attempt at a rally in the ninth inning against my “buddy” Lindstrom. After the game was over I wanted to snag my fourth ball to meet my goal. I had already given one ball away and saw a very young kid and immediately wanted to give this ball away too. I saw a ball in Euclides Rojas’ glove and neither Rojas nor Herbie would initially throw it despite calling their names. The kid was still there and I assured his mother that I would try my best to get it.

 I finally got a hold of Herbie, and explained to him that the ball would be for the kid and sure enough he underhanded it to me for an easy ball number four. I immediately made sure to give it to the kid and he was so excited and had the biggest smile on his face. His parents seemed just as happy as he was and it clearly was his first ball. Thanks Herbie!

 Just like that, I reached my goal for the game. Every second literally counted as it took until after the game was over to get there. There was potential for more snags of course but through two days of snagging while ill, I had snagged four balls on both days for a total of eight baseballs. Last year I started with four in two games and already I am well ahead of that margin. I likely need to get 21 by the end of the month, so this is a good start and I am more than 33% of the way there.

 My next day of ballhawking will either be on Wednesday or Thursday and I am not sure as to which one. There is a chance that I will be a media member on Wednesday and if I am, then obviously I will not ballhawk. If I am not, I will purchase a ticket to that game and ballhawk. Then on Thursday, I can ballhawk from 5:00 until 5:30 and then I will be whisked away and be named Season Ticket Holder of the Month. Also on Tuesday, I will snag on the Riverwalk outside of the stadium. This takes a lot of focus and luck, but if I get lucky, then I could end up with a baseball or two. Here’s hoping that Prince Fielder hits the cover off of the ball.

Total Baseballs Snagged: 8

Total Baseballs Given Away: 3

Games Attended: 2

State of the Pirates Union 2011

Men,

 You have worked blood, sweat and tears for this organization this Spring, and you should be commended for your efforts. Tomorrow is Friday, and thus your first game of the season. Let’s take a look at yourselves as a team.

 Catchers-

 Chris Snyder. You are injured and thus you cannot start for us, and we are upset. Now we have to trust Ryan Doumit who we have wanted out of here for the longest time. You are defensively capable but offensively incapable. When you come back you need to be consistent.

 Ryan Doumit. Who made Jack Black our team’s starting catcher? Your offense can be good but your defense is TERRIBLE. Throwing out less than 10% of runners trying to steal base is an atrocity, and you do not belong in the Major Leagues, but here you are not only in a Pirate unform but starting. Charlie Sheen thinks that you are winning, but that does not amount for much anymore. In the words of Princess Leia, you are our only hope, because Jason Jaramillo as a starter is just as bad.

Second base-

 Neil Walker. The Pittsburgh Kid. Considering that you had to adapt to play yet another new position is tough enough but at times you showed Gold Glove capabilities. Bill Mazeroski a Pittsburgh legend helped you with mechanics and you tried to soak it in. It is important that you do not have a sophomore slump and the city is your for the taking, and this is your make it or break it season.

Short stop-

 Ronny Cedeno. What can I say about a man who draws Sharpies and calls them mustaches? Well you can’t hit, you can’t field, what can you do right? You give us fits and there is no one better? Why don’t we have money for a real shortstop? Here, I am going to drop a baseball. Just like i thought, through the legs. Why are you still even here?

Third base-

 Pedro Alvarez. Your weight is an issue, but that was even before this season. You are outgrowing your position and thus the plays that separate a good third baseman from a great one and Alvarez is only good at best. You are our offense, you mash the ball but do not get frustrated by your average as that is the way you play and you should not change that.

Left field-

 Jose Tabata. You have packed on the muscles and we can tell. Your speed is a must as we expect you to run around the bases all of the time. You need to mash the homers and be a part of this offense. You are a part of the future, so failure is not an option.

Center field-

 Andrew McCutchen. We can tell that you want to win. You are the best CF in the majors but we have some concerns. Off the field, you are a scumbag, conceited and careless. You need to start driving people in and that is a glaring part of your game. You are the future and already are a good player, but it is time to become great, don’t you think?

Right field-

 Garrett Jones. You can mash righties on a good basis, but based on your rookie campaign, your power numbers are down. Please hit for a good average, and who knows, maybe you or this next guy could get traded.

 Matt Diaz. Time to speed up and buy into the program. You can hit lefties, but some more power needs to be seen. Let’s find out if you can handle that right field wall, no one really has.

Starters-

 I am calling all of you out. Along with defense, you are the main issue on this team. Ray Searage can only do so much. He doesn’t pitch the baseball, he only gives you the advice. It is your job to listen to what he has to say and to pitch with confidence. The bullpen cannot win games all by themselves (I’m talking to you Ross, Charlie and Paul) and that means you actually have to suck it up and pitch. There are no more excuses.

Relievers-

 Despite what I just said about the starters, no one is perfect. We have been losing for 18 seasons now and you will have to come in at tight spots or when the outcome of a game has already been decided. Regardless, pitch strong and attack the hitter. Joel, please prove to us that you can choose games. You failed to do that in Washington and were a mixed bag last season. Pitch with a purpose.

Bench-

Josh Rodriguez. What are you doing here? Neal said that nothing about you was special and the fact of the matter is that your precious rule-5 status is keeping you here by a thread. Our infield stinks defensively and you do not help that at all. Even in Spring Training everyone from the top of the organization to the bottom said you weren’t anything and normally would be one of the first to be sent down. You better perform or you will be let go faster than we can say bobble head.

 Steve Pearce. You made the Opening Day Roster for the first time so congratulations. You were persistant and eliminated the leg kick from your swing which will help you in the log run. Best of luck on sticking in the bigs this season.

Manager-

 Clint Hurdle. You need to stick to your guns. This team has a ton of personality and you can handle it, but do not lose the locker room. They are completely buying in to what you are saying and that means that you need to stay relevant to them. Practice what you preach. Make sure they run and let that know that losing is NOT an option.

 Tomorrow is the big day men, Opening Day is upon us in the windy city. You have worked all off-season for this. No one expects us to contend, but why can’t we? These fans deserve a winner, and it’s time to go all in and get the job done. 

 

Four Players Cut and Other Notes

 The Pirates have made four cuts today, and here they are:

.Andy Marte- Marte was one of the team’s first signings this off-season. He once was a highly regarded prospect however in 2010 with the Cleveland Indians, hit only .229 with five homers and 19 Runs Batted In. Mind you Marte only had 170 at-bats, this was enough for the Pirates to sign him to a Minor League contract. This Spring, Marte batted .364, however this was not enough for him to earn a spot on the team. Marte had a shot at making the Big League roster, however lost out on the corner infield battle to Steve Pearce.

.Corey Wimberly- Wimberly to me always seemed like a cheap Nyjer Morgan. He was acquired by the Pirates for righty Ryan Kelly. Wimberly at short during Spring Training was not a great idea as he kept bouncing his throws. He never played a position that well, and hit only .212. It took him a while to even get a hit, but finally got one, but too little too late.

. Brian Burres- This was the most surprising cut, as it had appeared that the Pirates wanted two relievers that were left-handed. He had been solid all spring, but his start earlier in the week against the Astros perhaps did him in. Still, Burres was widely expected to have a role in the bullpen and had proven his worth last September as well.

. Dusty Brown- This cut made sense as essentially Brown was the odd catcher out. The Pirates may bring three catchers with them when they play Chicago, and Brown was not in their Major League plans. He was signed to a Minor League deal after playing for the Boston Red Sox last season. He hit .321 this spring.

. Another announcement was made with this move that Steve Pearce has essentially clinched the backup corner infield job. Pearce made an adjustment in his swing where he eliminated the leg kick. Hopefully he can improve the timing of his swing. Manager Clint Hurdle said this is not 100% confirmed yet because there always in the possibility of a trade.

 . The last backup infielder job is between Pedro Ciriaco and Josh Rodriguez. Ciriaco has proven himself to be the better player, however Rodriguez is the Rule-5 Draft pick. If Rodriguez does not make the team, he will have to be offered back to the Cleveland Indians although General Manager Neal Huntington has said that in that case he would negotiate a deal to get Rodriguez back, a la Evan Meek a few seasons ago.

 .Chris Snyder remains to be hurt. He was scratched again from the lineup due to more back soreness. He is getting treatment but his status for next Friday’s opener is up in the air. If he cannot go, Ryan Doumit likely will be the Opening Day catcher with Jason Jaramillo the backup. Snyder will have to condition himself and get the proper at-bats if he should be ready to go. If he is injured for too long then only two catchers would be heading north and perhaps John Bowker could get than final roster spot.

. The bullpen has become an interesting battle, as Scott Olsen and Joe Beimel both will be unable to start the season, and with Brian Burres not making the club, Jeff Karstens will be the long reliever. This opens up the bullpen competition. Three relievers in Chris Leroux, Mike Crotta and Garrett Olson will compete for two spots. It is widely assumed that Olson will get a spot. Jose Ascanio is not faring well as Pirates Prospects blog says his fastball topped out at 91 miles per hour, slower than normal and also lacking command. If Karstens has to start in the rotation due to the injury to James McDonald, then Olson, Leroux and Crotta will all make the team.

. Clint Hurdle also seemingly made his final lineup official making Jose Tabata his lead off hitter. Andrew McCutchen will hit third, while Lyle Overbay will hit fourth. Pedro Alvarez will hit fifth.

. The Major League roster is now at 32 spots, and needs to be cut down to 25 in time for Opening Day on Friday.

A Vote For Pedro.. No not THAT One

I understand that this may seem like a Napoleon Dynamite or even a Pedro Alvarez reference, but that is not the case. The Pedro that I happen to be speaking of is Pedro Ciriaco.

 This past September Ciriaco was made a September call-up and management never gave him a chance. He never really got a chance to start and show off some of his glove work. His bat in that small quality looked impressive as he hit .333.
 
 This Spring, Ciriaco has been given ample opportunity at shortstop and has rewarded the Pirates hitting over .350 before today’s “B” game that he was scheduled to be in. Manager Clint Hurdle seems impressed by Ciriaco and honestly, why wouldn’t you be?

 Ciriaco has to be considered a front runner as Rule-5 pick Josh Rodriguez does not look to make the team. Ciriaco can play the infield minus first base and is dabbling in some outfield and can prove his worth even further.

 It also helps Pedro’s case that Ronny Cedeno, who does his best work in the earlier part of the season was hitting .217 as of Sunday although he has brought that up since then. Cedeno is too streaky for me and much like Andy LaRoche is good in April, no more and no less.

 Ciriaco was given to the Pirates by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the trade that sent Chris Snyder here as well. Pedro was rated the Diamondback’s best defensive prospect, so the offense is a strike extra, no pun intended.

 If this Pedro does not make the roster come Opening Day, then something is truly wrong with this team. I understand what Garrett Atkins and Josh Fields can do, but at this moment the way that the roster is, Ciriaco is the way to go.

Pirates Pre-Season Forecast

 Pitcher with the most to prove:

 1. Ross Ohlendorf- Ohlendorf is a great guy, but he only had one win last year. He pitched quite well last season but never received any run support. This year he got a huge raise in $2.1 million and he will have to pitch well and stay healthy.

 2. Kevin Correia- Correia pitched himself out of the San Diego Padres rotation while they were in the middle of the playoff race. Correia pitched with a heavy heart as his brother passed away and this season will have to prove that the Pirates made a smart decision in signing him. Thus far, it has not looked like a great investment as he has looked overmatched in Spring Training, but only time will tell.

3. Charlie Morton- Morton is expected to be the team’s fifth starter, and if he pitches the way he did early last year, then the team will struggle mightily. Morton has shown that he has been capable of pitching well, bouncing back from an Andrew Jones home run earlier this week and then calming down to take down the Yankees. If Morton can control his emotions and his pitching, then it could very well inspire his teammates.

4. Joel Hanrahan- Hanrahan has emerged as the closer, but he has to prove to management that he can handle the job. He was traded from the Washington Nationals due to his inability to close games. He “shared” closing duties last year with Evan Meek, although he closed almost all of the games. He blew a few games and thus I am concerned that he cannot finish the job.

 Winner: Charlie Morton

  Morton showed a lot of promise as a September call-up and even further by his willingness to go to the Dominican Winter League to work on his makeup. I think this season could be the season Pirates management expected from Morton in 2009 but if he does not succeed, then the Pirates may lose their patience with him.

    Hitter with the most to prove:

 1. Matt Diaz- Diaz was signed during the off-season and will be splitting time in right field with Garrett Jones. This experiment happened before when the Pirates got Lastings Milledge. Milledge like Diaz said the right things, but ultimately underachieved. At this very moment, Diaz is hitting .308 this Spring and will have to perform well.

 2. Jose Tabata- Tabata came up and at least in my opinion underachieved. I expected so much and his playing of left field was not great and only had speed. This off-season he has clearly bulked up and hopefully will have a much better season. He is in the Pirates future plans, but this season could be an indicator to how he does offensively.

 3. Pedro Alvarez- Alvarez was rumored to gain weight this off-season in what was considered the biggest no-big deal story of the Pirates off-season. Pedro is being compared to Adam Dunn and will need to rack up the home runs and have moments like that walk-off home run in Colorado. He a huge part to the Pirates offense so if he fails, so does this team.

 4. Ronny Cedeno- Cedeno is an average defender and a below average hitter. He is hitting .217 this Spring and is only starting because there is no one who can replace him, although Pedro Ciriaco is having a nice spring. Cedeno needs to have a good season, or else there will not be any real reason to keep him in the lineup.

 Winner: Matt Diaz

 Cedeno is right up there but Diaz is going to be a big part of the offense especially since we could always use help hitting southpaws.

 Finally here are my thoughts for 2011 season predictions.

 Team MVP: Andrew McCutchen

 Cutch is the best all-around player on this team and should put up similar numbers to last season.

 Ryan Doumit will be released and not traded.

 Paul Maholm will be traded to the New York Yankees and either Matt Diaz or Garrett Jones will be traded.

 Pirates will have another winning April and will once again fall apart in May

 Charlie Morton will have the most wins on the staff followed by Ross Ohlendorf, although no starter will have double digit wins

 Jeff Karstens will somehow get back into the starting rotation

 Brad Lincoln will come up to the big club and perform well

 Rudy Owens will struggle when he comes up a la Brad Lincoln. He will be Brad Lincoln 2.0

 Chris Snyder will continue the catching curse and he will get injured and Dusty Brown and Jason Jaramillo will platoon a la Jaramillo and Robinzon Diaz from a couple seasons ago.

 Pirates will steal bases left and right… and will largely be successful

 Cutch will be the Pirates lone All-Star this season

 It will be the Pirates hitting that sets them back as Ray Searage will do a good job as Pirates pitching coach

 The Pirates will have a 42-39 record at home and thus will have road issues once again.

PirateFest 2011: Grading the players, managers and others

Baseball experts grade trades, but obviously there has not been a big trade in Pirates baseball lately. PirateFest is a way of players and coaches saying thanks to the fans and some players do it better than others. This entry is meant to grade the players on their off the field activities and behaviors and in Christmas terms show who was naughty and who was nice.

Manager Clint Hurdle Grade- A+: Clint Hurdle gets it; he knows that Pirates fans have dealt with a losing team for 18 seasons and he knows how hungry this city is for a winner. I was at PirateFest on Friday and Sunday and both days Hurdle was active. Friday he endured two consecutive hours of questioning from fans (Ask Pirates Management which he also participated in on Saturday and Q&A involving all players and coaches) and also had interviews with Joe Bendel of ESPN 970 AM and Stan Savran for Inside Pirates Baseball. I was at the Savran interview, and before it, he posed for pictures (including one with me) and signed autographs. He really is the anti John Russell as he tells you what he thinks and tried to make an effort to talk with as many fans as possible. He was very active on Saturday as well I heard. A small complaint was after his obligation of participating in the Youth Clinic on the baseball field, he left. Still, after the clinic he signed autographs for as long as he could and talked with some fans. Before he left he thanked host Joe Klimchak and shook my hand and left. Kudos to Hurdle for making us all huge believers in his philosophy. Here’s to hoping, he can keep the players motivated and build a winner.

Jeff Banister- Grade A: Banister had a tough role, because if you did not identify him, chances are that not many Pirate fans would have known who he was. He had only one question directed towards him at Friday’s Season Ticket Q&A so it was tough on him there. Also, when the players were escorted to the break room, I saw Banister being escorted and no one ran after him for an autograph or anything. Banister was a big part of Saturday’s and Sunday’s Youth Clinic. I saw a part of the Sunday event and Banister seemed to be a big hit with the kids. One kid asked him if he had a World Series ring and Banister said that he did not, but he took off his Minor League ring and let the child hold it and pass it around. The fact that Banister trusted a kid with a valuable possession of his and also was able to interact with parents and children really speaks a lot about him as a person. Banister stayed longer for autographs than Hurdle after the Sunday clinic. Banister still will not be a household name, but remember, he almost became our manager and he showed glimpses of being able to handle the job.

Ray Searage Grade C-: This grade would be lower if he did not participate in Saturday’s Youth Clinic. Searage got a lot of questions thrown at him at Friday’s Season Ticket Q&A. One such question involved whether Searage or Chris Snyder should receive more credit for the pitchers improving their numbers. Searage immediately replied “Sny-rich” which drew some laughs. Searage was not used much and I did not see him at all on Sunday which was a shame as I would have been interested in talking with him. Still, I am taking it a little easy on Searage, especially since fans have not been too high on pitching coaches in the recent past.

Garrett Jones Grade B+: Jones was at PirateFest on Friday and Saturday. Jones made an immediate impact on Friday as both him and Kevin Correia were the first to sign in the MVP Zone which was exclusive for season ticket holders. Jones was active throughout Friday as he participated in two games, autographs signings and the season ticket holder Q&A. Someone asked Jones a question and said, “hypothetically if you were to marry my daughter, which Pirate would be your best man?” Jones paused as the question was an awkward on all counts and then answered Steve Pearce as he was a good friend. After the question, the audience could hear Jones whisper awkward into the mic. Still, not many would answer that question. Jones is really nice to the fans and if you ask him for an autograph, he is one of the nicest guys to get it from. Jones is an engaging guy. He got some points taken off for not attending Sunday’s festivities as I know a lot of kids love Jones. Still, he made an impact on PirateFest.

Jose Tabata Grade B+: Tabata was a huge hit at his first PirateFest. The fans loved Tabata and his charm, as well as his willingness to sign countless autographs for fans. The fans loved when he said “Black and Yellow” when mentioning that he would root for the Steelers. Tabata needs to be less shy and show more of his personality. I was able to break through because I spoke to him in Spanish, but he is not completely comfortable with English yet and that forced him to be a limited and that is why he did not get an A.

Neil Walker Grade B-: I know that I am grading Walker harshly, but he is “The Pittsburgh Kid”. Walker was sick for two days although he did appear Friday on Inside Pirates Baseball and the Player Q&A. He agreed to use “Black and Yellow” by Wiz Khalifa as his new at-bat song in order for one Pittsburgher to support another. Despite being sick, Walker tried to make up for lost time by making appearances on Sunday and it was noticed by parents and kids, but still regardless of the excuse, I was a little under the weather Sunday but I still showed up.

Andrew McCutchen Grade D: I have a huge problem with Andrew McCutchen and it is his off the field attitude. I am a huge fan of his on the field play but off the field he is conceited. I had a similar problem with Nyjer Morgan as both shine when a camera is in their face, but when it is off, they seem to care less about being anywhere. I first encountered this with Cutch at Bowling With the Bucs. I don’t know how to describe it, I mean he signed stuff, but he just felt indifferent and didn’t really feel like talking. McCutchen started out Season Ticket Q&A by signing a kid’s baseball, but soon the autograph requests came in and he kept saying “we’ll see”. Cutch fled quickly afterwards. Fellow ballhawk Erik Jabs also put up a Youtube video of McCutchen at a Caravan stop rolling his eyes at someone who was talking to Ross Ohlendorf because he was taking too long to get to him. At PirateFest on Sunday, he was in the public autograph signing wearing just a black shirt. All of the Pirates wear their home jerseys and it has been that way for years, the problem was corrected during Sunday’s MVP Zone signing session. McCutchen will have to improve his attitude, and fans need to see what is going on.

Paul Maholm Grade A+: Maholm is always good with the fans and if he does go at the trade deadline, then it will be a true loss for Pittsburgh. Maholm posed in photos with fans at a booth on Friday and also signed a ton of autographs all three days. He was a part of games such as Minute to Win It and the Perogie Eating Contest and he is a clear fan favorite. Maholm also was one of the Pirates with which it is easy to communicate with. Hopefully, some of his teammates will take note.

Brad Lincoln Grade A: Lincoln put himself out there, signing autographs for the public and even signing in the Pirates team store. It is easy to root for Lincoln to turn himself around after a disappointing 2010 season in the Major League level. Lincoln was at PirateFest all three days.

Kevin Correia Grade A: Correia told Rob Biertempfl of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that he went to PirateFest to meet his soon to be teammates but he was very social with the fans as well. He put himself out there right away signing for the season ticket holders on Friday in the MVP Zone. There was a video of him released showing a child how to release when throwing the baseball as part of Saturday’s Youth Clinic and he offered encouragement to the child. Correia also signed autographs even when he did not have to and also was willing to talk with the fans. I really hope that he has a nice season, and I believe that if he has any run support, that he will be the breakout player of this team.

Jeff Karstens Grade A: Karstens was at PirateFest all three days and he was active during all of these days. Karstens signed countless autographs without complaining and also participated in a lot of games. He was not a part of Friday’s season ticket Q&A as I believe he was signing autographs elsewhere at PirateFest. What is holding him back a little bit is that he is shy and he is not that engaging when it comes to interacting with the fans. Still, like Maholm, Karstens is very active in Pirates initiatives in the community.

Ross Ohlendorf Grade A+: Ohlendorf easily could have stayed home. I mean he is having a disagreement with Pirates management over his contract and it could take him to arbitration. Freddy Sanchez missed PirateFest a couple of years ago because of this and Doumit missed both the Caravan and PirateFest over a loss of favor in the organization. Ohlendorf could have pulled a Doumit and not come, but that is not Ohlendorf’s style. Not once did I hear Ohlendorf complain, and he signed many autographs and even on Friday when he was supposed to leave the main stage right away, he still signed an autograph and allowed me to take a picture of him. Ohlendorf is one of the nicest players on the team.

James McDonald Grade D+: I heard that McDonald was very nice on Saturday, but still because of illness he was not at Caravan stops and he was only at PirateFest on Saturday. This is supposed to be the ace of the staff and to not have him consistently represent the team gives him a low grade.

Charlie Morton Grade B: I did not see Morton much if at all on Friday. It seemed like he laid low unless he had an autograph signing. I know he played the games, but not much of his personality came out either. Still he did show up and did not complain at all, and for that he deserves a lot of credit.

Evan Meek Grade A+: Meek was great on all three days of PirateFest. He did not complain when signing autographs and he hosted a ton of games while at PirateFest. He made a funny banker at Deal or No Deal and at season ticket Q&A on Friday he really let his personality shine. After games and radio interviews, players are normally whisked away as soon as possible and not allowed to sign autographs, take pictures or sometimes even shake hands. Meek frequently made sure that he had time to do this. This review is unbiased although he is my favorite player and we had a couple of nice genuine conversations. Still, Meek is a great person and should have a great season.

Bob Nutting Grade B+: Nutting was very engaging with fans, myself included on Friday before his appearance on Inside Pirates Baseball and thanked all of us for coming. Nutting takes a lot of heat from fans, and a lot of the criticism he receives is unfair. I know it is easy to blame Nutting, but it is not all his fault. I am not saying that he is doing the best job ever, but still he obviously is doing something right if there is a record breaking crowd at PirateFest. I know that he was there on Sunday to speak to Suite Holders, but compared to Neal Huntington and Frank Coonelly, he was not out enough talking to the fans.

Frank Coonelly Grade A: The only thing preventing him from an A+ is that I did not see him on Sunday. I grade Huntington, Coonelly and Nutting harsher than others because they are expected to be out and about more than the others at PirateFest. On Friday, Coonelly was out and about all day talking to as many of the 3,500 fans that attended as possible. He posed for all kinds of pictures, answered questions at both Ask Pirates Management sessions, signed countless autographs and also tried his best to talk to the fans. The job he did is very commendable and Coonelly understands the need to talk to the fans to find out what they like and don’t like about what he is doing and the direction of the team. Here’s hoping that Coonelly will take in the fan’s opinions all season long in good times and bad.

Neal Huntington Grade A: Neal also took a beating from fans as like Coonelly, he had to answer questions in Ask Pirates Management. I did not see him make the rounds on Friday but he did make the rounds on Sunday and I was one of his many stops. For Huntington this is a make or break year as if the team does fail this season, he very well could go.

 I will have recaps of my Friday and Sunday adventures at PirateFest as well as pictures from Friday’s proceedings up later this week.

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