Results tagged ‘ Joel Hanrahan ’
I was really excited to be back at PNC Park and although the crowds would increase just because of this, I was up for the challenge.
I started with the usual stretching. Then I went onto the bridge to throw and my arm was ready. I was making throws from about halfway across the bridge without any bounces.
Then it was time to brave the over 90 degree heat and try to snag some baseballs.
We all went in to look for easter eggs, I went into the second deck and there hiding under the seat portion was a ball for ball #1. It’s about time I found an easter egg over there. Ushers, prize wheel members and pizza shop owners have been going in and pocketing the baseballs for their own personal benefit. While some are being given to kids, many are kept and that is not right. Remember we are watching and if we catch you then you will have to deal with Dennis and that may mean termination. Think about that.
The highlight of Pirates BP for me was when Pedro Alvarez was hitting. He hit an opposite field ground rule double, and I was two sections over, but quickly ran over and got it for ball #2.
Pirates BP doesn’t usually result in too many baseballs since the first group which contains Andrew McCutchen has already hit.
Twins BP was more promising with their lefties.
Still it wasn’t 5:30 yet so I had to stay in left or play a crowded riverwalk. I went with the first option and since I was the only who knew who pitcher Liam Hendriks was, I got ball #3.
Ball #4 occurred after 5:30 in centerfield. Twins Alex Burnett and the other Twin who I think was Brian Duensing were generous with tossups and Duensing gave me a nice toss up. Assist goes to a random kid who asked them to sign the ball. It made Duensing turn around and got me the ball.
I tried my luck at first base, but it was not to be. So I went to the dugout. It was a packed area but I was the only one with a glove. Perfect.
Twins coach Joe Vavra had baseballs and he was looking for people to throw them too. Ball #5. Can of corn.
That would be it or Tuesday and the Pirates were able to get a win in Ryan Doumit and Matt Capps’ returns to Pittsburgh. I left after the first inning in order to beat the heat.
I would not attend Wednesday’s game due to an appointment and instead went to Greentree to watch summer league basketball.
I did the exact same routine as Tuesday and the throws were still great. In even better news, I finally got my camera so from here on in, you will get to see actual game pics.
I expected big things for this game but when I came in and saw no easter eggs, I looked on the field and the cage was not up yet.
Honestly, my first thought was, “You’ve got to be ******* kidding me!”
Jason Grilli could see the grim looks on everyone’s faces and told us it was hot and the Pirates would not hit. The Twins would though.
I would not get any of the relievers baseballs although I tried to solve a rumor. Quinn a commentor on here said that Doug Slaten would dougie during his time in AAA so when my water accidentally fell and Slaten retrieved it, I asked him and he said he didn’t. Interestingly enough it led to an enjoyable conversation.
Randomly my buddy Euclides Rojas at the very end long tossed me a baseball that landed in the glove for ball #1.
Taking a break from ballhawking I have set out on a mission. I am trying to get my glove signed by as many Pirates as possible. Why? Barring a setback, I intend on this being my last full season of ballhawking. While I definitely enjoy it and would continue doing select road trips, my passion is journalism and I would love to work as an intern with them or cover the team from that perspective all season. I think this will be a cool way to remember what has been a part of my life since July 2009.
Here was the progress thru this game:
Back to the ballhawking portion of this entry. I tried the first base area and was able to get Jared Burton to throw me a ball for the second snag of the day.
That was it for Twins BP so I went to the dugout and try a Joe Vavra toss up again. He tossed a high one so I looked back and judged and made a circus catch for ball #3. Thanks Joe!
From there, it was off to the bullpen for James McDonald vs Liam Hendriks.
Here is a random shot I got. Poor Euclides. I was trying to take a picture of him and this happened.
Meanwhile in the Twins bullpen, Hendriks was still warming up but the relievers were all already in the bullpen and apparently fans of Fifa Soccer as evidenced by this photo which reminded me of the wall in soccer. Also as a reference the first reliever on the left was Burton who threw me ball #2.
Ultimately, Rojas threw me another ball for ball #4 which was awesome.
The bullpen then came in.
Speaking of awesome, the Pirates got off to a fast start, and I left early again and left any hope of the Twins winning with me.
All in all, not a bad series and the Pirates took care of business against the Twins and James McDonald pitched his first ever complete game. McDonald has been a different Pirates pitcher this season and even when I watch him from the bullpen, he is much more confident in himself and his stuff and it is a complete transformation. I would say that getting McDonald at the deadline a couple years back was Neal Huntington’s best move as Pirates GM.
As for me it was on to the Tigers series and more triumphs and frustrations.
Speaking of frustrations, I have decided to challenge myself. PNC Park is considered by many to be the “Best Ballpark in America” however no ballpark is perfect and PNC is far from it. I have decided that for each of the remaining home games starting with the Tigers game on Friday, I would come up with one thing about the ballpark that digusts me and will put it in the entry. At the end of the season there will be a master list compiled. These opinions are mine and mine only with no outside influence.
Well I guess you’ll have to wait for the next entry to see the debut of that as well as how I did in the first game of the Tigers series.
I was only to make one of the three Astros game which truly disappointed me. I really wanted to try and get one of their commemorative baseballs. I would only have one day to do this as I had to teach tennis Friday, and Sunday my parents completely manipulated me and thus I could not go.
Saturday was a disappointment in its own right as well as I had to tooth and nail just to get to my average.
I started out by throwing on the bridge and my arm was the best it was all season. I was throwing halfway across the bridge with pop and I was pleased with how the session went.
I hoped that this positive energy would help me in the ballpark, but of course things did not turn out the way that I had hoped.
I started in left field and of course the ushers were sitting there meaning all of the balls were pocketed… again. It didn’t hurt trying to look anyways, although when I prepared to go up into the second deck someone said, “they’re all gone man. They were pocketed.”
I stayed in left for a few more minutes as Chris Leroux was in left field so we shook hands and talked. Unfortunately he was in the usual relief crowd of people in left center and I decided it was not worth it.
I was headed for the first base side, until I saw Kevin Correia with a ball. A ballhawk called for it and just for the heck of it, I threw up my glove. He ended up throwing it to me for ball #1. That has happened to me so many times where I will call a player’s name and he will throw someone else the ball, so it was nice that I was the beneficiary for a change.
I kept the good vibes going when I got on the first base side. I saw Jared Hughes with two baseballs and I sprinted to get there in time and I ended up getting there just in time.
“Hey do you want one,” He asked.
“Sure,” I replied.
Ball #2. Thanks Jared! This ball was later given away when I thought I lost my Joel Hanrahan bobblehead and a family graciously gave it back to me. The ball went to their youngest child.
The Pirates unfortutely did not have anything else that went my way during BP.
The Astros came out (thank goodness) and started throwing. Reliever Rhiner Cruz and starter Wandy Rodriguez were throwing and Cruz’s toss rolled slightly past Rodriguez and into my glove. I quickly inspected it to see if it was a commemorative. It was not but regardless, I would have thrown them back the ball. While I never got the toss up back (weird), I count the ball.
Something similar happened for ball #4. An Astros reliever had a bouncer that fellow reliever Wilton Lopez couldn’t quite handle and it went straight into my glove. Unfortunately, it was not a commemorative (Astros did not have any in their bag) and again another toss back. The ball was never given back to me, but that’s okay.
That was it for all of BP. Astros BP generally stunk so I just stayed over at first base and tried to get a toss up at the end, which did not work out.
I then went to my spot in the bullpen where bullpen coach Euclides Rojas warmed up catcher Michael McKenry and afterwards looked at me and tossed me ball #5. I gave this to a young kid standing close to me. The child’s mother was very grateful.
The good vibes spread to the Pirates who would win this game after a disappointing 1-0 loss the previous day.
Here are some photos from the game:
This really could have been the series that was, but it ended up being the series that was not, although for once it was not my fault. More on that later.
Starting off with May 8, I was very excited, I had started work at The Pittsburgh Fan that day and had my internship with Pittsburgh Sports Report start the day before. I am pleased with both as they are great resume makers and mix my love for sports with journalism, which in the long run will help me reach the goals that I have set for myself in the real world.
I took this excitement which coupled with my back being pretty close to normal to the Clemente Bridge when work ended at 4 PM for me. I was excited to be able to throw with full motion for the first time since almost 10 days before when I threw a side session with my friend Colston on Lind Field in Kennedy Township.
It was raining when we threw but we did not make much of it as radar said that it would pass. I did not even rush to get my coat and kept throwing.
I was excited to get into PNC Park for BP, except I saw the tarp go out on the field right as our throwing session. Are you kidding me? Whether it was the head of the grounds crew Manny Lopez or PNC Park Operations, I did not support this decision and they made a hasty decision.
So we went in to find that there were no Easter Eggs. To make things even worse, the rain was a drizzle by the time.
Unfortunately, this is not Cleveland and thus any chance of BP was over. Honestly if the grounds crew is reading this now, I will keep it nice and say that if you did not place the tarp on the field, you would not have had to water the field at all, it would have been all taken care of. Most of you were quite grumpy this week, be patient and let it ride especially since luck has not been on your side regarding tarping the field for BP.
Of course 5-10 minutes after us season ticket holders got in, the Nationals pitchers threw and the first base ushers pocketed all of the balls so we got nothing out of that. Oh and to the ushers, we are watching, so do not act like you did not pick the baseballs up. I was told by PNC Park Operations that if a baseball is pocketed that it must be given to a child or fan. Out of respect I will leave it that I was told that disciplinary actions would be taken for ushers who do not respect this rule.
Anyways, the Nationals outfielders were joined by Third Base Coach Bo Porter who showed the outfielders how to handle the bounces off of various parts of the PNC Park wall. Porter tried tossing me the ball, but overshot me and it was snagged by another ballhawk. Apparently there is a rule among ballhawks that if a ball is overthrown then the person that the ball was intended for should be able to go and get the ball. I guess not, so come 5:30 I was understandably ticked.
With a shutout definitely a strong possibility and the Nationals off of the field, I figured it was worth a try to talk to a familiar face in former Pirates Coach Trent Jewett who now coaches for the Nationals.
I needed to extend my streak so when Jewett was done talking to Pirates broadcaster Steve Blass, I politely waited for him to sign an autograph and asked if there was a chance to get a baseball.
“I don’t think any around,” he said. “Sorry… oh wait I see one here. Hold on a second.”
A very short while later he popped back up and tossed me ball #1. Relief.
I then decided to head to the bullpen and watch A.J. Burnett and Edwin Jackson warm up.
Before the pitchers warmed up, I received a nice little gift from Herbie Andrade. He came out of his usual tunnel with a baseball which was a surprise. It is a part of his routine to get in the bullpen around 6:30 but he usually does not bring out a baseball. I was caught off guard and was talking to someone and holding a very larged sized water in my non-glove hand.
After he caught up with another former Pirate coach and now Bullpen Coach Jim Lett, he came in with the baseball, said his usual hello and tossed up baseball number two catching me by total surprise.
As for the game, I was able to stay today as a buddy of mine Andy Conte who was a professor I had last semester, helped me get published in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, made me a better writer and so much more was willing to give me a ride back home. I sat with him and was relatively close to the action. I was pleased that the Pirates were able to shut down Bryce Harper and the Nationals offense.
Despite the small crowd, it was definitely a festive atmosphere and when Rod Barajas got his first home run, a walk off giving the Pirates the win I went crazy. Andy was with three buddies from the Tribune-Review and we all were high fiving and jumping up and down like crazy. It was awesome and I don’t ever remember being that excited about a walkoff either.
As a final picture for that game, here are Andy and myself.
I would like to say that the next day was better, alas it was nearly a carbon copy of the previous day. Erik and I threw a few minutes after four and of course it rained for 25 minutes. It was not a strong rain and of course it stopped right before us season ticket holders were to enter the ballpark.
Manny Lopez of course made the decision to tarp the field, so the exact same procedure as yesterday happened. Grounds crew has to remove the tarp right after they put it on, the Nationals threw and 4-5 more baseballs were pocketed by ushers and things were bleak.
Not to sound like Passover, but what made this game different from the previous game? There were signs of life from the Pirates as six players came out to throw.
Joel Hanrahan turned to the fans after his session and saw me and after our connection at Bowling With the Bucs, he gave me a throw. It was an overthrow but I snagged it for ball one without the need to jump. I was pleased as any chance of a shutout was gone early.
That was it, although I stayed for the entire game once again.
No pictures for this game as I was running late, forgot my camera and nearly arrived late to work.
I was able to get ball #2 from Herbie Andrade who helped me out again after Joel Hanrahan warmed up for the ninth inning. Thanks Herbie!
Joel had an emotional night having lost his grandmother. He would be placed on the bereavement list after the game and not return until Sunday. He did get the save and pointed to the heavens soluting his mothers.
I stayed after the game as the grounds crew cleaned up the bullpens. I did that as there was a ball by the bullpen. I saw a “ballhawk” trying to get it, but knowing that his catching ability was suspect, I stood there. This “ballhawk” keeps his baseballs, and there were a couple of guys that were to get the ball, and I wanted to make sure the ball would go to the right person and not used as Ebay bait to fund road trips.
The grounds crew member made a bad throw and it was going to be a scrum between myself and the “ballhawk”. I ended up with it and made sure to give it right over to the guy asking for it. He had two or three friends with them and they all shook my hand, patted me on the back, thanked me and wished me a good night before parting ways.
The last game marked the return of my camera. I did not want to forget it this time, Stephen Strasburg was starting and to boot Kevin Correia guaranteed that he would hit a home run against him (he ended up going 0-2 with two strikeouts).
Also great news was the fact that there was batting practice and there was no rain in sight. All I have to say is, it’s about time because if the grounds crew messed me up again, I would have been so upset.
I did another throwing session and have been working on a sidearmed throw which I think is going well.
Upon entering the ballpark, I saw the left field ushers sitting down and I know immediately what that meant. The balls were pocketed and it has turned into last year all over again.
Despite threats to “badly injure me” and the false idea that my charity initiative was “fake” (more on this in a future post), I came away with a nice haul.
Ball 1: It took a while to get on the board but my buddy Jason Grilli hooked me up and got my day started off in the right direction.
Ball 2: I was spotted by Bullpen Coach Euclides Rojas and he threw me a perfect ball.
Ball 3: Jose Tabata was fielding baseballs in the outfield for a drill and a ball was hit right by the left field foul pole. My Spanish was quick enough to get the baseball.
I will take a break in the action to say that from here my buddy Mark Strittmatter came into left field. I could not have been any more excited. I pumped my fist and went over by where he was.
Immediately Strittmatter and I made eye contact, waved and smiled at each other and I knew he would help me out once again.
Surprisingly, quite a few baseballs went his way and he gave me every other toss up or at least one of every three. This allowed me to get balls 4, 5 and 6. Yes some of you may view this as cheap, and I understand, but when you are raising money for charity, this goes a long way and of course they all count.
That was it for the Pirates portion of BP and the Nationals prepared to hit.
I saw that the Nationals were in Los Angeles last week, and my buddy Nick got a Dodgers 50th anniversary commemorative baseball from the Nationals on Tuesday, so my goal was to hopefully snag one of those.
I had rotten luck in left field as former Pirates Xavier Nady would not throw anything into the crowd.
I looked in centerfield for baseballs at 5:30 but they were pocketed by either the ushers, or a fan who happens to get in early at each game and gets to sit in her seat.
Of course, I had Henry Rodriguez all lined up to throw me a ball, but he had other ideas and I just missed a BP home run.
The chances for double digits were running thin, so I had to act fast.
After a narrow miss of a high bouncer and a playful groan from Nady, reliever Ryan Perry fielded the ball and did a no look and over the shoulder toss to me. I had to catch it barehanded which I did for ball 7. I took one look and sighed, still no commemorative. I just ended up giving it to an usher to give to a kid.
I then decided to move to left field where Roger Bernadina was. I was unable to get him to toss me one, but I wanted to try for a few minutes more before I moved to the dugout to try and get one.
A right handed batter gave me ball #8, as he hit a ball that went in the small area at left field. I thought I saw something bizarre about the ball and no one else seemed to be going after it. I charged at it right away despite it being locked. I stepped over it, picked it up, and found this:
It was the commemorative I had wanted! I said in a whisper to no one in particular, “that was a commemorative.” I am so glad I didn’t pinch my nerve on this one like I did for the Angels baseball last year.
A couple of minutes later, Nationals reliever Ryan Mattheus gave me a nice toss for ball #9. No commemorative there, so I gave it to another usher to give to a kid.
I then went over to the Nationals dugout where I kept my glove up and got rewarded as some random coach threw me ball #10 placing me in double digits once more. Even better, it was another commemorative.
With BP over, I went over to the bullpen and watched the game.
The Pirates were looking good but Correia had a rough inning giving up three runs and ultimately that was enough for the Nationals to get the win.
Meanwhile I got robbed twice during the game. Both Nationals home runs went into the bullpen area. For the first, Daniel McCutchen did an over the shoulder toss that was intended for me, but out of nowhere, a fan snagged it and passed a point they were not supposed to. Then he stayed and wouldn’t shut up. So much for the ball being intended for me, fans never will stop being obnoxious.
Former Pirate Sean Burnett heard my call for the second ball, but his throw was terribly off and landed in an area that fans were not allowed to go into. Wow I was not pleased.
Meanwhile, Strasburg struck out 13 Pirates and looked dominant.
Again the Pirates lost and missed out on a chance to sweep. At least I snagged a free hot dog Tuesday that I got to redeem for a fresh one on Thursday.
Also, former Steeler Hines Ward threw out the first pitch to the game.
Thursday was not a bad day by any means, but the no BP really hurt me on Tuesday and Wednesday. I would face more disappointment during the weekend series against the Astros, but more on that another time.
I will start this entry off by saying that I missed this event so much last year after participating in 2009 and 2010. Despite the high cost, Bowling With the Bucs benefits various charities and is worth every penny. Why don’t I let this pictures do the talking, and then I will come back with comments.
All in all Bowling With the Bucs 2012 was great. It was worth every penny which is hard to do since I paid $137.50. I would recommend this event but not if you just want to bowl. I only bowled two games, so if you are going to meet/interact with players and fans and are willing to help out charity, then this event is for you. This event offers more access to the players than a PirateFest does. This also offers you access to almost all of the team, something you may get with only a couple or so players as a season ticket holder.
The Pirates off the top of my head that were not present were hitting coach Gregg Ritchie, pitchers A.J. Burnett and Erik Bedard, catchers Rod Barajas and Michael McKenry and outfielders Yamaico Navarro and Jose Tabata.
Root Sports here in Pittsburgh will have a special for Bowling With the Bucs this coming Thursday at 6 PM Eastern Time. I know I said a couple of small things on there and filmed a less than stellar shot of mine so there is a chance I will make it on.
Finally, a couple of buddies and fellow season ticket holders sit in section 134 of PNC Park and write a blog. They interviewed me in a blog post entitled ‘Bowling with the Bucs’ a Success for Weiss, Fans.
Here is the link to a post, which includes more info on Kevin Correia’s home run guarantee, my charity iniative and how to follow me on various social media networks:
The Pirates had an active morning starting with the signing of their all-star closer Joel Hanrahan. The signing means that the Pirates avoid arbitration for Hanrahan. The Pirates and Hanrahan agreed to a one-year deal worth $4.1 million with incentives based on performance totaling $50,000. Last season, Hanrahan went 1-4 but had an ERA of 1.84 and had 40 saves. Clint Hurdle seemed to make it clear that Hanrahan was to be used only to save games. Hanrahan also seemed to struggle with the four out save. The record is a little alarming and the ERA could have been lower had it not been for a regression in the second half of the season. Hanrahan still has that great fastball and I think he could be very successful. A very good and important sign for this Pirates team.
The Pirates also signed Charlie Morton to a one year deal. The deal is worth $2,445,000. I am sure the amount could have been higher had it not been for an injury Morton is working back from. The injury will force him to be unavailable for Opening Day and late-April is his estimated time of arrival back to the Pirates. Morton went 10-10 last season with a 3.83 ERA. Morton saw a delivery overhaul when he switched to pitching in a style similar to that of Roy Halladay. He earned the nicknames “Ground Chuck” and “Electric Stuff” for these efforts and while his control sometimes was off, the results were much better for both Morton and the Pirates.
I got a chance to speak to both Hanrahan and Morton during the early stages of last season, and both were very candid with me.
Morton talked to me about the delivery and how it was started during Spring Training. This does not seem like a big deal now, but this was in April, before the media really picked up on the story and made it into (in the Post-Gazette’s case) a two part series. I found it telling that he compared this new motion to the old one.
“I think what happened was mechanically, I was showing the ball really early,” Morton said. “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.”
For Hanrahan, he was talking to me about that feeling of nailing down the save and having total control over any hitter that stepped up to the plate.
“That’s a great day any day you can do that,” Hanrahan said. “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.”
As a side note, a quick congratulations to Joel Hanrahan on now being a married man as he tied the knot very recently with Kim.
The Pirates now have four arbitration-eligible players left, and they are Garrett Jones, Jeff Karstens, Casey McGehee and Evan Meek.
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.
*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
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.”
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?
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.”
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.”
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.”
” 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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.