Closer Joel Hanrahan today was named the Pirates’ 2011 MVP by the Pittsburgh chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America, which voted him the winner of the annual Roberto Clemente Award. Center fielder Andrew McCutchen and second baseman Neil Walker were the second- and third-leading vote-getters, respectively.
Hanrahan last summer racked up 40 saves in 44 chances with a 1.83 ERA and earned an All-Star berth. “I didn’t set any goals for myself last season; all my goals were team goals,” Hanrahan said. “But I think I proved to myself and everybody else around the league that I can do this job.” In 175 games with the Pirates, the right-hander has 46 saves, a 2.55 ERA and a 1.173 WHIP. That’s a sharp contrast to Hanrahan’s stats in 115 games with the Nationals from 2007-09 (14 saves, 5.30 ERA and 1.643 ERA). “I’ve been a different pitcher since I was traded to Pittsburgh,” he said.
The Pittsburgh BBWAA also named Walker the winner of the 2011 Chuck Tanner Award for accessible to and open with the media. Runners-up were righty Charlie Morton and Hanrahan.
Jamie Chancellor Brewington, whom the Pirates on Wednesday hired as a pro scout, faces a hearing April 2 in Maricopa County (Ariz.) Court in Phoenix, for non-payment of child support. The Pirates knew of Brewington’s legal issues before he was hired. “We were aware of it,” general manager Neal Huntington said. “I believe everyone deserves a second chance. It’s very important to us and to Jamie that he meets his obligation, and he is working hard to do so.”
Brewington, 40, of Chandler, Ariz., is a former major league pitcher and has not played pro ball since 2004. He did not return a phone call from the Tribune-Review.
In his 12-year career, Brewington pitched in 39 total games with the San Francisco Giants (1995) and Cleveland Indians (2000). On July 16, 2000, Brewington got his ninth and final career victory by tossing 1 1/3 scoreless innings in relief in the Indians’ 6-4 victory against the Pirates. After retiring from baseball, Brewington worked as an enrollment representative for the University of Phoenix and an account manager for Corporate Flooring Solutions, Inc. He also made baseball training videos.
The Pirates have scouted Cuban outfielders Yoennis Cespedes and Jorge Soler for several years and could be among the bidders when the players officially become free agents sometime this month. But don’t expect the club to stay in the hunt when (not if) the bidding shoots gets crazy. Cespedes is expected to command a price of $30 million to $50 million.
Most scouts rate Cespedes, 26, as potentially the best player ever to come out of Cuba. Soler, 19, also is a fine player but not the same caliber of talent as Cespedes. “We like (Soler), but it’s like comparing Roseanne Barr to Marilyn Monroe,” a senior Pirates scout told me. The bidding frenzy around Cespedes probably will drive up the price for Soler, some say as high as $20 million. That’s another price the Pirates might not be willing to pay.
»»» The Pirates would like to add to their starting pitching depth, and are eying possible trades as much as the remnants on the free-agent market. Nothing seems imminent on either front. As my colleague Dejan Kovacevic reports, the Bucs talked with lefty PaulMaholm about coming back, but the odds of that happened are highly unlikely. The Cubs and Orioles are interested in Maholm. The initial asking prices for Japanese league vets Hisashi Iwakuma and Wei-Yin Chen are higher than the Pirates are willing to pay — interest in them has cooled, but things could change in the run-up to spring training.
»»» GM Neal Huntington will huddle with his top lieutenants for five days next week in Bradenton, Fla. The annual organizational meetings will map out such things as draft strategy, the minor league depth chart, and trade and free agent targets. The team also will open the Pirate City complex to players for voluntary, unstructured workouts. I’ll be in (hopefully sunny) Bradenton for a couple of days next week, so check back here for updates.
»»» Assuming his 50-game suspension for using a banned substance is upheld, Brewers slugger Ryan Braun could make his season debut May 31 on the road against the Dodgers. The next day, the Brewers return to Miller Park to open a three-game series against — surprise! — the Pirates. During his suspension, Braun will miss seven games against the Cubs, six against the Cardinals, five against the Astros and three against the Reds. The only NL Central team not to benefit from Braun’s absence will be the Pirates. In 72 games against the Pirates, Braun has a 1.029 OPS, 20 home runs and 73 RBI.
»»» Well-traveled shortstop Pedro Ciriaco has signed with the Boston Red Sox. Ciriaco went up and down from Triple-A Indy to the Pirates six times last season.
»»» Former Pirates pitcher Josh Sharpless will be a volunteer assistant coach this year at LaRoche College.