In about 48 hours, pitchers and catchers will hold their first official spring training workout at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla. Many of the fellas, including several position players, already are there and busy on the fields. And, there is every indication that right-hander A.J. Burnett will soon join them. ESPN’s Buster Olney tweeted that the proposed trade between the Pirates and Yankees has been sent to the commissioner’s office for approval. The Bucs will send two low-level minor leaguers to the Yanks and also will pick up about $13 million of Burnett’s salary.
»»» Righty Ross Ohlendorf told the Boston Herald that playing for the Pirates was fine when he needed a way to break into the majors, but he figures joining the Red Sox will have even better benefits. “When I got traded to Pittsburgh (from the Yankees in 2008), at the point where I was in my career, it was a really good opportunity,” Ohlendorf said. “But I feel like now, I’m really excited about having the opportunity to compete for a World Series. Obviously, the Red Sox are that caliber of team every year.” Ohlendorf signed a minor league deal with the Sox yesterday. He’ll go to camp as a starter, but could be shifted to a bullpen role.
»»» Pirates Charities will hold its second annual “Pirates 5K Home Run” on April 21. Runners can participate individually or in teams, and there also is a one-mile family fun run. Last year’s event raised $68,000. To register, go to www.pirates.com/5Khomerun or call 412-325-4776.
The Pirates won their arbitration case today against Garrett Jones and settled with Casey McGehee shortly before their hearing was scheduled to begin. Jones will make $2.25 million this season instead of the $2.5 million he had requested. McGehee got a one-year contract worth $2.5375 million, which is the midpoint of the salary figures submitted for arbitration.
Since the salary arbitration process was created in 1974, the Pirates are 10-10 in hearings. Overall, clubs have won 291 out of 505 cases (57.6 percent) against players. Today marked the first arby triumph for GM Neal Huntington, who last year lost his case against righty Ross Ohlendorf. Ohlendorf, you’ll recall, went on to have a forgettable season marked by injury and ineffectiveness and was non-tendered this offseason. Today, he signed a minor league deal with the Red Sox.
I’ve been calling around to folks I know in the industry to piece together a scouting report on current Yankees and probably-soon-to-be Pirates right-hander A.J. Burnett. As I was crawling toward the Squirrel Hill tunnel this morning, a long-time American League scout buzzed my iPhone.
From the perspective of Pirates fans, the scout’s news was mostly good: “Burnett still can pitch. Can he win 10 to 12 games this year for the Pirates? Sure. Being back in the National League will help him a lot. His fastball plays at 92-95 mph and when his curveball is on, it’s very good.”
But there’s some bad news, too: “His breaking ball is easy to read when it comes out of his hand … so he’s pretty much a two-pitch pitcher. When things go south on him, he kind of throws his arms up and gives up. And he’s got to be coddled by the pitching coach and the manager. Some of his antics wore thin in the Yankees’ clubhouse, I think.”
In 2009, Burnett began smooshing a whipped cream pie in his teammates’ faces to celebrate walkoff wins. The act was a hit when the Yanks won the World Series, but may have gotten stale the past couple of years. The scout also pointed out that Burnett can be feast-or-famine on the hill. He’ll be dominant and throw a two-hit shutout one start, then get shelled in the first three innings in the next. “He doesn’t give you enough of those middle-of-the-road games — the ones where he gives up three, four or five runs in six or seven innings — to give you a shot.”
The scout’s bottom line: Burnett would improve the Pirates’ rotation, but not enough to make the team a contender for the NL pennant.
I was not surprised to learn yesterday that the Pirates had tried to woo Edwin Jackson and Roy Oswalt. There are legit concerns about whether Erik Bedard, Kevin Correia and Jeff Karstens can make it through a full season in the starting rotation. Bedard and Correia are injury risks, while Karstens tends to run out of steam after the All-Star break. The Pirates have money to spend and getting either Jackson or Oswalt would have boosted the rotation while also giving the front office something to tout to Pirates fans and other free agents.
I also was not very surprised to hear that 38-year-old first baseman Dmitri Young will get a tryout at Pirate City. At first blush, it might seem crazy. Young is 38 and hasn’t taken a hack in the majors since 2008. From 2006-08, Young played a total of 234 games and hit 24 home runs.
But don’t be in a hurry to laugh off this move. For starters, the Pirates desperately need a solution at first base. Could it be Young? I did a double-take when I saw Young in the lobby of the Hilton Anatole during the Winter Meetings. (Here’s a photo.) He’s dropped 75 pounds — down to 232 — and is as light as he was in high school. Also important, he seems to have finally gotten a handle on personal issues that dogged him over the past few years. The Pirates were wowed by reports that Young is swinging the bat well in workouts and figured it’s worth a gamble to give him a shot.
»»» McKechnie Field, the Pirates’ spring training home since 1969, will soon get a $7.5-million facelift. Manatee County officials yesterday approved funding for improvements that include more seats, a boardwalk that will ring the 90-year-old stadium, a tiki bar and a new sound system. The Pirates in turn will hike their annual marketing budget to $400,000.
»»» Last week’s Pirates fan poll asked what you think about the team’s offseason roster moves. Here are the results: Super! They filled all their needs and will be a better team. — 38 votes (6 percent); Meh. They did OK, but did not do enough to improve the team. — 398 votes (67 percent); Ugh. They’re worse off than they were a year ago. — 161 votes (27 percent).
This week’s question concerns what the Pirates must do to lure big-time free agents. You can find the poll on the left side of the Trib’s Pirates coverage page, a bit below the link for this blog.
»»» Here’s a disturbing account of censorship by the New York Mets. Author/blogger Howard Megdal had his credentials yanked because his coverage isn’t rah-rah enough for the team’s liking. Megdal has written a book, “Wilpon’s Folly,” which details the Mets’ financial and legal woes.