Category Archives: Pirates

Pirates A.M. — Marte, Polanco v. the Pirates

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By Rob Biertempfel

MatePolancoDRBRADENTON, Fla. — It’s going to be a bit unusual this afternoon seeing Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco wearing visiting uniforms at LECOM Park. The two outfielders are playing for the Dominican Republic’s World Baseball Classic team, which will play an exhibition against the Pirates. On Tuesday, the DR lost 5-4 against the Orioles.

Manager Clint Hurdle expects the DR will use its regular starters. “I’ve got to imagine they’ll throw their guys at us, because they’ve got games coming up,” Hurdle said. “It’s going to be a good test.”

It should be interesting to watch Polanco and Marte dig in against Gerrit Cole and Tyler Glasnow. “That will be different,” Hurdle said with a smile. “We’ll see how our pitching philosophy works out against them.”

>>> DR manager Tony Pena talks about his memories of McKechnie Field and what he thinks about Polanco and Marte (please ignore the cameo appearance by Jayson Starks camera phone; it was tight quarters in the dugout):

>>> Wednesday’s game: Dominican Republic at Pirates, 1:05 p.m., LECOM Park, Bradenton. Webcast: pirates.com

Dominican Republic: Carlos Santana 3, Robinson Cano 4, Manny Machado 5, Jose Bautista 7, Nelson Cruz DH, Starling Marte 8, Jean Segura 6, Gregory Polanco 9, Wilington Castillo 2. RHP Wily Peralta

Also pitching for Dominican Republic: RH Tyler Eppler, LH Cody Dickson, LH Jared Lakind, RH Cesar Valdez

Pirates: Alen Hanson 4, Jordy Mercer 6, Josh Bell 3, David Freese 5, John Jaso 9, Eury Perez 7, Danny Ortiz 8, Jackson Williams 2, Gerrit Cole RHP.

Also pitching for Pirates: RH Tyler Glasnow, LH Dan Runzler, RH Angel Sanchez, RH Pat Light

>>> The Dominican team will wear black armbands in honor of Andy Marte and Yordano Ventura.

>>> There definitely is a heightened security presence, including bomb-sniffing doges, at LECOM Park. The DR team arrived on two buses and passed through a tented area (with a black curtain) as they entered the clubhouse.

>>> Three Pirates minor leaguers — Tyler Eppler, Cody Dickson and Jared Lakind — will work out of the DR’s bullpen today.

>>> Most of the folks who follow me on Twitter apparently don’t particularly care about the WBC:

>>> You want links? I’ve got links:

Some advice from Cole and Ray Searage might push Steven Brault over the top in the battle for the lone open job in the rotation.

How does Chris Stewart keep Father Time at bay? Fewer spring training starts, more ice-tub baths and more massages.

Pirates 6, Braves 3. A gusty wind helps Austin Meadows at the plate, hurts him in right field.

>>> Thursday’s game: Pirates at Rays, 1:05 p.m., Charlotte Sports Park, Port Charlotte. Webcast: pirates.com

Pirates: Lineup TBA. RHP Chad Kuhl. Also pitching for Pirates: LH Felipe Rivero, RH A.J. Schugel and LH Wade LeBlanc

Rays: Lineup TBA. LHP Blake Snell. Also pitching for Rays: RH Tommy Hunter, RH David Carpenter, RH Ryan Garton, RH Kevin Gadea, LH Justin Marks

>>> Friday’s game: Rays at Pirates, 1:05 p.m., LECOM Park, Bradenton. Radio: 93.7 FM. TV: Root

Rays: Lineup TBA. RHP Matt Andriese. Also pitching for Rays: TBA

Pirates: TBA. Also pitching for Pirates: TBA

Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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Pirates A.M. — Opening day

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LECOMsign2017By Rob Biertempfel

BRADENTON, Fla. — Opening day! (Sort of.) Check my blog every morning during spring training for lineups, pitching matchups, game notes and such. I’ll try to update it throughout the morning as things happen, too.

If you’re coming to the game at LECOM Park (BFKMF), allow for some extra time to pass through security. The Pirates have installed walk-though metal detectors at all gates.

>>> TODAY’S GAMES

Orioles at Pirates, 1:05 p.m., LECOM Park, Bradenton

Orioles: Joey Rickard  7, Craig Gentry 9, Manny Machado 6, Adam Jones 8, Jonathan Schoop 4, Chris Johnson 5, Trey Mancini 3, Anthony Santander DH, Audry Perez 2. Gabriel Ynoa RHP.

Also pitching for Orioles: RHP Parker Bridwell, RHP Jason Garcia, LHP Jed Bradley, RHP Zach Stewart

Pirates: Adam Frazier 6, Starling Marte 8, Andrew McCutchen 9, Gregory Polanco 7, David Freese 5, Jason Rogers 3, Alen Hanson 4, Elias Diaz 2, Barrett Barnes DH. Brault LHP.

Also pitching for Pirates: RHP Trevor Williams, LHP Tony Watson, RHP Daniel Hudson, LHP Felipe Rivero, RHP Juan Nicasio, LHP Antonio Bastardo, RHP A.J Schugel, RHP Pat Light.

Pirates at Rays, 1:05 p.m., Charlotte Sports Park, Port Charlotte

Pirates: Josh Harrison 4, Jordy Mercer 6, John Jaso 3, Eric Wood DH, Joey Terdoslavich 9, Jose Osuna 7, Phil Gosselin 5, Austin Meadows 8, Jacob Stallings 2. Josh Lindblom RHP

Also pitching for Pirates: RHP Tyler Eppler, LHP Dan Runzler, RHP Edgar Santana, LHP Jared Lakind, RHP Dovydas Neverauskas, LHP Cody Dickson

Rays: Corey Dickerson DH, Kevin Kiermaier 8, Rickie Weeks 3, Jake Bauers 7, Nick Franklin 4, Curt Casali 2, Willy Adames 6, Patrick Leonard 5, Shane Peterson 9. David Carpenter RHP

Also pitching for Rays: LHP Dana Eveland, RHP Danny Farquhar, RHP Cory Rasmus, LHP Justin Marks, RHP Neil Wagner, RHP Taylor Guerrieri

>>> Sunday’s game: Pirates (RHP Jameson Taillon) at Orioles (LHP Wade Miley), 1:05 p.m., Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota. Also pitching for Pirates: RHP Tyler Glasnow, RHP Drew Hutchison, RHP Jared Hughes, LHP Tyler Webb.

>>> Gerrit Cole will throw a two-inning simulated game on Sunday.

>>> Monday’s game: Pirates (RHP Chad Kuhl) at Blue Jays (RHP Marcus Stroman), 1:05 p.m., Florida Auto Exchange Stadium, Dunedin.

>>> Francisco Cervelli either won the cook-off after yesterday’s workout or he’s the new heavyweight champion of the world. Cervelli had a large title belt draped over his chair in the clubhouse this morning.

Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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My 2016 Hall of Fame ballot

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I always liked the hat-backwards look on Junior.
I always liked the hat-backwards look on Junior.

Seven names on my ballot this year.

Ken Griffey Jr. – The first name I checked off. An easy choice.

Trevor Hoffman – Great walk-in song, even better stuff on the mound.

Mike Piazza – The last name I checked. A very difficult choice for me because of he’s admitted using Andro (which was legal and available over the counter at the time). I talked with a lot of other writers and current/past players about him, and was finally swayed to include him on my ballot.

Jeff Bagwell – He ranks sixth on career WAR among first basemen. Of those among the top eight, only Bagwell and Albert Pujols (who’s not yet HOF eligible, of course) are not on the Hall.

Lee Smith – Retired as the all-time saves leader. He held the title until Hoffman surpassed him in 2006, making Smith one of five relievers who have held the career saves crown longer than one year. A trendsetter in the ’80s and early ‘90s.

Curt Schilling – Averaged 4.383 strikeouts per walk, the second-best career mark in MLB history. Ranks 24th in career WAR, compared to pitchers currently in the Hall. An amazing playoffs pitcher – in five elimination games, he put up a 1.37 ERA and his team won all five games.

Alan Trammell – One of the faces of the game in the ‘80s. I was on the fence about him the past couple of years, though. Barry Larkin won me over last summer when he told the Detroit Free Press: “Let’s talk about Alan Trammell. He’s a Hall of Famer. He belongs in there. He should be there. You look at the numbers and it’s not just numbers. It’s how he did it, how long he did it.” I looked into the numbers and talked with those who covered Trammell and played with him.

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Friday Farm Report: Pirates draft edition

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NewmanTucker

The Pirates’ selection of Arizona junior shortstop Kevin Newman with their first pick in the Major League Baseball draft caused many fans to ask, “Why?” After all, just a year ago, the team used the No. 24 overall spot to draft Cole Tucker, a shortstop out of Mountain Pointe (Ariz.).

Not since 1994 and 1995 had the Pirates used their first picks to snag non-pitchers who played the same position. Using top picks for such a purpose certainly defied conventional MLB wisdom.

General manager Neal Huntington wants Pirates fans to take a deep breath and realize that a draftee’s position designation often changes as he progresses through the farm system.

“The reality is most high school position players are probably shortstops or if they’re outfielders, they’re centerfielders,” Huntington said. “If you go back through, most relievers were starters. It’s just where the best athletes and best players typically end up are catcher, shortstop and centerfield in high school. Then they gravitate outward. … It is great to have depth at premium defensive positions, especially if they’re offensive as well. Again, a lot of college shortstops will move off the position by the time they get to the big leagues. We believe we’ve got guys that will stay in the middle of the diamond that can swing the bat and do some good things.” Continue reading Friday Farm Report: Pirates draft edition

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More Pirates draft prep…

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Travis Sawchik wrote a lot of good stuff on here earlier today, so that read that, too. Consider this post the second in a series of 2015 MLB draft courses you should consume tonight.

Just after 7 p.m. this evening, the dominoes of the 2015 Major League Baseball draft will begin to fall.

The Pirates must wait until 18 other teams make moves to announce their first-round pick, and after several years of choosing from among the true cream of amateur baseball’s crop with a top-five spot, they’re comfortable with the idea of drafting the best player still on the board at No. 19 and also in the compensatory first round at 32.

Only the first two rounds of the draft will occur tonight. Rounds three through 10 will follow on Tuesday, and the rest will finish up Wednesday.

“The obvious reason we’re glad we’re picking toward the back end of the first round is it means we’ve won,” Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said. “But this is a really good class to be picking at the back end of the first round. “There’s a ton of gray at the top of the draft. … There’s some depth to it, but there’s not the elite, knockdown talent that there has been in the past.

Mock drafts from a variety of sources suggest the Pirates want a high school pitcher with their first and possibly even second pick.

ESPN’s Keith Law and MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo name Stroudsburg High School right-handed pitcher Mike Nikorak as the Pirates’ first pick in the mock drafts they posted today.

MLB.com’s Jim Callis, in conjunction with Mayo’s mock draft story, goes with Kolby Allard, a left-handed pitcher from San Clemente (Calif.) High School.

Baseball America’s John Manuel listed Ashe Russell, a right-handed pitcher from Cathedral Catholic High School in Indianapolis, as the Pirates’ first pick in the mock draft he posted today.

Many of the mock drafts suggest the San Francisco Giants, who pick at No. 18, also want a high school pitcher, so the Pirates’ decision might hinge upon what happens one spot earlier.

Huntington hinted little about the front office’s plan beyond a desire to draft the best player available and dismissed the idea that it’s even possible to meet major league needs with young men who might not last long in the minors.

“They’re so far away,” Huntington said. “Even the college players are three to five years away from having an impact on the major league team. The high school players are six, maybe even seven years away.”

The Pirates’ picks through the first 10 rounds are Nos. 19 (first round), 32 (compensatory first round), 62 (second), 96 (third), 127 (fourth), 157 (fifth), 187 (sixth), 217 (seventh), 247 (eighth), 277 (ninth), 307 (10th).

They have a signing bonus pool allotment of $7,392,200 for their picks in the first 10 rounds. Read more about the slot bonus system and how it affects draftees and teams alike here.

The Pirates’ last took a pitcher in the first round in 2012 — the Mark Appel ordeal, in which Appel turned down the money offered to him as the No. 8 overall pick and returned to Stanford.

They also drafted a pitcher first in 2011 (Gerrit Cole) and 2010 (Jameson Taillon).

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(Belated) Friday Farm Report: Young lefties, sac bunts & Sanchez thoughts

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Because of the concerning recent performances from Jeff Locke and Antonio Bastardo, the topic of left-handed pitchers touches a nerve with the Pirates’ faithful.

Judging by their minor league acquisitions this season, members of the Pirates’ front office are among those who are actively seek a southpaw or two to boost Pittsburgh’s bullpen or starting rotation in the somewhat distant future.

There’s still too little data available to make much of the young new lefties in the system, but here are some small-sample updates.

Stephen Tarpley, a 6-foot-1, 180-pound 22 year old, was the prized piece of the Pirates’ trade that sent outfielder Travis Snider to the Baltimore Orioles in late January. Shoulder fatigue caused Tarpley, a third-round pick by Baltimore in 2013, to miss the beginning of the regular season, but in three starts (15 innings pitched) with Single-A West Virginia Power, he had a 1.20 ERA with a 9.0 K per 9 innings rate, a 2.4 BB/9 rate, and a 1.27 WHIP.

Steven Brault, 23, also came to the Pirates via the Snider trade — he was the player to be named later. The 6-foot-1, 175-pounder had a 3.27 ERA in 55 innings spanned over 11 starts with High-A Bradenton. His 6.1 K/9 rate is below his career average of 7.3. And Brault’s 2.5 BB/9 rate is his highest mark since his 2013, when he pitched for Baltimore’s Low-A affiliate as a rookie.

Bradenton’s rotation also features 22-year-old Jayson Aquino, who joined the Pirates’ system after being acquired for cash considerations from Toronto in May. Aquino had a 3.72 ERA in 29 innings pitched during five starts. He also had a 5.6 K/9 rate and a 2.5 BB/9; both marks are close to his career averages.

Obviously none of these three will join the Pirates anytime soon — Indianapolis’ Clayton Richard (2.08 ERA in 30 1/3 innings pitched) or Altoona’s Zack Dodson (2.63 ERA in 54 2/3 innings pitched) are the buzz-worthy lefty starters in the minors, and Indianapolis reliever Bobby LaFromboise already has spent time with the Pirates this season. But the lefty newcomers avoided damaging their individual credibility during their first few outings.

Sacrifice ritual?

Perhaps no organization welcomes the chance to move a runner over with a sacrifice bunt more than the Pirates.

From top to bottom, the Pirates and their affiliates give up an out to get someone into scoring position far more often than their opponents, according to baseball-reference.com data.

Leading the way is Single-A West Virginia, which leads all MLB and MiLB teams with 40 sacrifice bunts.

With 31, Indianapolis leads the International League and is tied with the Albuquerque Isotopes for the most in Triple-A.

With 23, Bradenton has the most in the Florida State League and second most in High-A.

And with 25, Altoona has the second most in the Double-A Eastern League.

Sanchez’s DH duty

The abundance of catching talent on Indianapolis’ roster has necessitated a 50-50 split in playing time between Tony Sanchez and Elias Diaz, as a story in Sunday’s Pittsburgh Tribune-Review will detail.

One aspect of the story that didn’t make the print edition was Sanchez’s thoughts on serving as a designated hitter; he and Diaz bat at DH to stay in the lineup during series with American League teams.

It’d suffice to say that Sanchez doesn’t see the DH role, or really any offense-first position, as a new avenue to the major leagues

“I give a lot more credit to Big Papi and DHs in the American League, because it’s not an easy position to play,” Sanchez said. “All you’re doing is worrying about your at-bats and getting hits. That’s the only way you can contribute to a team. And being a catcher, there are multiple ways you can contribute to winning a game. So it’s something I had to get used to. I had to come up with my own routine for what I’d do between at-bats when I am DHing. So it’s a learning process, but keeping my bat in the lineup is the only thing that matters.”

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A vote for Bonds and Clemens

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By Joe Rutter

As I was filling out my Hall of Fame ballot — voters can choose up to 10 candidates — I decided it was difficult to check the names of four holdover candidates and three newcomers without giving serious consideration to arguably the greatest left fielder of all time and right-handed power pitcher of several generations.

Which is how I came to reverse course and vote for Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.

Continue reading A vote for Bonds and Clemens

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Cole in the majors? Not yet.

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Late this morning, the Pirates announced they’d signed 1B/OF Brad Hawpe and C Lucas May to minor league deals with non-roster invites to spring training. Also, RHPs Jameson Taillon and Gerrit Cole got non-roster invitations. Since then, I’ve gotten more than a few queries via email and Twitter that essentially consist of some version of these two questions: 1. Does Cole have a chance to break camp with the big league club? 2. OMG, does Hawpe really have a chance to make the team?

First, Cole. And the answer is … NO. Cole, the top pick in 2011, threw a grand total of six innings last summer at Triple-A Indy. Every scout agrees Cole is close to being major league-ready, but he’s not that close. He’ll start the season at Indy and probably stay there until at least July. The hole in the rotation created by Francisco Liriano’s injury probably will be filled by Jeff Karstens (assuming he makes it though his physical and signs the contract). At the winter meetings last month, I asked GM Neal Huntington if Cole had even an outside short of wearing black and gold on Opening Day. Huntington’s response: “Gerrit just finished his first full professional season and we couldn’t be more pleased with his growth and his development. We’re going to do everything in our power to put him in a position to be successful. There are some guys who are flying through systems and being successful. There’s a lot of guys who have flown through systems and you wonder whatever happened to them. Gerrit’s an important piece of our future, so we’ve got to make sure we coordinate his development … not just because we’re a little bit uneasy about who’s in our rotation on Opening Day.”

Now, Hawpe. And the answer is … NO. Hawpe hasn’t worn a major league uniform since 2011. Last year, he appeared in 35 games for Double-A Frisco, then was released. He hasn’t played in more than 100 games in a season at any level since 2010. Hawpe and manager Clint Hurdle know each other from their days together with the Rockies. Signing Hawpe to a minor league deal is a low-cost, low-risk move by the Pirates — it gives Hawpe a chance to stay in shape, show what he’s got (or what he’s lost) and stay in the game a while longer. But the Pirates already have plenty of (perhaps even too many) 1B/RF candidates: Garret Jones, Travis Snider, Gaby Sanchez, Jerry Sands, Felix Pie, Darren Ford … yadda yadda.

»»» I think I should note that this will be Taillon’s first time in big league training camp. And before you ask … NO, he will not be with the Pirates on Opening Day. During minicamp, Taillon told me he’ll start the season at Double-A Altoona. But the fact he’s been asked to work out with the big boys shows he’s made great progress and should be in the majors sooner than later. As Tony Sanchez tweeted: “First one of many @JTallion19 Congrats my man #ST2013″

»»» Friday morning, the Pirate Parrot and some front office folk will visit East Catholic School in Forest Hills to gather donations of school uniforms and athletic clothing. Pirates Charities will transport the material to the Dominican Republic, where it will be given to needy school kids. When the Pirates opened a new, 46-acre baseball academy a couple of years ago in El Toro, D.R., the club began a relationship with several nearby schools.

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Four file for arbitration

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It was basically a formality Tuesday when Garrett Jones, Neil Walker, James McDonald and Gaby Sanchez were among 133 players who officially filed for salary arbitration. The four players and the Pirates will exchange salary figures Friday. Arby hearings, if necessary, will be held in February. The two sides can continue to negotiate a contract until a hearing is finalized. If it goes the full arbitration route, the arbiter must choose either the team’s salary request or the player’s; there is no compromise.

Here is what each player can expect to get via arbitration, as projected by MLBtraderumors.com: Jones $4.4 million, McDonald $3 million, Walker $2.9 million and Sanchez $1.8 million.

Don’t be surprised if the club soon reaches agreements with all four guys. Last year, the Pirates came to terms and avoided arby hearings with seven of their eight eligible players. The exception was Jones, who lost his hearing and was awarded $2.25 million instead of the $2.5 million he wanted. Since the process began in 1974, the Pirates are 10-10 against players in arbitration hearings.

The Pirates went into this offseason with eight arbitration-eligible players. Jeff Karstens was non-tendered, which made him a free agent, and he is on the verge of re-signing for around $2.5 million. Charlie Morton quickly agreed to $2 million for 2013 and avoided arbitration. Chris Resop and Joel Hanrahan were traded. Morton has one year of arby eligibility left. Jones and McDonald have two years to go. Walker qualified for Super 2 status, and still has three years of arby remaining.

»»» Team USA’s provisional roster for the World Baseball Classic will be released at 10 p.m. Thursday during on MLB Network’s “Hot Stove” show. The network will reveal rosters for the other 15 teams at 4 p.m. As I wrote the other day, Jason Grilli (Italy) and Russ Martin (Canada) have agreed to play. Starling Marte (Dominican Republic) and Chris Leroux (Canada) also have been invited, but I haven’t gotten confirmation yet of their final decisions. I’d expect Leroux will play for Canada and Marte will opt to remain in spring training camp with the Pirates.

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Leroux more likely for pen than rotation

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BRADENTON, Fla. — Chris Leroux wants to get a crack at making the Pirates’ starting rotation, but most likely will go into the season as a long reliever and spot starter. “You remember Jeff Karstens?” pitching coach Ray Searage said, referring to the swingman who spent five seasons with the Pirates. “We’ve got that type of pitcher in Chris Leroux. We’ll see how things play out in spring training. Hopefully, he falls into the bullpen. Because if he’s in the rotation, something (bad) happened.”

Then again, perhaps something bad has happened. The Pirates hoped to sign free agent lefty Francisco Liriano as their No. 3 starter, but that deal is in limbo because Liriano seriously injured his non-throwing arm in late December. A.J. Burnett, Wandy Rodriguez and James McDonald already are locks for the rotation. “Whatever (role) the Pirates throw at me, I’m going to be ready for it,” Leroux said.

More about Leroux in Thursday’s Trib.

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