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April 18, 2014
by Dejan Kovacevic


183 comments so far - add yours!

Pirates acquire Davis from Mets

By Dejan Kovacevic | Trib Total Media

The Pirates have acquired first baseman Ike Davis from the New York Mets in exchange for minor-league right-hander Zack Thornton and a player to be named.

Here’s Davis’ official page.

Here’s Davis’ FanGraphs page for more advanced statistics.

Davis, 27, is a left-handed hitter with a lifetime line of .241/.334/.433 over parts of five seasons with the Mets. He also has 68 home runs and 224 RBIs in that time, although it should be noted that 32 of those home runs and 90 of those RBIs all came in a terrific 2012 season. He took a big step backward last season with a .205/.326/.334 line and only nine home runs in 317 at-bats.

No doubt, the Pirates would like to see Davis revisit that 2012 form, but be sure that the Mets did, too.

Here’s a video collection of Davis highlights from that season:

Thornton, 25, is a right-handed reliever who didn’t rate among the Pirates’ top 30 prospects, per Baseball America. He also was going to be needed to be protected in the Rule 5 draft this winter.

Here’s Thornton’s official page.

As with any deal involving a player to be named, there’s no way to discern who wins or loses. Being that it took the Pirates this long to get Davis — they were known to be discussing him pretty much all winter — one would think the Mets were holding out. Thornton’s no prize, so it’s possible the Mets caved. But again, a player to be named can be almost anything. Sandy Alderson has done a good job of stockpiling prospects in New York, and I find it close to unfathomable he’d give up a player of Davis pedigree for a next-to-nothing reliever without something significant accompanying that.

This obviously spells doom for Travis Ishikawa, I’d think. Gaby Sanchez sat for most of the opening week, but you’ll recall that the plan all through spring was for Sanchez to be the main guy in the platoon, even if that had been with Andrew Lambo. That’s not entirely surprising, as it relates to Ishikawa. If Neal Huntington and crew had thought that much of Ishikawa in the first place, you’d never have heard of the allegedly cemented Sanchez/Lambo platoon.

Where the Pirates do well here is by paying only $3.5 million in salary this season, as well as having two additional years of control through arbitration. Not much risk is assumed.

The big question, of course, is this: Will Davis hit again?

The Mets obviously didn’t think so, or they would have kept him over Lucas Duda. In January, ESPN’s Adam Rubin compiled this string of quotes from scouts asking which player the Mets should keep. Duda was the marginal winner.

The pluses on Davis is that he’s got that power — never underestimate that as an enticing factor, especially if he could get it done at the cavern that is Citi Field — that he’s got a good eye in terms of drawing walks, that he’s solid defensively and that he’s young enough to overcome a season like the one he just had. The minuses are that he’s injury-prone, that he strikes out a ridiculous 24 percent of the time and that he isn’t wild about taking coaches’ advice or changing his approach at the plate.

That last one won’t fly under Clint Hurdle, I’ll tell you that. He’ll want Jeff Branson to be all over Davis, and he’ll follow through on it directly given how heavily involved the manager still is at guiding hitters.

It’ll be interesting to watch this play out, not just from Davis’ own development but also from how — and if — Sanchez can go back to his strongest suit of hitting lefties hard. Davis, by contrast, is lousy against lefties but has an .824 career OPS against righties. I know platoon is a dirty word to a lot of folks with the Pirates, but there’s no crime in a good one.

UPDATE 8:07 p.m.: Huntington says, ‘Hopefully, this is a move that solves our first-base needs for years to come.’ The GM also openly states that Davis will share the position with Sanchez, so Ishikawa is, indeed, out.

That and much more in Rob Biertempfel’s news coverage.

8:24 p.m.: The New York Daily News reports that the player to be named will be ‘more significant’ than Thornton.

April 18, 2014
by Dejan Kovacevic


355 comments so far - add yours!

Brewers 5, Pirates 3

By Dejan Kovacevic | Trib Total Media

Looking ahead to first pitch …

Game: Pirates (8-8) vs. Milwaukee Brewers (11-5)

Time: 7:05 p.m.

Site: PNC Park

TV, Radio: Root Sports, Fox Sports Wisconsin, 93.7 The Fan

Here’s the official live box score.

Here’s TribLIVE’s Pirates page. And here’s our Bucco Blog with all the pitching matchups, lineups, etc. Rob Biertempfel is on the scene for the Trib.

April 17, 2014
by Dejan Kovacevic


292 comments so far - add yours!

Morning Java: April panic

By Dejan Kovacevic | Trib Total Media

Morning, Lunatics …

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>> The Friday column from PNC Park offers a whole lot of cautionary, deep-breath-type material regarding the local baseball club. If you’re the type to panic in April, by all means avoid.

Here’s what Tony Watson had to say, decidedly un-panicky:

The game story, by beat man Rob Biertempfel, focuses on Edinson Volquez’s seven efficient innings and Josh Harrison’s huge home run.

And here’s a a bit from the hitting hero:

Blogginess from the scene: Easy to see Jordy Mercer’s pressing. It’s hard not to pull for the kid, and he and I had a lengthy chat before this game. I’ve no doubt his head’s in the right place, but you also sense that he wants very badly to impress in his first real opportunity to be the shortstop. That rally-starting single last night might be the ticket. … Very reminiscent of Andrew Lambo in the spring. But Lambo is rebounding quite nicely with Indy. … Asked Clint Hurdle if Volquez had improved his fastball command, his deception or both, and he gave an interesting answer: ‘The command came, and then we put in some things for the deception.’ How could that be, I wondered, since the second would surely affect the solidified delivery? ‘Look, Johnny Cueto put in a Tiant twist out of nowhere, and it worked. No one asked why.’ That’s a reference, of course, to Red Sox legend Luis Tiant, who would famously twist all the way around to second base as part of his delivery. … Would love to see advanced fielding stats illustrating the bases cut off by Starling Marte in left. Wouldn’t be easy, though. Some runners don’t even think about the extra base, I’ll bet. … Jose Tabata scored lots of points with the Pirates for that crazy catch in Cincinnati. Went absolutely full bore. When I asked Jose if his head hit the wall first, he answered, ‘Whole body.’ Know what that tells me? He might not have had any idea how close he was. … Oh, and then Jose goes out as a pinch-hitter last night and doubles. … In a clubhouse hallway well after the game, I mentioned the famous Bob Robertson bunt/homer tale from 1971 to Hurdle. Thought I might have to explain. Nope. Man knows his Pirates history.

Here’s TribLIVE’s Pirates page, our Bucco Blog and our photo gallery.

Here’s Brewers news from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

Here are official game highlights on MLB.com.

>> The Penguins’ and Blue Jackets’ coaching counterparts are probed by Josh Yohe on another off-day for this Stanley Cup playoff series.

Penalty-killing is a playoff priority, by Yohe.

R.J. Umberger set to return … in more ways than one, by Craig Merz in Columbus.

Here’s TribLIVE’s Penguins page, our Chipped Ice blog and our photo gallery.

Here’s Blue Jackets news from the team’s official site.

Here are official game highlights on NHL.com.

>> Our weekly chat will be today at noon, right after an 11:30 visit with TribLIVE Radio. I’ll remind: The chat will move to Tuesdays at 1 p.m. beginning next week.

>> Thank you, as always, for reading.

April 17, 2014
by Dejan Kovacevic


286 comments so far - add yours!

On location: Pirates 11, Brewers 2

By Dejan Kovacevic | Trib Total Media

Looking ahead to first pitch …

Game: Pirates (7-8) vs. Milwaukee Brewers (11-4)

Time: 7:05 p.m.

Site: PNC Park

TV, Radio: Root Sports, MLB Network (national), Fox Sports Wisconsin, 93.7 The Fan

Here’s the official live box score.

Here’s TribLIVE’s Pirates page. And here’s our Bucco Blog with all the pitching matchups, lineups, etc. Rob Biertempfel and I are on the scene for the Trib. I’ll write the Friday column from here.

April 17, 2014
by Dejan Kovacevic


386 comments so far - add yours!

Morning Java: Fifteen to go

By Dejan Kovacevic | Trib Total Media

Morning, Lunatics …

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>> The Thursday column off Game 1 comes in praise of Dan Bylsma, the playoff coaching wizard. For Game 1, anyway.

The game story, by beat man Rob Rossi.

The Columbus perspective, by Jason Mackey.

Play of the game, by Chris Adamski, of course, was Brandon Sutter’s goal, described in the video below by the Canadian legend Bob Cole, who’s been on air since 1969 and will retire after these playoffs:

Gary Bettman in the house, by Rossi.

The city coffers benefit big-time, by Bob Bauder.

Other news and notes, by Adamski.

Blogginess from the scene: Not wild about Todd Richards’ demeanor so far. I get that he’s a rookie coach as far as playoffs go, but there’s no point in saying this about his Blue Jackets after the game: ‘We aren’t here just to go to school. We’re here to win.’ Uh, who’d  have thought any less of the legit No. 7 seed in the conference? … I’d love to see the NHL adopt an NFL-style review for plays that happen in games that aren’t called penalties and aren’t suspension-worthy but could still merit fines. Case in point was Brandon Dubinsky’s ridiculous slew-foot of Sidney Crosby. … Man, what a wonderful hockey player Matt Niskanen is becoming, huh? Just think of all those dollar signs being attached to every performance like this one. … Niskanen and Paul Martin need to be on the power play. Do what you have to from there. … I don’t see or understand the Brian Gibbons thing. … Crosby’s keeping a healthy approach about when and how he’s used by Bylsma in matchups: ‘Whenever Dan tells me to get out  there, it doesn’t matter. You get ready to compete. What makes you successful against Dubinsky is the same thing that makes you successful against Johansen.’ … MIA for Pittsburgh: Chris Kunitz, no points, minus-2, lots of unambitious plays. MIA for Columbus: Ryan Johansen, a 33-goal scorer with no points and three shots. … Am I the only one who thought Sergei Bobrovsky actually played worse than his line? Visible lack of confidence at times. … Expect R.J. Umberger to be back for the Jackets in Game 2. … Columbus wound up with a 48-27 edge in hits. The Jackets also had two giveaways to the Penguins’ 10. … That gold-out was a failure. The number of people who showed up wearing gold, from what I saw outside, couldn’t have been as high as 5 percent. And the feel with the freebie T-shirts … eh. Just forget it. We are who we are. Give us towels.

Here’s TribLIVE’s Penguins page, our Chipped Ice blog and our photo gallery.

Here’s Blue Jackets news from the team’s official site, including this neat video of old friend Mark Letestu mic’d up for the game.

Here are official game highlights on NHL.com.

>> Yesterday’s TribLIVE Radio podcast began with your calls on Penguins-Jackets, the Pirates’ speed bumps, the Steelers’ draft and more, and here’s video of that segment …

>> Johnny Cueto could be taunting the Pirates after shutting them out. Travis Sawchik reports from Great American Band Box.

Here’s TribLIVE’s Pirates page, our Bucco Blog and our photo gallery.

Here’s Reds news from the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Here’s Brewers news from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

Here are official game highlights on MLB.com.

>> Thank you, as always, for reading. I’ll cover the Pirates’ return to PNC Park today and write a Friday column from there.

April 16, 2014
by Dejan Kovacevic


272 comments so far - add yours!

On location: Penguins 4, Blue Jackets 3

By Dejan Kovacevic | Trib Total Media

Looking ahead to faceoff …

Game: Penguins vs. Columbus Blue Jackets, Game 1, Stanley Cup playoffs, Eastern Conference quarterfinal

Time: 7:38 p.m.

Site: Consol Energy Center

TV, radio: Root Sports, NBC Sports (national), 105.9 the X

Here’s the official live summary.

Here are TribLIVE’s Penguins page and our Chipped Ice blog. Rob Rossi, Josh Yohe, Chris Adamski, Jason Mackey and I are covering for the Trib. I’ll write a Thursday column from here.

Some videos from both teams’ skates this morning …

Tanner Glass, on the importance of the forecheck:

Jack Johnson of the Blue Jackets, on being the underdog:

April 16, 2014
by Dejan Kovacevic


6 comments so far - add yours!

Podcast: Calls, calls, calls

By Dejan Kovacevic | Trib Total Media

Today’s TribLIVE Radio podcast began with a wonderful string of your calls on Penguins-Jackets, the Pirates’ speed bumps, the Steelers’ draft and more.

Here’s video of that segment …

Hope you can check the full podcast with that first link up there, as it also includes a talk with Trib hockey writer Josh Yohe and, of course, the latest installment from @SuckMeter.

Thanks to all who listened, called and emailed!

April 16, 2014
by Dejan Kovacevic


216 comments so far - add yours!

Reds 4, Pirates 0

By Dejan Kovacevic | Trib Total Media

Looking ahead to first pitch …

Game: Pirates (7-7) vs. Cincinnati Reds (5-9)

Time: 12:35 p.m.

Site: Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati

TV, Radio: Root Sports, Fox Sports Ohio, 93.7 The Fan

Here’s the official live box score.

Here’s TribLIVE’s Pirates page. And here’s our Bucco Blog with all the pitching matchups, lineups, etc. Travis Sawchik is on the scene for the Trib.

April 15, 2014
by Dejan Kovacevic


160 comments so far - add yours!

Morning Java: Drop the puck!

By Dejan Kovacevic | Trib Total Media

Morning, Lunatics …

>> The TribLIVE Radio show today — 2-3 p.m. — will feature you once again. We’ve got all kinds of ground to cover, so I’ll open by taking your calls on any topic. Will the Penguins sweep the Blue Jackets? Or will the series take five games? Still worried about the Pirates at first base? How about the rotation? You name it.

So do it. Call me at 412-320-7925.

Feel free to email sportstalk@tribweb.com if you can’t call. But I’d really rather hear from you.

At 2:30, we’ll be joined by Josh Yohe, the Trib’s hockey beat man.

And at 2:45, we’ll have more wit and wisdom from our @SuckMeter, this on Tony Sanchez.

To listen, just click on the link up top. If you’re mobile, try the iPhone version of the TribLIVE Radio app, or the Android version. Both are free and ridiculously easy to use.

>> Here we go!

Sidney Crosby is no Kid anymore when it comes to playoffs, by Yohe.

Evgeni Malkin is ready and raring, by Rob Rossi.

Marc-Andre Fleury has plenty to prove, by columnist Joe Starkey.

Tomas Vokoun will merely provide depth, by Chris Adamski.

The Blue Jackets sound confident, by Craig Merz in Columbus.

Advanced metrics of the matchup, by Jesse Marshall.

Honestly, I don’t have much to add beyond what the Monday column described: Penguins in five.

Any two teams can be pitted, no matter how lopsided, and someone can concoct reasons why a series should be tight or could even swing an unexpected way. That shouldn’t happen here. It can’t happen here. The Penguins have markedly superior skill on the top two lines, are much better on both special teams, have a more accomplished and mobile defense … they’re even healthier than Columbus, if you can believe that. The variable that still screams out is that of Fleury vs. Sergei Bobrovsky, and goaltending always can be enough of a variable to dwarf all others. But I don’t see it. I really don’t.

I’ll respect Bobrovsky and his 2013 Vezina Trophy enough to presume he’ll steal one game. No more.

Oh, and if it’s a Cup pick you want, it’s Teemu Selanne going out on top.

Our panel on WPXI-TV’s Subway Final Word each picked one possible way the Penguins could lose this series:

And here’s what TribLIVE Radio‘s morning team of Ken Laird and Guy Junker had to say about the playoffs finally being upon us:

Here’s TribLIVE’s Penguins page, our Chipped Ice blog and our photo gallery.

Here’s Blue Jackets news from the team’s official site.

Here are official game highlights on NHL.com.

>> The Pirates had to settle for a pseudo-split with the Reds. Travis Sawchik reports from Great American Band Box.

Wandy Rodriguez’s vanishing velocity, by Sawchik.

Here’s TribLIVE’s Pirates page, our Bucco Blog and our photo gallery.

Here’s Reds news from the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Here are official game highlights on MLB.com.

>> The Steelers pick up another punter, by Alan Robinson.

Here’s TribLIVE’s Steelers page and our Steel Mill blog.

>> Thank you, as always, for reading. I’ll cover Game 1 today, the Pirates’ return to PNC Park tomorrow. Hope you can call the show!

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