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Pittsburgh sports talk with the Trib columnist

Wakeup Call: Pedro Alvarez, unconditional starter


Brief and to the Point …

>> My Monday column provides my first chance to share feelings on Duquesne’s firing of Ron Everhart. Suffice it to say I won’t be getting those 11 missing credits on an honorary degree anytime soon.

>> How silly does Neal Huntington look in vowing Pedro Alvarez will make the team?

What was he thinking?

This is the same GM who spent significant dollars to improve the 2012 roster for the sake of improvement in 2012, but it’s OK to force a .191 hitter having a disastrous spring onto the team.

This is the same GM who no longer can come close to talking about accountability, scholarships and stuff like that. I’ve downplayed complaints on that front before. Not anymore.

This is the same GM who consistently pledges not to move players up before they’ve mastered things at a given level, but he’s now adamant that Alvarez has mastered all there is to master in Class AAA.


Routine fastballs right under the fists?

I’ve watched all types of pitchers this spring — Class AAA and lower — strike out Alvarez effortlessly, and even my untrained baseball eye can tell he hasn’t mastered any level. If you’re mastering anything related to hitting, you’re not trying three different batting stances in the same spring training.

The protective cocoon adds another layer.

>> For those who missed it, the Sunday paper had my annual Pirates five-reasons analysis.

>> If you think the Steelers’ loss of William Gay was no big deal, then you’re probably one of those football fans who remembers only when the corner blows a coverage. Either that, or you have a lot of faith in Cortez Allen and Curtis Brown.

This won’t help the defense at all. And no, they’re not going to get a free agent. They’re the Steelers.

>> This might not be the Penguins’ best team ever, but to focus on one tiny slice of the game, it’s by far the best I’ve seen at the art of catching passes. They use feet, shins, knees, hands, shaft of the stick, whatever. That was true again last night in beating the Devils, and it’s something worth paying extra attention to when they face the Islanders tomorrow.

>> My weekly appearance on the online TribLIVE Radio will be today at noon.


  1. JoeBucco says:

    I can only assume that this means Pedro will be starting the season on the DL, to get some extra work in down in Bradenton without technically being demoted to Indy. I suppose you have to show confidence in your guys, so what he says today doesn’t really mean much in two weeks when it is time to head north. No way, and I mean no way, is Pedro on 3B when the season opens against Halladay if he’s not improving or better the next couple of weeks.

    I would imagine he gets a couple of games in, strikes out another 4 or 5 times, then his “injury” kicks in and he goes to the DL. Just call it a hunch…

  2. Dave says:

    You mentioned Tony Sanchez’s regression in your 5 reasons piece. I haven’t heard much about him this spring other than 1 game where he nailed a couple steal attempts. Will he start in AAA or AA?

    DK: Check our Pirates page, Dave. Rob wrote a full feature about him early in the spring.

  3. twentytwo22 says:

    3 v Philadelphia
    3 @ Los Angeles
    3 @ San Francisco
    3 @ Arizona
    3 v St. Louis
    3 v Colorado
    4 @ Atlanta

    That’s the schedule for April. They can’t afford any passengers. We know where this is headed.

  4. JAL says:

    JAL’s Over There Morning Links


    1- MLB Transactions

    2-MLB Trade Rumors-Pirates

    3 Yahoo Free Agent Tracker;_ylt=AvN8KLXkNW0TcRjzSCagLIMBbgM6?slug=jp-passan_ultimate_free_agent_tracker_baseball_110211

    4 Pittsburgh Pirates 2012 Spring Training Tracker

    5 2012 Pittsburgh Pirates Spring Training Broadcast Schedule

  5. JAL says:

    7 Bucs Dugout

    Pirates Vs. Astros: A Recap Of A Game That Hasn’t Ended Yet

    8 Rumbunter

    Pirates Will Listen To Offers on All-Star Kevin Correia

    Growing Up Buccos: Part 3 – Memories of a Pirated Childhood

    The Unpredictable Casey McGehee

    9 McEffect

    3/25 Recap | Pirates 9 Astros 7

    Pedro Alvarez Will Make The Team If Healthy

  6. JAL says:


    10 Washington Times

    DALY: Baseball part of Werth’s DNA

    11 Beaver County Times

    Pirates hope oft-injured Bedard is anchor of rotation

    12 Bluefield Daily Telegraph

    Recalling a time when daydreaming about old baseball fields was OK

    13 WTAE

    New North Shore Connector Opens

    14 CBS

    Pirates Giving Pedro Alvarez Time To Put It Together And Realize Potentia

    15 Houston Chronicle

    Astros drop two: Updates on Duke, Castro, Cosart and injuries

  7. JAL says:

    Steelers Blogs

    20 Behind the Steel Curtain

    Memorable Steelers Games: Avoiding The Boss While Watching the Season Opener

    SB Nation Video Features Ryan Clark in New Series ‘The Core of Sports’ Sponsored by The Marines

    Weekend Checkdown: Reviewing the Big Stories of the Past Week

    21 Steelers Depot

    - Keenan Lewis and Cortez Allen Now Likely to Battle for the Open Left Cornerback Spot

    22 Nice Pick Cower

    Steelers’ Keenan Lewis Has Much to Gain in 2012

  8. JAL says:

    Pitt Blogs

    23 Pitt Blather

    Spring Practice: Mason’s Comeback

    24 Cardiac Hill

    CBI Finals: Washington State Likely Without Star Brock Motum Against Pitt On Monday

    WVU Blogs

    25 Metro News

    Looking To Become A 1,000 Yard Receiver

    26 WV Illustrated

    Veteran Corners Ready to Teach, Compete for Mountaineers

    Slaughter Bringing New Identity to WVU D-Line

  9. JAL says:


    26 Pensburgh

    Penguins defense hangs Brad Thiessen out to dry in 8-4 loss to Senators


    27 Sky Sports

    Fergie still admires City

    28 World Soccer Daily

    World Soccer Daily: 10 stories you need to read, 23rd March, 2012

    29 Daily Telegraph

    Chelsea’s blues brothers refuse to bow out of Champions League against Benfica but Spurs highlight their problem

  10. JAL says:

    Title song Over There , 1917. Nora Bayes 1917. Written by George M Cohan this was a very popular song during WW I. This version by Nora Bayes was one of several versions that went number 1 in 1917-1918. Cohan specifically asked Bayes to make the first recording of the song. From 1908 to 1913 Nora was married to Jack Norworth, who wrote Take Me out to the Ballgame. As a team she and Norworth wrote Shine on Harvest Moon. Over there continues to be used today. It was in the 2008 movie Leathernecks and in many TV shows including The Simpsons, Mad Men, That Girl, and Boston Legal.

  11. TJA says:

    Excellent read on Duquesne University, Dejan. Thanks. It’s really sad. Pitt made a full committment to Dixon and we have seen the result there. It could…maybe would…have been the same at D.U.

    DK: Thanks, TJ.

  12. radio wave says:

    That song makes me think of my grandfather, a WWI vet.

  13. pattonbb says:

    Reason #1 that the losing streak may hit 20 years – Huntington granting a scholarship to a player that I could probably get 0-2 on.

    I’m not giving up on Pedro. Far from it. But imagine how silly he’s going to look against those Filthadelphia arms. Until Pedro figures out the wooden stick in his hand is supposed to make contact with the little white ball, giving him a roster spot hurts this team.

    Just an unexcuseable decision.

    Having said all of that, nobody will be rooting harder for him than I will.

  14. Karen22 says:

    What Huntington said about Pedro isn’t just “silly.” It’s borderline insane! Neal appears to be in complete denial that something is terribly wrong with this bonus baby, and it’s not even close to all physical. Every report from spring training eyewitnesses states that Pedro appears to be even more lost now than he was last season (and that was agonizing to watch). On the Nightly Sports Call last night, Gregg Giannotti was nearly apoplectic in his description of what he saw of Pedro’s flailing around in Bradenton. To stick Alvarez in the middle of a Major League lineup and have him try to figure things out there will do this young man in. If he isn’t working with a sports psychologist, then shame on the Pirates’ organization. Yogi is correct…90% of the game IS half mental, and until Pedro fixes what’s between his ears, he’s destined to bust in far greater than Chad Hermanson proportions. And Pirate fans will surely call for Huntington’s head if they’re witness to this potential disaster in the making.

  15. Jandy says:

    Found this on the other paper…great news!
    According to Shawn Rinne of the Wheeling Intelligencer, the Nailers have been sold to a pair of local groups called the Wheeling Amateur Hockey Association and RED (Regional Economical Development). Once feared to be leaving, the franchise will remain in Wheeling

  16. Thanks for writing about the Duquesne fiasco, Dejan.
    The President (Dougherty) and AD (Amodio) are now——and actually have been for the last few years——in the running for the Best Management Team in Baseball, if not All of Sports Award. Only, instead of giving scholarships, as Neal Huntington apparently is doing with Pedro Alvarez, they are taking scholarships away——causing recruits that could have been the #1 class in the A-10 to take their playing wares elsewhere.

    For Everhardt to take Duquesne from the Danny Nee days (did Amodio hire him?), face the crazed shooting incident on campus, and get Duquesne first to .500 and then to the place where it now matters in the area———and hopefully ready to take the NEXT step, and then get unceremoniously dumped . . . . . well, it leaves me speechless. The leaked to CBSsports email, with its content, just caps off the incompetency of the Prez.

    I would like to hereby nominate Moe Dougherty and Curly Amodio for BMTIB if not All of Sports award!

  17. LuckyNKentucky says:

    I echo Groat on 18 above. Good read on Duquesne. I haven’t followed them, except for the shooting, since Oscar Jackson was there, but that’s some good insight.

    As far as Pedro is concerned, Groat or somebody mentioned on a game thread the other day, that he needs to see the doctor that Votto and Greinke saw. I agree with that wholeheartedly and they should send Neal with him. They both need some serious cousel.


    Great news on the Nailers.

  18. NMR says:

    One place I’ll disagree is in the assumption that Huntington giving Pedro the job does not imply accountability. From a players standpoint, it has to be the exact opposite.

    Pedro wasn’t drafted #2 and given $6m to hit in Indianapolis. Pedro has chosen to do things his own way(i.e. 2010 “conditioning”, 2011 winter ball) and told the organization that he knows whats best for himself.

    Neal Huntington is now saying, in effect, “fine, then go out and prove it.”

    Pedro will prove nothing by ripping up Indi again. The pressure is in Pitsburgh and Huntington is telling Pedro it’s time to put up or shut up.

    THAT is the definition of accountability.

  19. LuckyNKentucky says:

    Good thought, NMR. He’s accountable while he strikes out with the bases loaded and the L’s pile up. But you make a good point. Make him accountable but get him the counsel he needs.

  20. 21sthebest says:


    I think you were remiss in your column to not mention the number of players that have left the program during Everhart’s tenure (I believe the number is 22) and how his teams have recently started off well and faltered down the stretch. Those were the primary reasons for his firing, and I agreed with letting him go. Amodio wants the program to be more and I’m glad to see that.

    But I did like Everhart and how he brought the program back to respectability. I just thought it was time to make a change. I should also add that I still harbor ill will towards my alma mater, particularly the administration, for turning the lives of 83 student-athletes upside down two years ago by eliminating their sports.

    DK: Pretty much everything that emerged Friday upon the firing was one-sided, for obvious reasons. I agree with you about turnover being too high, but this wasn’t intended to be all-encompassing. I had points in either direction that were left out.

  21. Timber says:

    The problem is that, as Dejan said in the story and we’ve been reading all spring, Pedro can’t hit any level of pitching from major leaguers to AA and A guys. He won’t tear up Indy the way he is right now, so I guess in that sense, it would be more demoralizing to send him down and see him whiff 3 out of every 5 at-bats (and I think I’m being generous with those numbers).

    I like the thought of making him accountable at the major league level because he’s chosen to do things his way so far. But I think that’s really irresponsible when you’re running a big league team and Pedro’s only true value is his bat. It’s not like he’s a slick fielder at third or a can cause havoc on the bases. He’s a liability in both areas and when you’re the Pirates and your margin of error is so small, you can’t afford to have someone who brings absolutely nothing to the table.

    I like the idea of waiting another couple days, claiming his “knee” is still bothering him and DLing him to get some extra time without actually demoting him. Outside of that, I can’t imagine what else they can do with him.

  22. Milo Hamilton says:

    Who own The Nailers ?

    Ownzzzzz. Ownzzzzz.

  23. Arriba Wilver says:

    DK–couldn’t agree more with your take on the Alvarez situation.

    NMR–if what you suggest is Neal’s intent, he must be saying something very different behind closed doors, because his public comments, if you read rob’s column, are bereft of anything that would indicate that accountability is the reason behind the decision.
    One of the things about Neal that is always somewhat annoying is how he deals with public perception. The “rumors” that Pedro was going to AAA? Where the heck did that come from? And what the heck does that have to do with the decision to keep him with the big team no matter if he couldn’t hit the side of a barn in Spring Training? If that were the case, why not say that up front and stop the “rumors?”

  24. Bizrow says:

    One thing I always remember about NH is the Capps mess, where he blamed “reporters” on not being able to trade him, which resulted in his release.

    Nealspeak can be very hard to decipher.

  25. Jandy says:

    @ Milo ~ as I copied above – “the Nailers have been sold to a pair of local groups called the Wheeling Amateur Hockey Association and RED (Regional Economical Development). Once feared to be leaving, the franchise will remain in Wheeling”

  26. LuckyNKentucky says:

    Sounds like sarcasm from Milo with all the zzzzzzzzzzz’s. Not boring to the City of Wheeling, Mr. retiring broadcaster.

  27. Milo Hamilton says:

    “Slapshot” reference. As in – Who own the Chiefs ? The situations are eerily similar. Minus Paul Newman, of course.

  28. Corey says:

    twentytwo22 – that was my thought when I read NH’s comments about Pedro starting the season on the roster. Our schedule out the gate is brutal. Worst case scenario for him if he’s stuggling and for the team that has to deal with a dead spot in the line up.

  29. CWalton_67 says:

    LOL @ Milo. ownzzz. Greatest sports movie ever.

    Don’t know what to make of the Pedro situation. If you can’t play, you can’t play. They should put the best players on the field. That said, it’s far too early to give up on the guy. What are the Pirates doing to help him? The guy clearly has potential, this has to be a mental block at this point. How about a sports psychologist? Maybe talk to Steve Blass? What is he doing to help himself? Anything?

    Great to see Jordan Staal get back on the scoreboard last night. And if there is an underrated Penguin, it’s Pascal Dupuis. Not just in terms of contract value, but the guy has evolved into a terrific all around hockey player. Seems like he must be a great teammate and a great guy as well. I’d like to see him stay with Sid and keep Matt Cooke with those two as well. Speed, skill, and grit.

  30. Jandy says:

    OK I missed the Slapshot reference. ::rolls eyes::

    CWalton ~ I LOVE Dupuis with Sid. He’s always been underappreciated on this team. And you have to love what Cooke is doing now too. But you also have to admit, Sid can bring out the best in any decent hockey player.

  31. LuckyNKentucky says:


    Was just pullin’ your chain. Didn’t remember the Slap Shot reference. That movie was funny, but so foul. Haven’t watched it much. Saw a game in Wheeling a few years ago. Was entertaining and a full house, but that arena only holds like 4,500 or so. Good for the town to have that team there.

  32. NMR says:

    Arriba, et al

    One point I didn’t make clear enough was that I don’t necessarily give Neal credit for my accountability logic. For all we know, like Arriba said, Neal is vapidly giving Pedro at-bats for no reason other than that he is Pedro.

    I feel this is a prime example of not having a “baseball guy” as GM. Last week, I addmitted to myself how absurb the “let him hit himself out of it” logic sounds in relation to Pedro at this point. As if he’ll magically just start succeeding. I can’t imagine Clint Hurdle or Ritchie honestly agree with Huntington on this.

    I say send him to AA. Give him the winter ball he refused to take. Truly take the pressure off, build the swing, and then – if all goes well – call him up in September.

  33. NMR says:

    Milo saves the morning with a slapshot reference.

    All this Pedro talk is getting too much. Wake me up in May.

  34. CWalton_67 says:

    @Jandy– for missing the Slapshot reference, “Two minutes, by yourself, you know and you feel shame, you know”

    Also agree that Sid makes players around him better, it’s what makes him the best in the world, and that is with all due respect to #71. Mario was the same. Remember Warren Young? 40 goals on Mario’s wing.

    I thought at first that Sid should play with Steve Sullivan, but he seems to have quite a bit of chemistry with Staal. Not sure why Cooke didn’t play much with Sid last night, appears that Disco is doing quite a bit of experimenting with the lines, but he clearly has the hands to finish. Guess I should give HCDB a call and tell him what I think. :)

  35. David says:


    First suggestion I heard to send him down to AA. Seems a bit harsh though I do think some time in AAA could do him well.

    However I do not like what seems to be the popular suggestion of starting McGehee at 3rd and platooning Hague and Jones at 1st. Hague hits righties better than lefties so he isn’t a good fit for the platoon. I think the best idea would be to let Navarro show what he can do at 3rd. Though if Hague is to come I say start him every day at 1B, start McGehee at 3B and send Jones to the bench.

  36. Jandy says:

    CWalton, “shame on me for six weeks!” ;)

    Steve Sullivan can play with a lot of different players as well. I’m hoping whatever ails him isn’t serious.

  37. NMR says:


    The AA thing isn’t just for purposes of sending a message. If the Pirates wanted Pedro to do Winter Ball, then AA would be that level. It sounds harsh, but it makes the most baseball sense(in my admittedly unqualified baseball mind).

    AAA level is full of pitchers who have been/will be major leaguers. I honestly think that level may be too high to work on the things that Pedro needs.

  38. Milo Hamilton says:

    An addendum to the Duquesne mess. Colin Dunlap has been reporting that T.J. McConnell may be heading to Arizona for a few days now. I brought this up to someone in the know on Saturday & his response came with a chuckle, “I’ve known that for 2 months.” I put that out there for what it’s worth.

  39. cosmo says:

    good article about duquesne. there is to it than meets the eye. seemed to be making strides. Pedro gets a roster spot because of a 6 million dollar investment in him???? Whatever happened to earning a spot on the roster??

  40. Milo Hamilton says:

    This story keeps getting juicier & juicier. Sean Payton has asked Bill Parcells to coach the Saints this year.

  41. Minjock says:

    I agree with most posters here – IMO Pedro was rushed to the bigs – still a great talent and also has more upside than any player on our 40 man other than the great Cutch himself. H/O he clearly has to work on strikeouts and hitting breaking balls. he didnt play winterball. the spring training small sample size means almost nothing to me but i would like to illustrate a different reason

    Casey McGehee!
    McGehee produced 5.3 WAR in about 1.5 seasons worth of ABs for the Brewers in 2009-2010. That is not a small sample size and wouldnt seem to be a fluke. his babip for both years was reasonable and this is over 1000 ABs we’re talking here.
    When we traded JOSE VERAS – a decent relief pitcher we picked up off of waivers – for this very above average until last year youngerish cheapish 3B from the Brewers i was honestly shocked. every single one of us should thank god we don’t have the Brewers GM. Signing an aging and fattening ARAM instead of going with McGehee should prove to be a crippling mistake.
    Now there’s some risk with the trade, but not much at all. We didn’t lose much, and McGehee has looked GREAT this spring. Small sample size i know, but he looks trim and ready to rock. His defense actually improved significantly last year despite his extreme trouble hitting. He also has been passing the eye test with me defensively when i’ve seen him this spring. IF he could combine his improved defense with his bat of 2009-2010 we have on our hands a player that is BETTER than every player on our team except McCutchen.

    McGehee should be our everyday starting 3B while Pedro works on his hitting in AAA in part because it will help Pedro be truly ready but MORE SO because McGehee could very well rebound and prove to be an extremely valuable trading piece for us! Good 3B are few and far between these days in MLB.

    Most people here think Neil Walker is a good (not superstar) but really good baseball player, McGehee outproduced him in those 2 seasons in a similar number of ABs. I’d love to have another Neil Walker-level player on our team or traded for good pieces. I believe regaining McGehee’s value was NH’s intention when he traded for him, why would we not give him the opportunity to do that!?

    I just like the idea of doing it this way first – as opposed to the other way around. I’d rather have McGehee build off his spring and start the season and rebound his value as opposed to sitting on the bench and THEN two months from now if Pedro struggles to come in. It just makes no sense to me. and i almost always agree with NH and co.

    DK: Welcome, Dan. Good stuff. Thanks.

  42. PigLegs Robinson says:

    Sing it DK!
    Huntington must be called out on this. It’s ridiculous that Alvarez is automatically on the 25 man roster, let alone the starter. No more ‘acountability’ talk from this team, it was BS then and it’s BS now, and everybody knows it.
    I’ve always supported Huntington, except for when he was fooled into believing Milledge was anything more than a quad A player, but at least he got Hanrahan out of the deal. This time he really blew it.
    It’s already frustrating enough that the subs are all outhitting the starters, but even worse, the poorest hitter of them all gets to play everyday.
    (I personally would be starting McLouth over Tabata too until Jose proves he’s better, which he has not).
    Boy, if we thought scoring runs was tough last year, get ready to really suffer.

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