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Pittsburgh sports talk with the Trib columnist

Wakeup Call: It’s all about the pitching … always

By Dejan Kovacevic | Trib Total Media

Brief and to the Point …

>> Well, that was impressive. And important.

And it came down to the one thing that will mean more than any other for these Pirates the rest of the way: Plenty of pitching.

If Wandy Rodriguez is really coming around — and this has been three good appearances in a row now, none bigger than his six goose eggs last night — then he’ll join A.J. Burnett, Jeff Karstens and maybe even James McDonald in the reliable category.

I’m going to assume here that Jeff Locke (right) will be called up to be the fifth starter, for three reasons:

1. He’s pitched very well. Nice start last night, too.

2. Gerrit Cole was promoted to Indianapolis after that team’s game late last night. No, he won’t pitch in Pittsburgh, but that does fill a hole in the playoff-bound Indians’ rotation. Locke’s absence would be that hole.

3. If the Pirates’ choice was Kevin Correia, why wait this long to tell him?

None of us can know how Locke will do in the majors. He’s pitched a total of 4 1/3 innings in Pittsburgh this summer. But you’ll take a confident strike-throwing lefty.

Locke’s not just confident. He’s an exceptionally bright kid. I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t do at least reasonably well.

>> Wandy looked pretty relaxed last night. First I’ve seen that …


>> Anyone making an issue of the Pirates’ attendance — and 19,398 was pretty lousy given the setting and breathtaking weather — should at least get their facts in order.

The team’s real problem is a small season-ticket base. If the overall base is around 10,000 — counting full-season plans as one person, a half-season as half a person and so forth — the actual number of outright 81-game plans is in the range of 5,000.

Partial-plan holders generally don’t pick weekdays. Groups don’t pick weekdays, either. So for a game like last night, you’re essentially starting from a foundation of maybe 5,000. And it means you’ve got to sell about 30,000 single-game tickets to fill the place up.

No one does that. Not here. Not anywhere.

It would be tough for the Yankees to sell out with that foundation.

By contrast, over the past weekend, all three games sold out, but I’ll bet they had to sell fewer single-game tickets each day to do so than what the Pirates sold last night.

That’s not excuse-making. Like I said, 19,000 was lame. But it’s to point out that the Pirates’ real problem here is a low season-ticket base. That’s what needs to change.

>> A chat with the Steelers’ Keenan Lewis, in advance of tonight’s preseason finale at Heinz Field …


I’ll be covering the game, but no one’s expecting much, given Mike Tomlin’s really strong hints that starters will play just a little.

>> Our weekly chat will be today at noon. Come one, come all.

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