Blogs | Sports | News
Dejan Kovacevic's Blog

Pittsburgh sports talk with the Trib columnist

On location: Rays 6, Pirates 3, exhibition

By Dejan Kovacevic | Trib Total Media

BRADENTON, Fla. — Looking ahead to first pitch …

Game: Pirates vs. Tampa Bay Rays, exhibition

Time: 1:05 p.m.

Site: McKechnie Field

TV, radio: 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, photographer Chris Horner and I are on the scene for the Trib.

If you missed it, here was the Friday column on Clint Hurdle’s plea to put away the past, as well as yesterday’s chat transcript.

Author: Dejan Kovacevic

Dejan Kovacevic, a lifelong Pittsburgher, is an award-winning sports columnist for Trib Total Media covering the Steelers, Penguins, Pirates, Pitt and, recently, his fourth Olympics in Sochi, Russia. He also appears on WPXI-TV's 'Subway Final Word’ and hosts a weekly show on TribLIVE Radio. For 2011, he was named one of the country's top four columnists by the AP Sports Editors. For 2012, he was named one of the country's top three columnists by the National Headliners. For 2013, he was named the state's top columnist by the Keystone Press Awards and top columnist in Western Pennsylvania by the Golden Quills.


  1. FlBucco says:

    Busy day for Pittsburgh sports fans – the remote control will be very busy…

    Hopefully Pitt has something left to give Virginia a game – and I always love the Flyers-Pens games.

    And maybe – just maybe we get to see the end of the great disaster that was the Volquez signing.

  2. Arriba Wilver says:

    Hopefully he fails? Don’t see the upside there. (No offense).

  3. FlBucco says:

    Every once in a while I like to be right – and I thought this was a bad idea from day 1…

    And I would not cal it a fail – it is just Edson being Edson…

    Jonathan Sanchez II

  4. Arriba Wilver says:

    You certainly would be far from alone on either of those viewpoints: You would like to be right and you think he’s Sanchez II. Most ridiculed signing since Barmes and Martin.

  5. Arriba Wilver says:

    I will say this. I am interested to see DK’s insights on Edinson’s prognosis after being there and talking to people face to face.

  6. Just don’t let him predict anything about it. Just the facts, sir, just the facts.

  7. Arriba Wilver says:

    He’s perfectly free to predict he’s terrible and will be gone by May 1. ;-)

    Just as long as he doesn’t predict any Cy Youngs.

  8. Brandie says:

    I predict Thomas Alva Edinson will continue to be a lightning rod of controversy on this here blog until he goes 24 and 0, and, even then, people will not be happy.

  9. Arriba Wilver says:

    Going for low hanging fruit, huh? ;-)

    And it’s not just here. I checked out one of the so-called Pirates-can-do-no-wrong blogs. A lot of unhappy people everywhere. To me, the money’s spent, let’s hope for the best. But what do I know?

  10. Bizrow says:

    I see Tampa got two in the first?

  11. Arriba Wilver says:

    Although I mentioned the negative reaction to the Barmes and Martin signings earlier, I honestly can’t remember the last guy more people hoped failed and want to get rid of solely because they disliked the signing without even waiting to see if they can fix him. And that’s not limited to here.

  12. I don’t want the man to fail. I don’t want anyone to fail, but it hasn’t looked good for him so far.

  13. Bizrow says:

    I don’t know how anyone can “hope” someone on the PBC can fail?

    Except for Slick Frank

    Hi Frank

  14. Thundercrack says:

    I hope they can fix him too. And I would be much more comfortable with the risk side of the risk/reward aspect of signing him if they had signed him for less than $5 million.

    Couldn’t they have signed him for $2-$3 million…with maybe some incentives?

  15. bpn8pitt says:

    What I dont understand?

    They win 94 games and sign a guy who gave up the second most runs in all of MLB last year. And not for like a minor league deal with an invitation to Spring Training. No they gave him 5 million dollars.

    And people are okay with it “Cause Ray will fix him.”

    Yup. Guess our hitting coaches stink by that rationale, right?

    Jeez, I figured after 20 years some people would get tired of them signing guys that have sucked for years, 90% continue to suck with the tenure of the Pirates.

    And by the way, the whole “well Volquez was serviceable in 2012 argument?”…led the lead in walks.

    its okay though, Ray’s gonna fix him.

  16. bpn8pitt says:

    Dont you guys know anything? Spring Training numbers dont matter and Ray Searage is god.


  17. His overall line wasn’t terrible if it was over 5 or 6 innings instead of 3. It brought his ST ERA down to just over 11 from over 14. Progress is progress. 4 K’s doesn’t hurt.

    Maybe a right-handed loogy?

  18. Never mind, he’s still in there. Thought he was done. Another K to open the 4th.

  19. Arriba Wilver says:

    As long as we’re going the “I don’t understand” route, now that the money’s spent (and it is no matter how much anyone wants to pretend otherwise, imaginary buyouts or whatever) , why not wait a little while, at least beyond March 15, to see WHETHER Ray can fix him. Haven’t seen one post here that Ray CAN fix him. Lots that say he CAN’T, though.

    Secondly, again, the money’s spent, what does it matter as to what to do with him based on if it was too much? There’s where the Martin/Barmes comparison comes in. It’s done. And it’s Spring Training.

    And, no, I don’t know if he’s going to work out anymore than the people who are already convinced he won’t. But he IS here, for now. And how much was spent isn’t going to matter one iota as to whether Ray can fix him.

  20. theplanisworking says:

    Well, Edinson will be one of the following……..

    5th starter,
    Gone by May 1,
    Convenience List candidate.

    I hope Ray can work wonders……..

  21. bpn8pitt says:

    The pro-Volquez crowd always throws the disclaimer in there. Keep it up!

  22. pattonbb says:

    Is it time to start calling people “apologists” or questioning who “the real fans” are yet?

  23. bpn8pitt says:

    I think Ray Searage and Jim Benedict can teach a pitcher with good stuff or a guy with something left in the tank, to maybe reinvent himself.

    But they aren’t miracle workers. Bedard, Sanchez, JMac, maybe Corriea, Locke Volquez….Sometimes those guys are what they are.

    I guess if the Pirates pitching coaches are so good, than likewise their hitting coaches stink? No. Talents the real factor.

  24. Volquez is guaranteed $5 million.

    Sounds like an automatic Convenience List. Warm up his spot!

  25. bpn8pitt says:

    No. This a blog. You google stats as long as they support your opinions. When that doesn’t work, you say ” Its early” and “Spring training doesn’t matter”. And ignore the fact guys like Volquez and Travis Snider have been awful for 4 years.

  26. theplanisworking says:

    Sadly, you may be right.
    Signing was a head-scratcher at that price…..

  27. pattonbb says:

    Calm down…’s early.

  28. bpn8pitt says:

    I know. Spring training doesn’t matter.

    Sniders in the best shape of his life too. Worked out with Woodley in the off season.

  29. Bizrow says:

    Two questions for the blog

    Any word on where Stetson will start the season?

    I’m thinking there is no way Locke will be ready to start the season?

  30. theplanisworking says:

    Didn’t DK say Locke was a lock to come north?

    Allie? No idea.

    DK: Locke’s hurt. Based on our talk yesterday, there’s virtually no chance he’ll open the season. As far as Allie, I haven’t been tracking the minor-league guys.

  31. bpn8pitt says:

    With the days off in April they could probably go 4 man for a couple weeks (rainouts too). Maybe even have an audition for that 5 spot between a couple guys.

    I no longer get wrapped up in the best 25 nonsense. It changes quickly with injuries, days off and so forth.

  32. Andrew says:

    Pirates Prospects reported Stetson is getting an aggressive push to Altoona, basically can he hit or not, he will be 23 this season.

    Locke seems like a candidate for extended spring training, with a healthy Rodriguez I saw him a depth option. Average team needs something like 32 starts from guys outside the top five.

  33. Bizrow says:

    Thanks guys.

    Didn’t know Dejan said that, but basically Locke hasn’t pitched in a week or two, don’t see how he can have the innings under his belt, two weeks to go come Monday

  34. Arriba Wilver says:

    Pro-Volquez crowd? Man, you have a problem. All-you-have-to-do-is-read-the-words-instead-of-imagining-something-else-is-being-or-has-been-said. If there’s really a buyout let’s talk.

  35. Nate83 says:

    Good point bpn8pitt. If Volquez is still struggling they could continue to have him pitch on the side and try to figure some things out and maybe only give him 2 starts or so over the first 25 games because of the schedule. On the other hand nobody on the team is a 200 IP starter until the prove they are so I’m not sure they would be willing to go with a 4 man rotation no matter how the schedule is.

  36. Nate83 says:

    Actually forget what I said above. I just looked at the schedule and they have 2 days in the first 8 days and then play 20 games in 20 days. #5 starter will be needed from the start. Maybe one start can be skipped the first time through the rotation.

    I also saw Hurdle’s comments after the game today and based on that I think they are going to give this guy at least 8-10 starts to figure it out and in my opinion that is the right move. I personally didn’t like the signing especially at 5 million but changing a guys delivery isn’t a short process. The coaching staff saw something so I think them and Volquez deserve the chance to see the process through all the way before we start to panic.

    I do not think he will be a Jonathan Sanchez 2.0. There is velocity and good off speed pitches and he seems to want to be part of the process. Hurdle will know quickly in each game if he should be out there and pull the plug quickly when needed. Volquez has better stuff then most number 5 starters and probably a good amount of number 4’s around the league. It’s a calculated risk they are taking. Hopefully it works.

  37. Arriba Wilver says:

    I think that puts you firmly in bpn’s “pro-Volquez crowd.” Although, to be honest, I’m not sure what that is, either. I think it’s anything north of “cut him tomorrow.”

  38. bpn8pitt says:

    94 wins and they sign the worst pitcher in the NL in 2013.

    C’mon Wilver. You re smarter than that.

    What other teams were interested in Volquez over the winter?

  39. Arriba Wilver says:

    Read my lips (or pay attention to my keystrokes)—I haven’t talked for months about whether they SHOULD have signed him or what they should have paid. Water over the dam. I’ve ONLY been commenting on what they should do with him now that we have him. Has absolutely nothing to do with whether it was a good decision in the first place. Talk to someone else if you want to go there. I’m beyond bored with it.

  40. Nate83 says:

    It’s never as black and white as you want to make it AW. There doesn’t have to be a pro-Volquez crowd. I said I was against the signing, but since it has been made I’m willing to give it some time to play itself out. Middle of May should be enough time. If he isn’t showing any progress earlier.

    5 million in todays market doesn’t buy you much more then a project. Johnson who they went after aggressively wasn’t a sure bet to be much better and he cost almost twice as much. I personally thought Capuano was a safer bet to fill a number 5 starter role but I’m not even close to knowing as much about baseball as those making the decisions for the Pirates. I give them less credit for Martin and Liriano then most and less fault for Overbay and Barajas then most so I’m one of the last people who should be considered on a pro or anti side of a player signing.

  41. theplanisworking says:

    Well, since the Pirates can’t take him out behind McKecknie Field and shoot him, I guess I will go in the camp that I hope Ray works wonders with him, and if he can’t, then release him, or pitch him as little as possible. If they can fix him, then give him a regular spot in the rotation.

    No ballplayers were hurt in the making of this post.

  42. Arriba Wilver says:

    I’ll start bi$#hing when I think they are ONLY keeping him BECAUSE of the fact they chose him and what they paid him. We are far from that point, and even Neal acknowledged that he was a risk. The money’s gone.

  43. Nate83 says:

    Plan I agree with the pitch him as little as possible concept except for this team has really good depth in the bullpen and any spot taken up by a non productive player is a wasted spot. It wouldn’t look good but 5 million may need to be just released if it comes to that. Especially if Taillon comes up in June like expected it will be even harder to hide him somewhere on the roster.

  44. Milo Hamilton says:

    Two words – Convenience List.

  45. Arriba Wilver says:

    Smh. Seriously, Nate, re-read the posts. You are barking up the wrong tree here. Bpn is the one who said pro-Volquez crowd. I’m the one who mocked it.

  46. theplanisworking says:

    How was Florida?

    And congrats to your Lady Bucs for making it so far in the playoffs !

  47. theplanisworking says:

    My guess is he will be an “emergency starter”.
    I do know with the number of early games against division opponents, he might have a short leash.

    No other players were hurt in the making of this post…

  48. Nate83 says:

    My original post was in response to bpn’s comment about the schedule. The pro-Volquez stuff started many, many, many post ago. My guess is maybe even days ago or weeks. I had no way of knowing what you were referring to. I don’t know what you and bpn have going on but I think I may have been hit by some shrapnel while just passing by.

  49. Milo Hamilton says:

    Florida was great. Always good to get home. The girls get another shot at Seton LaSalle. I’m pretty sure they’ll put up a better showing than they did in the game at Palumbo. Don’t know if they have enough to win though.

  50. Nate83 says:

    Honestly I’m guessing we agree for the most part on the Volquez signing and the way he should be handled going forward. I really need to make a spreadsheet to remember who thinks what about each topic.

  51. theplanisworking says:

    Beware PIAA Refs, Milo.

    New Castle won today, but I don’t know how.
    Hooker whistled for 3 fouls in the first 4 minutes of the game……. had to sit a lot today.
    New Castle now plays Abington.

    I wish your girls luck Tuesday.

  52. Milo Hamilton says:

    I’ve always loved it when sportscasters say, “It’s really hard to beat a team 3 times in a season.” How about 4 times ?

  53. Andrew says:

    Scouting some sprint training stat lines, Matt Cain 2 2/3 pitched, 6 hits, 7 runs, 2 homeruns. Guy has made a career of beating his FIP, which is precarious and one of those things you can do until don’t, which he didn’t last year, 4.00 ERA. Giants are giving him $20 million/year for the next four years to blow up every three starts.

    Combine that with the Hunter Pence overpay and giving Tim Lincecum $35 million for sentimental reasons, Lincecum was the forth worst starter in baseball two year ago 5.18 ERA, then improved to a lofty 4.37, and that gets him $35 million. How does Brain Sabean have a job? Sabean has gotten drunk on his recent success and is just giving away contracts, while the Giants have a TV deal that pays them $12 million more than lowly Pirates. San Francisco is the 5th largest metro area in the US and the wealthiest region, hope the fans have found memories from those World Series victories because this team is sunk.

  54. Milo Hamilton says:

    2 rings = a job. Pretty simple.

  55. Nate83 says:

    With all the information available to GM’s in this era of baseball it’s amazing decisions like these are made. Nothing about Lincecum says he can ever get back to the elite pitcher he was at one point. Very little even suggest he can repeat last years mediocre stats. The Pence contract was shocking to me as well. I kept hearing national media saying he was more valuable to the Giants then to other teams but that doesn’t warrant the overpay in money and years.

    Surprisingly the Cain contract when it happened didn’t even make me blink but it may end up being the one that hurts them the most especially if he doesn’t bounce back this year.

  56. Milo Hamilton says:

    Oh, and there’s no salary cap. The Giants have plenty of money. Every team does.

  57. Nate83 says:

    Yes all teams do, some just don’t act like it. The playing field is not even but it’s not the ski jumping ramp it is sometimes made out to be. Luckily the luxury tax keeps teams like the Dodgers and Yankees with somewhat reasonable payrolls. I can’t imagine how much they could spend and still make a profit if it didn’t exist. Nobody like to just give money away especially if it goes to the opponent.

  58. JohninOshkosh says:

    Personally, I could live with two World Series championships in three years and have the team stink for a decade after that (which I don’t think will happen to the Giants). My favorite team has had one playoff appearance in 21 years. While the Pirates were/are talking about “windows of opportunities” the Giants were busy crashing through those windows to titles.

    Just a review of what Sabean and Giants ownership has done:

    1. Built a new stadium that is one of the gems of the leagues. Sells out every night. Oh yea, zero tax dollars spent to build it.
    2. World Championships.

    Not sure I would be too critical of how they have done business.

  59. Milo Hamilton says:


  60. Arriba Wilver says:

    Quit making sense, Osh. :-)

  61. Andrew says:

    Yeah but Sabean has been there since 1997.

    It was an attempt at satire, I’ll stop, I just do not understand the consternation over Volquez and nine spring training innings. Volquez was signed to a one year $5 million contract, a pitcher who was a project and has never found success since UCL reconstruction in 2009. The Pirates haven’t been able to fix him after 9 spring training innings and some fans think the team is run by incompetents.

  62. bpn8pitt says:

    Why do you ignore last year when he led the NL in ER? Or 2012 when he led the league in BBs?

  63. bpn8pitt says:

    Andrew, you mentioned Burnett, Melancon, and Liriano before. Nice coming out of the AL, with no DH and a pitchers spot, right?

    Volquez been ineffective for awhile, in the NL no less. Pitched out of the two parks that are probably a few better than PNC, pitcher friendly wise.

    Plus, Burnett Liriano and Melancon were acquired off of losing seasons. Didn’t matter if they failed…Volquez was your only ML addition to a team that had its best season in 20 years.

    5 million. Hell, Morneau ended up costing 6.5….I just hope they aren’t too far back in the standings, if and when they decide to pull the plug on Volquez, Lambo, Snider etc.

  64. Nate83 says:

    Again I didn’t like the signing but he led the league in BB’s but still had an ERA in the mid 4’s in 2012. He pitched well at the end of last year and his FIP was considerably better then the results. He still has good velocity and above average off speed pitches. There is something there, it just needs fixed. Maybe they won’t be able to fix him and 5 million seemed high to me. I would rather it have been something like 2.5 with incentives to get to 5 million but I’m not going to lose sleep over 2.5 million or even 5 million. It’s over with. The have proven they will do what’s right for the team they won’t stick with him if he fails. They moved on from McLouth, Bedard, JMac, and even Locke last year.

  65. Nate83 says:

    Morneau cost 6.5??? I’m not sure what that means when talking about Volquez? Morneau is a safer player in terms of not being just terrible but at this point he isn’t going to be much more then just adequate. Volquez has the stuff to become a solid starting pitcher. He is much riskier but if they are able to get his control back in line he will outperform his contract. That’s a big if and it may not happen. I’m pretty confident Morneau will not outperform his contract. I can almost guarantee he will bat .260 and hit 12-18 HR’s.

  66. Andrew says:

    Free agency is the least efficient use of resources, I would have liked the Pirates to add a left handed hitting first baseman, not Morneau, Loney or traded for someone. Free agents are 30 year or older so declining and you are paying a premium for them. What pitcher did you want the Pirates to add? The only guys the Pirates were targeting were projects.

    What Liriano, Burnett, Melancon, Gomez, and Volquez had in common was xFIPs lower than their ERAs, xFIP having greater predictive value than ERA. Volquez is a project and much more so than Burnett or even Liriano he only had one good season in which Dusty Baker abused him.

    He may fail but to get worked up over nine spring training innings is ludicrous, Burnett pitcher four innings in AAA gave up 2 homeruns and walked four before his call up, in Liriano’s second start in AA he pitched 2.2 gave up four runs, a homer and walked three. This is baseball your fifth starter does not make or break your season.

  67. Nate83 says:

    Andrew agree completely. I usually do agree with you except for your avatar which I am not a fan of.

    I will be most interested in his last 2 or 3 spring training starts and how many times he falls behind batters and eventually walks them. I really won’t even care about how many hits or runs he gives up. If he is being efficient and getting ahead in counts I will assume he is making progress and I won’t care about his raw stats. You don’t have to watch him for long to realize that the ability to be a very good pitcher still exist.

  68. bpn8pitt says:

    Let me ask you guys this.

    Pirates are going to play the Reds 20 times or so this year?

    They got to have mounds of data on Volquez. As do some other teams in the NL Central.

    its not like they are coming at them with something unknown. I do think that’s an xfactor.

  69. Nate83 says:

    They know he falls behind a lot batters. No amount of data against him will matter if the Pirates don’t fix him. He will continue to get hit hard and fail. If they fix him no amount of data will matter because he will be a completely different pitcher. In my opinion you can completely throw out anything this guy has done over the last 5 years since his great 2008 season because the stuff is still there. It simply comes down to if the Pirates can fix him. He’s not getting hit hard because his stuff had gotten worse. It’s because he get’s behind in counts and walks a ton of hitters.

    The Pirates have a guy wasting a 40 man roster spot in Oliver that is very similar. The difference is Volquez at one point did figure it out and for some reason changed mechanically. Oliver doesn’t seem like he can ever figure it out mechanically. Allie Stetson was correctly identified as not being able to figure it out.

  70. Andrew says:

    I do not think there is much to know about Volquez, lacks fastball command and has good change up, fairly good chance he will walk you. Do not get me wrong I understand the Volquez signing but am not expecting resounding success, diagnosing and cleaning up a delivery is difficult and the Padres pitching coach is fairly well regarded and failed. I would have preferred Josh Johnson, Roberto Hernandez, or Dan Haren (but not at $10 million).

    If it fails I’ll get mad at this signing sometime in May like I did with Inge last year, 9 innings in March doesn’t tell you much.

  71. Andrew says:

    Favorite player, shares my name, and reminds me how stupefying it is that one team could be so bad for so long

  72. Jim S. says:

    Good post, Andrew. I hated this signing and still do. But, the Pirates saw something in him that has made them curious for a few years now. I think his command issues may be too much to fix, but we’ll see. It’s not even St. Patty’s Day yet – although they did turn the water green in Chicago already.

    They only signed Edinson to be a #5 starter. He was not ever supposed to be the answer to losing AJ, nor did anyone ever equate his potential to that of Liriano. Josh Johnson was the guy they wanted to replace AJ, but he chose SD instead. I have a feeling we may be seeing a lot of Cumpton this year as #5. But, let’s all give it a little time yet.

  73. Jim S. says:

    San Diego is an extreme pitcher’s park.

    Cincinnati is closer to a launching pad.

    PNC Park is a pitcher’s park.

  74. Jim S. says:

    Me, too. I’ve never understood that one. And, the funniest part to me is they don’t say it until after one team has beaten the other one 2 times already. At that point, they only have to beat them 1 time.

    It’s a little like flipping a coin. If you say you are going to flip it 3 times and that it will land on heads all 3 times, the odds of you being right are not all that great.

    But, if you say it after it has already landed heads the first 2 times, the odds are 50/50 it will land on heads a 3rd time.

  75. Nate83 says:

    I have to disagree Jim about Josh Johnson. I don’t think he was intended to replace AJ. He was just a toy that needed fixed with fewer pieced to fix. They may have only been willing to pay AJ the same amount as Johnson because that is all that was in the budget but I don’t think they thought Johnson had the highest K-rate, great groundball rate, and low 3 ERA ability in him. Johnson is still a project and hasn’t been close to AJ’s level for 2 or 3 years.

Other blogs
Sports: Rob Rossi | Steel Mill | Chipped Ice | Bucco Blog | iPreps | Pitt Locker Room | Penn State Sports
News: This Just In | Trib List | ICycle | Flow Back | Stories Behind Trib Stories  

» Top Sports
» Top News
» Top Breaking News