>> The Wednesday column checks in with Bob Nutting about the Pirates’ offseason, why he didn’t push for a first baseman, the payroll, other huge deals around baseball and more.
As an addendum here: I have a line in there comparing Nutting’s accessibility to that of Art Rooney II and Mario Lemieux, and chances are excellent I actually understated it. I see the latter two a lot, say hello, and they’re always cordial. But the specific reference here is to availability to be interviewed, and no one comes within a Wheeling mile of Nutting in that regard. He’s also never, ever balked at a question I’ve asked or responded unprofessionally to my harsher criticisms of his work. Or even the harshest. For all the grief the Pirates’ owner has taken — and still takes — there’s something to be said for that.
>> The Penguins didn’t bother to show for the Carolina game. Rob Rossi reports from Consol on one of the most blah efforts of the season, exempting the occasional Sidney Crosby going after Jay Harrison, as our Chaz Palla captures above.
Random blogginess from the scene: No question Francisco Liriano had a terrific opener, with six scoreless innings and 10 Ks. Especially coming off a late-spring injury, that’s above and beyond. At the same time, 104 pitches and only four groundouts run counter to what Liriano himself cites as his main goal: Be more efficient. … Let the record show that Travis Ishikawa not only went 2 for 3 but also looked a lot like the player we’d seen this spring. Professional-looking at-bats. We’ll see. … Clint Hurdle always balks at using the term platoon, even when it’s wholly merited, but it sure sounds like that’s exactly what we’ll see in first base and right field. Credit to the manager for bypassing whatever glamor sometimes accompanies an opening-day start. Just win the game. … Replays happened. Calls were overturned. Big whoop. Welcome to the 21st century, baseball, where the other three major sports had been living for a decade-plus. What next, a salary cap? … There was a broad disparity in the accounts of whether or not Bonds was booed, cheered or both. My view, tweeted out almost immediately, was that he was heavily booed. Because he was. Where I was listening. For that matter, most writers seemed to see it that way, while most TV/radio guys seemed to see it the other way. Simple explanation? The press box is right behind the sections filled with displaced season-ticket holders from Three Rivers Stadium. Total diehards. That’s where we writers were. The broadcast guys were down on the field. … That was quite an atmosphere in there. I’m fascinated by how the rest of the homestand will shape up in that regard.
Here’s our opening-day photo gallery featuring the work of Chris Horner, Chaz Palla and Steve Adams, including this gem from Palla:
>> The Monday column sets up the Pirates’ start with a look at their starters … and whether or not they can finish. I’ll cover the game today, as well, for an extra Tuesday column.
I’ll also join TribLIVE Radio at 11:30 a.m. as part of an all-day setup for the opener on our station that also includes Frank Coonelly at 9:30 a.m. and Neal Huntington at 10:05 a.m. Ken Laird and Guy Junker are the hosts.
Gaby Sanchez is on the hot seat, by beat man Rob Biertempfel.
>> The Penguins let it all hang out to beat the Blackhawks, as reported by Rob Rossi at Consol.
Here are both of the first-period goals, both really pretty:
Here’s a bit of what Brooks Orpik had to say afterward:
Random bloggery from the scene: I try to be open-minded. I really do. But anyone even remotely critical of Orpik’s hit on Jonathan Toews last night is either willfully ignorant or unwillingly ignorant. Either way, same result. Let’s hope Toews is OK. One of the game’s top five players, in this view. But let’s also not deliberately distort what is and isn’t a clean hit. … So, if all Robert Bortuzzo does is drive other teams to the point of distraction and draw hatred away from the Penguins’ stars and play at least decent defense … nah, never mind. Scratch him when playoffs start. … Mike Milbury’s an idiot. … That’s as good an all-around hockey game as James Neal has played in a spell. Jussi Jokinen, too. Skated with purpose. … Funny, but Sidney Crosby didn’t exactly have his best overall game, and none of that mattered when he buried that wrister on the two-on-one late. The great players always have that escape hatch. … I asked Dan Bylsma about the Penguins’ uptick in physical play the past two-plus games: Bylsma: “I thought this was one of our most physical games of the year, one of our most hard-fought.” … Orpik, with a possible explanation: “There’s been a lot of negativity about us outside the locker room. We just try to stick together no matter what anyone says about us.” … Marc-Andre Fleury is playing so, so much better than most seem to realize right now. And yeah, I know why. … See this picture below? That’s photographer’s gold right there. Our Chaz Palla just happened to be in the right corner at the right moment — there’s an assigned rotation — for the big hit. Chaz, who had the best view of anyone anywhere, told me he couldn’t believe Toews wasn’t reacting and that Toews never did until actual contact. Amazing for a player so highly skilled, as they’re generally super-aware of their surroundings. Anyway, give it up for our guy for nailing the shot.
Brandon Saad comes home to the place where he should have been drafted, by Josh Yohe.
>> Our panel on WPXI-TV’s Subway Final Word last night tackled — with no small amount of gusto — the Pirates’ opener, Barry Bonds’ participation, the Penguins’ big W, the Steelers’ signings and the unionization of college football.
>> Thank you, as always, for reading. See you at the yard.
The joint venture between WPXI-TV and Trib Total Media continues Sunday night at 11:35 p.m. — right after the Channel 11 News — with a live edition of The Subway Final Word.
>> Who’s on the panel: I’ll join Rob Biertempfel, the Trib’s baseball beat man, and Mark Madden, top-rated radio host of 105.9 the X. The host will be WPXI-TV’s Bill Philllips.
>> What we’re talking about: The Pirates open Monday with mixed expectations. Barry Bonds, you might have heard, will be part of it. We’ll also talk Penguins-Blackhawks (which is why we’re going live, to wait for the game to end), and the Steelers’ recent signings.
>> Where to watch: In addition to the broadcast on WPXI-TV (811 on Comcast), we have WPXI’s live online stream for Pittsburgh’s many out-of-town sports fans, as well as video podcasts available on both outlets’ Web sites.