Monday Mop-Up Duty: A need for speed (updated with McCutchen ESPN commerical)

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SOUTH HILLS – I hope some of you espace dwellers had a chance to take a look at our paper product on Sunday, which included our MLB Preview. Not to be nostalgic, but there’s still something to be said about actually holding a paper in your hand. It’s still the best way to present a story. I think the Trib team as a whole was pretty pleased with how the MLB section turned out and a lot of folks had a hand in producing it. I hope those that had a chance to read it enjoyed it. The cover story centered on what I think is one of the more interesting trends in the game: pitchers are throwing faster than ever before. And this has consequences. Continue reading Monday Mop-Up Duty: A need for speed (updated with McCutchen ESPN commerical)

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Pregame 1: Opening Day v. Cubs

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The field, four hours before first pitch ...
The field, four hours before first pitch …

Happy Opening Day. Allow me to blast ya with some trivia, news and notes: This is Franicisco Liriano‘s second Opening Day assignment. He started Twins opener in 2009 and dropped 6-1 decision v Mariners & King Felix … This is just the third time the Pirates have begun the season in March. The won the previous two, both on March 31 — 10-1 at Cincy in 2003 and 12-11 in Atlanta in 2008 (12 innings) … Jinx alert! Mark Melancon beings this season with the longest streak of innings pitched without allowing a homer (63.0 IP) among all major league pitchers. … Jinx alert II! Reliever Tony Watson ended last season with a run of 21 scoreless outings. His streak of 20.1 innings without a run allowed is the third-longest in the majors behind Kevin Siegrist (25.0) and Hisashi Iwakuma (23.0). … This is second year in a row the Pirates and Cubs have clashed on Opening Day. The Cubbies were the opponent in the Pirates’ first game in the National League on April 30, 1887 at Recreation Park. I don’t think it cost $100 back then for a ticket, beer and parking, Then again, how much could it cost to park a horse and buggy?

Game 1: Cubs (0-0) @ Pirates (0-0), 1:05 p.m. PNC Park

Cubs: 1. Emilio Bonifacio cf, 2. Junior Lake lf, 3. Starlin Castro ss, 4. Anthony Rizzo 1b, 5. Mike Olt 3b, 6. Wellington Castillo c, 7. Nate Schierholtz rf, 8. Darwin Barney 2b, 9. Jeff Samardzija rhp
Pirates: 1. Starling Marte lf, 2. Travis Snider rf, Andrew McCutchen cf, 4. Pedro Alvarez 3b, 5. Russell Martin c, 6. Neil Walker 2b, 7. Travis Ishikawa 1b, 8. Jordy Mercer ss, 9. Francisco Liriano lhp
– Rob Biertempfel

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Morning briefing: Game 29 v. Yankees

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One last sunrise over McKechnie Field.
One last sunrise over McKechnie Field.

BRADENTON, Fla. — The sun had not yet risen over McKechnie Field on this final day in Florida for the Pirates when the team announced a minor trade. Outfielder Keon Broxton was acquired from the D’backs for the ol’ player to be named later. Broxton was assigned to Double-A Altoona. Broxton, 23, was a third-round pick in 2009. He spent last season at Double-A Mobile — playing mostly center field, but also getting a smattering of time in left and right — and batted .231 with a .655 OPS. He’s hit 50 homers in 566 minor league games. This is merely an educated guess, but this trade tells me the Pirates were indeed talking with Arizona about Didi Gregorius and Broxton’s name kept coming up in potential packages. Sometimes, the trades you don’t make lead to others that you do complete. Continue reading Morning briefing: Game 29 v. Yankees

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Pirates strike gold with Marte but rank 27th in payroll. What’s the offseason grade now?

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SOUTH HILLS – So we know how many of you felt about the offseason, but this should warm your heart: Starling Marte and Gregroy Polanco will be together in the Pirates’ outfield through at least 2020 barring a trade or unforeseen unfortunate series of events. That’s a long way away. Oh yeah, the NL MVP is locked up through 2018. The Pirates could have the best outfield in baseball for much of the rest of the decade. I don’t think that’s hyperbole.

Some very significant news this morning as the club and Starling Marte have reached a six-year, $31 million deal that includes at least one club option, according to John Heyman. This means the Pirates buy out Marte’s three arbitration years and at least two years of free agency. The deal starts in 2014. This means the Pirates have a chance to enjoy another-McCutchen like contract, which could provide tens of millions of dollars in surplus value. The Trib’s Rob Biertempfel first reported Marte and the Pirates were talking contract extension. Continue reading Pirates strike gold with Marte but rank 27th in payroll. What’s the offseason grade now?

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Morning briefing: Game 28 @ Twins

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BRADENTON, Fla. — The team bus has left for Fort Myers for the game against the Twins. I’m staying behind at McKechnie Field to watch Francisco Liriano and Edinson Volquez pitch in a simulated game. Ordinarily, those are the kind of events you don’t attend as a reporter, but we’re talking about the Opening Day starter, so here I am. Check my Twitter account (@BiertempfelTrib) for updates.

Pirates (12-9-2) @ Twins, 1:05 p.m., Hammond Stadium, Fort Myers, Fla.
Webcast: pirates.com Weather: Partly cloudy, 60 degrees
Pirates: 1. Josh Harrison LF, 2. Travis Snider RF, 3. Andrew McCutchen CF, 4. Travis Ishikawa 1B, 5. Neil Walker 2B, 6. Gaby Sanchez DH, 7. Tony Sanchez C, 8. Jordy Mercer SS, Clint Barmes 3B. Brandon Cumpton RHP.
Twins: Lineup TBA. Ricky Nolasco RHP.

Other pitchers: Tony Watson, Jason Grilli and Jeanmar Gomez.

– Rob Biertempfel

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Upset alert: Sometimes spring training stats do matter

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SOUTH HILLS – The Pirates’ 25-man roster is taking shape as the club made a number of cuts this morning, the most surprising being that of Andrew Lambo, who was sent to Triple-A after being perceived to a clear favorite to make the club, barring a trade or free agent signing before Opening Day. (Kendrys Morales is shaking his head somewhere).

 

Lambo was the Pirates’ version of a No. 2 seed who couldn’t make it to the second weekend of the tournament. The Pirates’  double-digit-seeded Cinderella is non-roster invite Travis Ishikawa, who now looks like he’ll make the 25-man roster as a potential platoon partner for Gaby Sanchez and/or left-handed bench bat. I assume Sanchez will play quite a bit vs. RHP early, but we’ll see. Continue reading Upset alert: Sometimes spring training stats do matter

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Morning briefing: Game 27 v. Blue Jays

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The "We Are Family" truck was loaded this morning with gear to send back to Pittsburgh.
The “We Are Family” truck was loaded this morning with gear to send back to Pittsburgh.

BRADENTON, Fla. — As you can read elsewhere on this site, the Pirates this morning cut 11 players from big league camp. Sending out Andrew Lambo and Jaff Decker brought some clarity to two positions – Travis Ishikawa (although he’s not on the 40-man roster yet) will share first base with Gaby Sanchez; Jose Tabata and Travis Snider will platoon in right field. Then again, the Pirates could could upset those plans in the next few days by making a trade and/or free-agent signing.

>> Reliever Jared Hughes was optioned to Indy along with Decker and Lambo. Pitchers Adam Wilk, Jay Jackson, Zack Thornton and Daniel Schlereth; outfielder Chris Dickerson; catcher Omir Santos; and infielders Robert Andino and Michael Martinez were reassigned to minor league camp.

>> GM Neal Huntington said there is no update on Jameson Taillon‘s sore elbow. Team doctors found no ligament damage, but Taillon is supposed to get a second opinion this week.

Blue Jays (12-12) @ Pirates (12-9-2), 1:05 p.m., McKechnie Field, Bradenton, Fla.
Radio: 93.7 FM Weather: Cloudy, 70 degrees
Blue Jays: 1. Matthew Tuiasosopo RF, 2. Melky Cabrera LF, 3. Edwin Encarnacion DH, 4. Erik Kratz C, 5. Dan Johnson 1B, 6. Brett Carroll CF, 7. Maicer Izturis 2B, 8. Ryan Goins SS, 9. Jonathan Diaz 3B. J.A. Happ LHP
Pirates: 1. Starling Marte LF, 2. Russell Martin C, 3. Andrew McCutchen CF, 4. Pedro Alvarez 3B, 5. Gaby Sanchez 1B, 6. Jose Tabata LF, 7. Neil Walker 2B, 8. Jordy Mercer SS, 9. Wandy Rodriguez LHP.
Other pitchers: Mark Melancon (two innings), Justin Wilson (one inning)
– Rob Biertempfel

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Monday Mop-Up Duty: the attrition game and Pirates looking at Didi?

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SOUTH HILLS – Pirates general manager Neal Huntington says the ligament intact. The Pirates are hoping some rest alleviates the pain. But you never want to hear about a top pitching prospect feeling elbow pain. And Jameson Taillon is experiencing elbow pain.

This is problematic for the Pirates on two fronts: for starters, he’s one of their most valuable organizational assets and this could potentially delay his development, secondly, the club was also likely counting on him for some impact, second-half-of-the-season innings.

Continue reading Monday Mop-Up Duty: the attrition game and Pirates looking at Didi?

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Morning briefing: Game 26 v. Tigers

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Maybe the Pirates will honor Ralph Kiner someday by building the rest of his statue.
Maybe the Pirates will honor Ralph Kiner someday by building the rest of his statue.

BRADENTON, Fla. — Management held a couple of closed-door meetings this morning, most likely to sort out the pitching situation. LHP Francisco Liriano still is listed as the Opening Day starter, but that could change if his groin injury does not improve soon. Liriano told me this morning he’ll try to throw off a bullpen mound Wednesday. There are no relievers listed yet on today’s lineup card, although Bryan Morris is scheduled to throw at Pirate City and Jeanmar Gomez and Stolmy Pimentel will throw side sessions. … The Pirates announced they will wear No. 4 patches on their jerseys this season to honor the late Ralph Kiner. Continue reading Morning briefing: Game 26 v. Tigers

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