All posts by Rob Biertempfel

Mercer ready for Kang’s challenge

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JordyMercer2BRADENTON, Fla. — Jordy Mercer‘s Twitter feed blew up Tuesday night after free-agent infielder Jung-ho Kang fired a shot across the bow during a press conference at Incheon Airport in Seoul.
Kang is on his way to Pittsburgh to finalize a contract with the Pirates. Including the posting fee, the Pirates seem ready to commit at least $21 million for a four-year deal. For a budget-conscious club like the Pirates, that’s a lot to pay for a potential bench guy. Kang, 27, was a power-hitting shortstop for the Nexen Heroes in the Korea Baseball Organization. With the Pirates, he might be used at short, third base or second base. Continue reading Mercer ready for Kang’s challenge

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Seven for the Hall

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There’s been a lot of talk recently about the so-called unfairness of limiting a Hall of Fame ballot to 10 players. Many (perhaps most) of my fellow voters in the Baseball Writers Association of America want to eliminate the cap, but the HOF is not likely to alter its rules that much. So, last month the BBWAA voted to urge the Hall to expand the limit to 12 names.
The Hall of Fame has not indicated whether it will consider such a change. In the meantime, we continue to use the 10-player ballot. I’m fine with that. The cap is another filter to use when deciding who gets one of baseball’s greatest honors — keeping it a Hall of Fame instead of a Hall of Really, Really Good. This is my fourth year as a voter, and I’ve never listed 10 names. If the ballot eventually is expanded to 12 or 15 or infinity, well, I’d be OK with that too … but I’d likely continue to keep my tally in single digits.
As always, I based my ballot on numbers, personal recollections and a lot of discussion with other writers, voters and fans. And I tried to stay true to the one line of instruction the HOF gives it voters: “Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.”
My ballot this year consists of two position players (who were Houston Astros teammates for more than a decade) and five pitchers: Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling, Lee Smith and John Smoltz.
The two toughest calls were for players I eventually left off my ballot: Mike Piazza and Tim Raines. Piazza was perhaps the greatest offensive catcher ever, but his case for the Hall of hurt by his defensive shortcomings and admitted use of androstenedione. Raines was among the finest leadoff batters of all time, but his career was marred by admitted cocaine use.

— RB

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Winter meetings day 3

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SAN DIEGO — Tony Sanchez‘s stint in the Dominican Winter League wound up being a lot shorter than he expected. After playing in just 10 games with Toros del Este, Sanchez was told by the team to go back to the United States.
“They sent me home,” Sanchez said by phone Wednesday morning. “I don’t blame them. The reason is, I did so poorly. I couldn’t hit.”
Sanchez had three hits in 30 at-bats. He also made two throwing errors.
“I felt good, I felt strong and confident behind the plate,” Sanchez said. “The errors came on short-hop throws to second base on steals. I went there to polish my defense.” Continue reading Winter meetings day 3

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Winter meetings day 2

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SAN DIEGO — Good day, and welcome to day two.
If you’re still hunting stocking stuffers, the Pirates will be ready to take your cash starting 10 a.m. Friday, when single-game tickets go on sale. You can get them via the usual outlets: by clicking on pirates.com/tickets, by calling 877-893-2827, or by going old-school and standing in line at a PNC Park ticket window. The 2015 promotional schedule includes the usual mix of free t-shirts and bobbleheads, but the crown jewel of giveaway items is the Clint Hurdle garden gnome (May 7) Continue reading Winter meetings day 2

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Winter meetings day 1

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workroomSAN DIEGO — 8:45 am PT First off, I vow to refrain from making any “Anchorman” jokes this week.

There was not a lot of buzz about the Pirates last night in the lobby of the Grand Hyatt, but, hey, it’s early. The Pirates want to re-up Francisco Liriano, but the stumbling block could be the number of years more than the dollars. They Pirates are skittish about making a four-year offer for a 31-year-old pitcher with a spotty injury history the past couple of years. Jason Hammels reportedly just got 2/$18M from the Cubs — is Liriano worth 4/$60M? We’ll see. The fact that Liriano is tied to draft-pick compensation could help the Pirates’ cause.

— If Jon Lester makes up his mind about soon which team’s logo will be on the hefty checks he’l cash the next few years, it should trigger a wave of pitcher signings. Until then, it’s a bit of a waiting game. GM Neal Huntington doesn’t necessarily believe a delay will hurt the Pirates’ chances of re-signing either Liriano or Edinson Volquez. “We’re still awfully early in the offseason,” Huntington said a few days ago. “I don’t know that the longer it goes the worse our chances are. In some ways, it might make our chances better.” Continue reading Winter meetings day 1

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In which we look back at last night’s roster moves …

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Last night, the Pirates put catcher Elias Diaz, outfielder Willy Garcia, and pitchers Nick Kingham and Jameson Taillon on the 40-man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 draft.
GM Neal Huntington said Taillon is “doing really well” recovering from Tommy John surgery. Why protect a guy who is coming off such a major surgery? Huntington pointed out that Taillon’s injury would have made him more attractive to other teams if he was Rule 5 eligible because he could have been stashed on the disabled list for all but the required 90 days a player has to stay on the big league roster. Continue reading In which we look back at last night’s roster moves …

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Bucs reportedly add Florimon, Liz

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The Pirates have not yet announced what is expected to be a flurry of roster moves to protect select prospects from the Rule 5 draft. Pitchers Jameson Taillon and Nick Kingham and catcher Elias Diaz are expected to be added to the 40-man roster before the midnight deadline.
However, there are two interesting nuggets that have gotten out through other sources. The Washington Nationals announced the Pirates claimed utility infielder Pedro Florimon off waviers. Also, the website of Estrellas Orientals, a team in the Dominican Winter League, reports the Pirates have signed 31-year-old pitcher Radhames Liz to a two-year, $3 million contract. Continue reading Bucs reportedly add Florimon, Liz

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MVP decision is done. Busy offseason looms.

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Do I harbor at least a little bit of bias against a pitcher winning the league MVP award? Yeah, I suppose I do. Position players are on the field pretty much every day, and they can influence the outcome of a game in so many ways — at the plate, in the field, on the bases, presence in the lineup.
I don’t say that to diminish the importance of a starting pitcher. I’ve included at least one pitcher on each of the half-dozen or so MVP ballots I’ve turned in over the past few seasons. But I’ve always felt it would take a truly historic, knock-my-socks-off kind of performance for a pitcher reach the top of my list. Clayton Kershaw came darn close to doing that this year, but in the end I still put Andrew McCutchen’s name in the top spot. Continue reading MVP decision is done. Busy offseason looms.

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Worst-kept secret: Polanco is very good at baseball

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ST. LOUIS -- It's like the final scene of "The Poseidon Adventure" this morningin the Lou, with the sun peeking over the Arch after a loud, stormy night. In a few hours, I'm off to Bawl'mer, where I hear it's gonna  be even wetter and colder the next coupla days.

Anyway, I spoke Sunday with GM Neal Huntington and asked about everybody’s No. 1 topic: Gregory Polanco, Superstar. Huntington insisted the Super 2 thing “is not a driving factor” when management decides when to call up a promising prospect. When I tweeted that quote, it got a lot of responses, some of the laced with four-letter words. (Remember, folks, I’m keeping my Twitter feed a family-friendly place. Drop an F-bomb = blocked.)

Continue reading Worst-kept secret: Polanco is very good at baseball

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Game 3: Cubs @ Pirates

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My, but sunrise came quickly today and I might just doze off while blogging. If you have to ask why, then you haven’t yet read this.
Both teams blew out their bullpen’s Wednesday/Thursday in the 16-inning marathon. The Pirates used six relievers, including Stolmy Pimentel, who worked the final four innings for his first big league victory. “A good one to win,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “We’ll figure out the pitching (Thursday).” Continue reading Game 3: Cubs @ Pirates

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