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Blog Entry

Spring Training Leads To Hope???

Posted on: March 27, 2009 10:35 am
 

As my teams this past year have done rather well, the Steelers won the SuperBowl, the Sooners went to the National Championship Game, the Penguins went to the Stanley Cup Final and Pitt just made it to the Elite Eight last night... and then we have the Pirates... hey we are consistent...

People say change is good... well the Pirates went through some changes last year... new ownership group... new GM... new Manager... same results... well maybe not...

The Pirates did trade away the 'talent'... gone are Jason Bay, Xavier Nady, Damaso Marte... we did get back some 'organizational depth' as it is called... Brandon Moss will havea chance to be an everyday outfielder after being stuck behind Manny Ramirez and JD Drew in Boston... Adam LaRoche gets a chance to be the 3rd baseman and play with his older brother in Pittsburgh this year... we added Jeff Karstens, Ross Ohlendorf and Craig Hansen to our pitching staff...

Players like Ryan Doumit and Nate McClouth had break out years along with pitcher Paul Maholm... but players like Jack Wilson and Freddy Sanchez were not able to replicate their prior seasons, mostly due to injuries... pitchers like Ian Snell and Zach Duke while sticking with the Pirates did not continue to develop as we had hoped they would... Tom Gorzelanny fell off dramatically and ended up in Indianapolis as a result (back there this year already)

So what does 2009 hold for my beloved Pirates??? my glass is half full opinion is that we have a chance to get to that elusive .500 mark... while I know that is not the ultimate goal, for a team like the Pirates it would be huge for us... John Russell our 2nd year skipper mentions that he does not have that as a goal for the team... well for those of us that have suffered through the curse of Francisco Cabrera, we will take it... a sign of progress...

Let's see how this can happen... first pitching... Joe Kerrigan, the man who has taught the likes of Pedro Martinez what it means to be intimidating has the tough task of making this staff tougher... the Pirate pitchers have a tendency to nibble on the outside corner and as a result have made opposing hitters way to comfortable at the plate... so with a starting staff of Maholm, Snell, Duke, Ohlendorf and Karstens/Vasquez we could have a formiddable staff... no one will mistake this rotation with Yankees or the Red Sox, but it can provide this team with opportunities to win some games... the bullpen will be anchored by Matt Capps a solid closer that is a strike throwing machine and have John Grabow fresh off his WBC classic performance with the US team and Tyler Yates a flame throwing righty acquired from Atlanta last spring. Former starter Sean Burnett can provide solid work from the left side and the aforementioned Craig Hansen looks to regain his form that made him a 1st round pick. This years rule 5 selection Donnie Veal can bring it... just not always where he wants it hence he is a rule 5 pickup... and last years rule 5 selection Evan Meek is looking to stick with the big club this season as well. So Joe, you have your work cut out for you... this team will go only as far as the pitching will take us...if....

...the position players can play up to their potential... handling this staff will fall on the shoulders of Ryan Doumit... while having his best year last year, he must show that he can do it again... with the Pirates, he is a middle of the order hitter... on other teams he might be better suited to hit further down in the order, but no such protection here... while he will not hit 30 HRs... he can hit 15-20 and hit around .300... pretty good for a switch-hitting catcher. Adam LaRoche performing in a contract year will look to have two 2nd halves this season... a notoriuosly slow starter for the Pirates, Adam needs to half a strong start for this team to have a good start... Freddy Sanchez and Jack Wilson can be a pretty good middle to the infield... both suffered through injuries last year and with a team that has as little depth as the Pirates... well it was not good... at 3rd base another LaRoche... Andy... he has been a prizedprospect for the Dodgers the past few years... now is his opportunity to shine... he has all but been handed the 3rd base job this spring... so far so good... lets see what he can do once the sason starts... as we head to the outfield, we have some interesting choices... center field is set with Nate McClouth as he has converted himself from a 4th outfielder to a gold glove allstar center fielder... he might not duplicate last years performance, but if he can come close, no issues in center... as for left field, it looks like Nyjer Morgan will get the nod... a fleet footed leadoff hitter, he can bring some sorely lacking speed top a plodding team... he has shown signs of promise in the past two season, but consistency has been lacking... in right field, Brandon Moss gets his shot... his left handed power would be a welcome addition to a lineup with out a true power hitter (sorry Adam)... if he can get his stroke dialed in, the short porch he patrols in right will be inviting

While the bench will not be a huge asset again this year, a player like Eric Hinske can provide sme pop and if need be can fill in at a corner outfield spot or a corner infield spot if needed... Craig Monroe has shown signs of regaining his form of a few years ago can be a big bat from the right side and fill in aroundthe outfield if need be... Ramon Vazquez will provide some infield depth as will Luis Cruz or Brian Bixler... the catching position will be backed-up by either Robinson Cruz or newly acquired Jason Jamarillo, if either needs to play significant time, the Pirates will bein trouble...

There are a few players to keep an eye on... I am thinking that they will be getting some minor league seasoning before we see them @ PNC Park...

Steve Pearce is the closest to being ready, he might stick leaving Florida... a few dings this spring have limited his AB's thus far... probably ticketed for AAA to start, but has some pop... seems to push when he has gotten his chance... if and it is a very big if he settles down, he can rake

Neil Walker and Andrew McCutchen are the next big things for the Pirates... Neil is currently at 3rd base, but has been mentioned as a possible 2nd baseman in the future... depending upon Andy LaRoche, this Pittsburgh native has moved from catcher to 3rd already in his young career, but his stick is what the Pirates are looking for... as for Andrew... he could very well be on this team as they head north, but the Pirates are using uncharacteristic patience with this phenom... already having a year of AAA under his belt at the age of 21, the Pirates are waiting to see hat happens with the current group of outfielders before calling up Andrew... he will play everyday when he is called up, so they are taking their time with him... great glove, great speed and get this pretty good idea of the strike zone... something the Pirates are finally trying to teach...

The Pirates also have two boppers that will be smashing their way through the minors this season, but look primed to be with the big club soon... Pedro Alvarez, last years number 1 pick has been seen hammering balls all over Bradenton this spring... reminding Manny Sangullien of Willie Stargell... wow... as a Pirate fan, there are not too many things to get excited about, but I believe Manny... he did say Ryan Doumit was the real thing last spring... and Jose Tabata another component of the trades last year has been mentioned time and time again by John Russell as a 'wow' bat... te ball really jumps off his bat... while buried in the Yankee organization he was a bit of abad apple... but he seems to see this trade as a new lease on life... Alvarez might be moved to 1st base and look for him to take Adam LaRoche's place if he decides to leave via free agency after this year... or possibly a trade for more 'organizatonal depth' this summer??? as for Tabata... maybe not this yar, but the idea of McClouth, McCutchen and Tabata roaming PNC in the near future could be exciting...

We do have a few arms as well Daniel McCutchen threw well wnought to raise the eyebrow of Chuck Tanner this spring... that is a good thing... Jeff Sues will have a chance to grow... Jimmy Barthmaier also had a few moments this spring that caused some to notice...

Alright... 2009... lets see if we can get out of the gates quickly... eliminate the pressure of having to catch .500 the entire season... as with most clubs injuries will be a key... we do not have a lot of depth... pitch inside, do not allow hitters to get comfortable... throw strikes... let the defense, that has a chance to be pretty good, do their thing... some timely hitting... and the Pirates could get off the snide... .500 is a possibility... and if the stars align, we could get a few wins over .500... stranger things have happened...

Let's Go Bucs!!! 

Category: MLB
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