Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Pirates 8, Manatee CC 1

Yoslan Herrera was dealing and Neil Walker was wheeling as the Pirates beat their annual competitors today in Florida.

Herrera, competing for the 5th spot in the Pirates rotation but expected to open in AAA, tossed two perfect innings, striking out two and facing just six batters.

"We're just going to take some small steps with him, and hopefully just gradually progress," Jim Tracy said. "He's a good-looking young pitcher. His mechanics are very sound, and all signs point toward the fact that he's just going to continue to get better.

Walker, who is making the transition to third base from behind the dish, made a few solid plays at the hot corner, with the most impressive being the fielding of a rolling bunt and getting the out. He also hit a two-run double in the first inning to give the Bucs all the runs they would need.

The Pirates open their Grapefruit League schedule tomorrow at McKechnie against Cincinnati. Zach Duke will start and be followed by Tom Gorzelanny, Salomon Torres, Kevin Gryboski and Matt Capps. Eric Milton will start for the Reds.

'Cutch Really is that Good

It is hard to not buy into all the talk about Andrew McCutchen. Everyone who has seen this kid play seems to feel the same way, he's as close to a can't miss prospect as there is. He is routinely ending up in every one's top 20 prospects across the majors. Some believe he will be in Pittsburgh at some point during 2007, others believe the center field spot is already his come opening day 2008.

Over at, the myth continues. The sky is the limit for Cutch says the website, who will open the season at AA Altoona

More on Bullington has a little piece on Bullington pitching yesterday. It can be found here.

Also, the Bradenton paper has more on the towering home run that Eldred crushed off of Burnett.

Almost gametime

Xavier Nady returned to Pittsburgh for more tests. Obviously this is going on far longer than anyone wants it to. I'm hoping that nothing is serious here and Nady won't miss much time. He'll have to be a big part of this team from the get go if the Pirates plan to have a lot of success this season.

Also in the notebook are some other little things. It's nice to see Bryan Bullington back on the mound. He's got a lot to overcome, but at least he's trying.

I don't see this kid giving up anytime soon. It'd be nice to get at least a little something out of him based on everything we've heard about his controversial selection as the No. 1 pick. It did only take him 10 pitches to finish his one inning of work.

John Van Benschoten and Sean Burnett also saw time on the mound. I was never really impressed with Burnett and his stuff and surgery may have pushed him down further. I know it's only one outing in an intrasquad game, but Burnett served up a long ball to Eldred and only lasted 2/3 of an inning after giving up four consecutive hits. He threw 28 pitches. Like I said, it's only one intrasquad outing, but still, he wasn't too impressive in AAA last year, either.

Nate McLouth homered and tripled off of Shane Youman.

I can't wait to see what he does this Spring. He now has other people fighting him for bench spots, so I think he'll hold his own. At least, I hope he does. I like what McLouth can offer, even more so than Chris Duffy. I've always been a McLouth supporter over Duffy.

Neil Walker started two double plays in his first game at third base. That's not too bad, considering that isn't the easies double play to start.

Tony Armas Jr. and Shawn Chacon start their battle for the fifth spot in the rotation. This is good, the more competition the better, especially out of these two.

Adam LaRoche enjoys the spotlight of being in Pittsburgh. That's good, now just produce when this season starts and we won't have a problem, or you won't enjoy it too much.

The infield keeps switching on Jack Wilson, but he keeps adjusting.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Bucco News, Bradenton Style

With the Pirates in town, the Bradenton Herald -- the newspaper of Bradenton, Fla. -- is giving an all-out effor to cover the team, so make sure to check out its Web site for another point of new.

Today, staff writer Mike Henry offers up his version of Nutting being in camp. It looks like ever writer in the world took the opportunity to write about this one as it happened. Was it really that slow of a news day that this was the main story on everyone's mind?

Henry also states that Luis Matos allows the Pirates to have some flexibility.

Also, be sure to just check out the paper's home sports page for the coolest part of its baseball coverage. Staff writer Roger Mooney is doing a seven-part series on the different pitches in baseball. As of now he's done six parts with the seven on its way. They are a very good read and I'd encourage you to check them out.

News of the day


Stats Geek tackles the fact that the production out of left field for the Pirates in the past years has been among the Cooperstown-worthy numbers.

Dejan offers his daily Pirates notebook.

And Dejan offers his taste of Nutting being in camp.


Once again, the Trib has its version of Nutting being in camp. Exciting stuff.

A little pice on Kuwata adapting to life in Pirates camp.

Ian Snell updates his daily diary for the Trib.

Some updates reported about the Minor Leaguers looking to make a mark with the Pirates.

New owner Nutting was in camp this week and most of the writers did story on him reassuring the direction of the club. Here's the's version.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Nyjer Morgan Profile Piece

Over at, Dawn Klemish writes a nice piece on Bucs minor league outfielder Nyjer Morgan. Among the most interesting parts of the story included Morgan playing major junior hockey in Canada before finally settling on baseball as a career.

Morgan is a speed guy, who could potentially steal 40 or 50 bases a year in the bigs, if he can get there. He has 164 career stolen bases in 383 career minor league games.

In his four years in the Minors, Morgan has hit a combined .291 (431-for-1481) with 48 doubles, 22 triples, five homers and 120 RBIs.

In other news:
-Xavier Nady is being checked for a chronic health problem that has some history in his family.
-Andrew McCutchen was back in camp Saturday after missing two days
-Jonah Bayliss and Javier Guzman are still not participating in full team drills due to injuries

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Nady Out of Hospital

Xavier Nady is out of the hospital and on the road back to recovery today after being admitted and treated for inflammation of his intestine.

"He's making progress, getting better," general manager Dave Littlefield said. "The fever's down. A lot of the symptoms are subsiding."

It was Nady's second health issue in the stomach area in nine months. On May 30, 2006, while with the New York Mets, he had an emergency appendectomy and missed three weeks of playing time.

All eyes on LaRoche

It's getting near Spring Training, and of course all the talk is about new first baseman Adam LaRoche and his optimistic approach to the upcoming season.

Jim Tracy provided a pep talk to the Pirates players, telling them to keep up their momentum from last season.

Around the cages...

Pirates notebook

Pirates enjoy a day in the sun.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

LaRoche Lands in Bradenton

Adam LaRoche made his first official appearance today in Florida, took some ground balls, ripped some BP and made sure Pirates Nation understands he wants, and is ready, to win in Pittsburgh.

"[Going .500] is never going to be my goal, and I would like to get that out of every body's heads," LaRoche said. "It's easy for me to say, because I haven't been here playing with these guys, and seeing the struggles and the frustration. To a guy coming in that's been lucky enough to be on a winning team for a few years, .500 really never crossed my mind.

"We all come here for one goal: To get to the playoffs. Obviously, you want to win a World Series, but you've got to get to the playoffs first."

Jose Castillo, who has received more attention this off-season surrounding Jack Wilson's comments then he has for his play in Winter ball, as expected, took some ground balls today. At third base, and only at third base. Castillo is battling Jose Bautista for the open infield spot but it was believed that if Castillo won, he would stay at 2nd base and Fast Freddy would play third. The Pirates, however, want to keep the options open, according to Jim Tracy.

"We want to look at all kinds of possibilities this spring, and we're going to be proactive in looking at them early on. We know Castillo can play second. We know Sanchez can play third. We know Jose Bautista can play pretty much anywhere. We just want to see what we have."

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Freddy Sanchez

A new friend of Bucco Wire's over at Mop Up Duty recently wrote a post breaking down Freddy Sanchez's numbers and whether or not he can keep them up this season. Take a look at it, it's a good read. And check out the rest of the site.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Eldred and Doumit...

In today's Post-Gazette, beat writer Dejan Kovacevic does a nice feature on Brad Eldred and Ryan Doumit and the views of the Adam LaRoche trade from their respective point of views. Neither thinks it was a bad move, but the story here is that these two had shots to deliver at first base this season and are now pushed back. The trade has them working even harder now to prove they can help out the big league club.

It's sad to see really, but I just can't feel bad for these two. It's the nature of the beast. Both players have been plagued heavily by injuries in recent seasons -- Doumit his whole career -- and that's just not the type of players you can rely on, especially when they are unproven.

I'm looking forward to seeing what Eldred and Doumit can produce, either in bench roles or as AAA players. If anything, consistency with the bat could lead to small trade possibilities, or at the very least, always-needed pop out of a pinch-hitter. Whatever the case, they better be going at Spring Training at 110 percent, each and every day.

Bucco Wire Player Profiles: Xavier Nady


Born: November 14, 1978

Drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 4th round of the 1997 amateur draft, but did not sign. Drafted by the San Diego padres in the 2nd round of the 200 amateur draft and signed on September 17, 2000. Traded by the Padres to the New York Mets for Mike Cameron. Traded by the Mets to the Pirates for Roberto Hernandez and Oliver Perez.

2006 Stats:
AVG - .280
R - 57
HR - 17
RBI - 63
BB - 30
SO - 85
OBP - .337


Nady is still young and will play this whole season as a 28-year-old. Personally, I thought the trade to bring Nady to Pittsburgh was a good one for the Buccos. Nady was always considered a top prospect when coming up with the Padres and showed promise in his first two half-season stints in the big leagues.

In New York, Nady still progressed, hitting 14 home runs and driving in 40 runs in 265 at-bats. In Pittsburgh, Nady's power numbers dropped in terms of home runs, but his gap power increased, hitting nearly as many doubles thanks to spacious PNC Park in 62 less at-bats. His overall hitting went up as well, sitting at .300 in his time with the Pirates.

I, and I may be in the minority here I'm not sure, really believe that Nady is going to improve upon his numbers. Nady played in 130 games last season, the most of any season in his career. With a full slate of games, meaning his first full season in the big leagues with a starting job, Nady will produce. And he will be a nice compliment for Bay and LaRoche. A .280 showing with 20+ home runs and 80+ RBIs out of the right field spot for Nady will be a huge upgrade at the position for the Pirates. I think Nady can accomplish that, and maybe even a little more.

Profile links:

The Baseball Cube
Wilbur Miller's Profiles

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Lincoln, Walker and Gerut, Oh My

Three things happened to three Pirate players over the last 48 hours, and none of the occurrences should come as much of a surprise.

First, the Pirates top pitching prospect and first round pick from a year ago, Brad Lincoln, has been shut down due to arm problems. Management says it is an elbow problem and it is unknown when he will be able to return to the mound. This isn't a surprise because not only was Lincoln hurt last year, but the Pirates have had a terrible run of injuries involving their top pitching prospects over the last few years.

In the past decade, five of the six pitchers they drafted in the first round before Lincoln -- Clint Johnston, Bobby Bradley, Sean Burnett, John Van Benschoten and Bryan Bullington -- have needed major arm surgeries. The only exception is Paul Maholm.

Secondly, Neil Walker, the Pirates top pick in 2004, has been permanently and exclusively moved from behind the plate to third base. Walker, who did play some third base in high school, is seen as a potential power bat for the Pirates but management worried about Walker being blocked behind the plate by current starter Ronny Paulino.

Walker will likely start the season at Altoona but a late season call-up isn't out of the question and penciling Walker in as the starting third basemen on Opening Day in 2008 is possible.

Finally, outfielder Jody Gerut isn't ready to go and compete for that fifth outfielder spot just yet. He didn't take the field during the Pirates first workout without a trainer and he left soon after he appeared. Gerut is still recovering from knee surgery that he had eight months ago and is due $850,000 if he makes the team.

In other team news, Romulo Sanchez, one of three pitchers who had been delayed from reporting to the Pirates' spring training, arrived and participated in all drills today. But the other two, Tony Armas Jr. and Serguey Linares, continue to await U.S. work visas in other countries.

Bryan Bullington threw his first bullpen session today for the first time since October and his most intense workout since having shoulder surgery in late 2005. JV Benschoten threw his first bullpen yesterday, finishing without any complaints or hold backs.

Ian Snell has a personal goal of 15 wins this season. Snell went 14-11 last year.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Pirates Have Landed

The 2007 Pirates have landed in Bradenton and they have brought the Pittsburgh Media in tow.

Dejan holds his first Q & A from one of his most hated towns in the US, while Masumi Kuwata brought half of the Japanese media with him to cover his daily press conferences.

The Trib discusses the reporting of pitchers and catchers, some of whom have already started throwing despite the first formal workout not being schedule until Friday. says the Bucs have renewed optimism this year and Ian Snell went as far as to say the Pirates could be contenders.

"I think we've got a good chance this year, to push for the playoffs," starting pitcher Ian Snell said. "It's going to be a pretty good year. This year, we're going to win some games. I guarantee it."

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

BuccoWire Player Profiles: Ryan Doumit


Born: April 13th, 1981.

How Acquired: Drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 2nd round of the 1999 amateur draft. Player signed June 16, 1999.

2006 Stats:

AVG: .208

R: 15

HR: 6

RBI: 17

BB: 15

SO: 42

OBP: .322


To say that Ryan Doumit has been inconsistent during his time with the Pirates could fall as an understatement. Where he has been consistent, however, is finding ways to spend time on the disabled list. He has constantly been hurt, from his time in the minors up to when he was the leading candidate to be the Pirates starting catcher in 2006.

The first time he got 250 at-bats in a season was in 2002 in A ball, and he he broke out a .322 average. After struggling through 2003 and 2004, he made his debut in June of 2005 and hit .255 with just six home runs in 231 AB's. At AAA ball during the same season, he hit .345 with 12 home runs in just 165 AB's and the peak and valley's of Ryan Doumit had once again swung upwards.

A groin pull kept him from doing anything meaningful in 2006 and Ronny Paulino flew in and not only took the starting job, but solidified his spot in stone. Where Doumit will go from here is really hard to figure, he most likely won't catch much this year and while some have mentioned Doumit at 1B and RF, both spots seemed to filled right now, especially with Adam LaRoche.

If he could stay healthy, he could present some trade opportunities or even platoon ideas in right field, but his health is the first step, everything else will have to fall in place from there.

Profile Links:

The Baseball Cube

Baseball Reference

Wilbur Miller Profiles

Bucco Wire Player Profiles: Ronny Paulino


Born: April 21, 1981
Signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates as an amateur free agent in 1997. Drafted by the Kansas City Royals from the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 2002 Rule V Draft. Returned by the Kansas City Royals to the Pittsburgh Pirates on March 13, 2003.

2006 Stats:
AVG - .310
R - 37
HR - 6
RBI - 55
BB - 34
SO - 79
OBP - .363


I think it's safe to say that Paulino's offensive performance last season was a pleasant surprise for the Pirates. Paulino emerged as the starting catcher when Ryan Doumit went back on the disabled list and Humberto Cota continued to struggle with doing anything right.

His .310 average was a bit higher than what he normally put up in the minor leagues, so expect that to drop a little, maybe sit around the .280 mark. He hit 19 doubles last season and should improve upon that. Many believe more power will come, but he shows more of a doulbe-type swing. He can spray the ball into the opposite field and should be a solid late-of-the-oder bat for the Pirates again this season.

With Neil Walker in the system, the Pirates will continue to push Paulino and make sure he progresses. Walker, however, has been testing himself at different positions, which is mainly due to Paulino's success at the Majore League level. Keep an eye on Paulino's defense this season, though. Throwing out runners has always been a problem for Pirates catchers thanks to Jason Kendall and it continued over to Paulino, but not quite as drastic.

Profile Links:

The Baseball Cube
Wilbur Miller Profiles

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Season Previews Day One

The Post Gazette and Pittsburgh Tribune Review began their run of 2007 Pittsburgh Pirate Spring Training coverage today with a Q & A featuring Jim Tracy and a list of the Top Ten issues facing the Pirates this year over at the PG and the Trib featured the Pirates Building Blocks preview.

Among the most interesting questions and answers exchanged between Dejan and Tracy:

Q: You have said Jose Castillo must win back his starting job, and that Jose Bautista will have a chance to take it. What kind of challenge is Castillo facing to impress management?
A: You know what? I'm not going to single out Castillo or get into a big dissertation about him.
He's not facing any obstacles, OK? He's not going to be any different from anybody else. Jose Castillo knows from conversations that we've had -- and I'm not going to get into specifics -- what kind of a baseball player I think he is. I think he has as much natural ability as any player on our ballclub or in our system.

Q: Wilson publicly criticized Castillo last month and, at the same time, challenged Castillo to perform up to his potential. How did you feel about that?
A: I think those are situations that you handle in-house. If you've got something that you need to talk to a teammate about -- like some of those comments that made it into print -- I just feel like those are things that can be handled behind closed doors. As you know, that's how I've handled a number of things in the past year.

Q: Last spring, the team had pleasant surprises in Bautista, Nate McLouth and Matt Capps. If you had to pick one player who might do that this year, who would it be?
A: I would say Ryan Doumit.

Q: Can the Pirates contend in the Central Division this year?
A: You know what? Who knows? I don't like getting involved in predictions, so I won't. But I will say this: I think we're very capable of picking up where we left off in 2006.

Among Dejan's Top Ten Issues, Will the Pirates Win, What will happen with the Jose's, How will Adam LaRoche handle the pressure and who will be the Pirates fifth starter?

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Castillo Signs; Stats Geek Behind Armas

The Pirates signed Jose Castillo to a one-year deal, avoiding arbitration with their final arbitration eligible player this off-season.

The base pay will be $1.9 million, plus as much as $50,000 in performance bonus if he makes 590 plate appearances.

With 14 players signed to major-league contracts, plus outfielder Jeromy Burnitz's $700,000 buyout, the Pirates' payroll is at $34.1 million. With most of the rest of the 25-man roster likely to be filled by players being paid close to the major-league minimum of $380,000, that projects to a payroll of roughly $43 million by opening day.

Meanwhile, new Pirates starting pitcher candidate Tony Armas has the support of the Stats Geek, who says Armas was a smart signing. One interesting paragraph says this:

If Armas does nothing more than repeat the 5.03 ERA in 30 starts and 154 innings for the Washington Nationals last year, the Pirates still would have a better rotation. If Armas' ERA is closer to his 4.45 career number, the improvement would be dramatic. That will be particularly so if Tom Gorzelanny, with a 3.79 ERA in 11 rookie starts last season, improves on the rest of the innings from the flailing foursome.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Meet Serguey Linares

The Pirates newest addition was profiled today in a solid piece by Dejan. Serguey Linares throws gas. Other than that, there isn't much on paper that proposes that Linares will help the Pirates anytime soon. Linares will immediately be one of the hardest throwers in the Pirates organization.

In this article that was printed in Baseball America from August of 2006, BA talks about both Yoslan Herrera and Serguey Linares. Here are some of the most interesting tidbits.

Two scouts familiar with the players told Baseball America that Herrera was the most impressive of the quintet at a recent workout at the Diamondbacks academy in the Dominican, but that Linares and Perez have attracted the most attention of the group from scouts.

Linares, 23, was affected by the food poisoning and didn't pitch except for a side bullpen session. Listed at 6-foot-4, 225 pounds, Linares has had poor results in his Serie Nacional career, going 7-10, 5.59 with nearly as many walks (86) as strikeouts (111) in 163 career innings.

Herrera, 25, has had success in Cuba, with a career 18-7, 3.72 record. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound righthander has shown command of a fringy fastball and what Torres termed an above-average curve ball, and one scout liked him a lot. "He's got an above-average split-finger (fastball) and was 88-92," the scout said. "I could see his velocity jumping up to 90-94 once he gets into a system and he could very easily be a No. 4 starter in the big leagues."

The article also quotes agent Jaime Torres, who says that he believes Herrera is farther along than Alay Soler, who made his debut with the Mets last season.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Pirates come to terms with...who?

Today the Pirates signed another Cuban starting pitcher, however this time with far less fan fare than when Yoslan Herrera signed on the dotted line.

Serguey Linares agreed to a minor-league contract with an invitation to the major-league camp in spring training.

Linares, 23, is a hard-throwing, 6-foot-4 right-hander, but he does not have nearly the pedigree of the Pirates' other Cuban pitcher, Yoslan Herrera. In 37 games in Cuba's top professional league, including 26 starts, he was 7-10 with a 5.59 ERA. He had control trouble, too, with 86 walks to 111 strikeouts in 162 2/3 innings.

He did not pitch in 2006.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Altoona to boast talent

Dejan wrote a nice piece for Sunday's edition of the Post-Gazette, profiling the Altoona Curve and the number of prospects that should start the season there.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Pirates sign Sanchez, Kolb

The Pirates today agreed to terms on a minor-league contract with free-agent reliever Dan Kolb and avoided arbitration with third baseman Freddy Sanchez by agreeing to a one-year contract.
If Kolb makes the 25-man roster out of spring training, he will make $1.25 million in base pay, plus as much as $1.3 million in performance bonuses. If he is not added to the roster, he has the right to declare himself a free agent.

Sanchez's base pay will be $2.75 million, and he can earn an additional $10,000 if he makes 650 plate appearances. He had filed for $3.1 million through arbitration, and the Pirates had countered with $2.15 million.

The Kolb rumour, which just started within the last 24 hours, stated that Kolb was demanding a major league contract and had multiple teams interested. He ended up signing with the Pirates quickly, and to a minor-league deal. I have to say, this seems like a no risk, potentially high reward signing by the Pirates.

Pirates make offer to Kolb

The Pirates made an offer yesterday to relief pitcher Dan Kolb, according to Dejan over at the PG. The terms of the offer are not known but it is believed that Kolb is looking for a one-year deal that would guarantee him a spot on the 40 man roster.

Kolb, who will turn 32 next month, had two fine seasons as the Milwaukee Brewers' closer in 2003-04, recording 60 saves in 67 chances with a 2.55 ERA. In the second of those seasons, he pitched in the All-Star Game.

But Kolb's fortunes flipped in 2005 with the Atlanta Braves. He lost the closer's job, blew seven saves in 18 chances and posted a 5.93 ERA.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Grabow and LaRoche sign; Preview

The Pirates avoided arbitration with first baseman Adam LaRoche and pitcher John Grabow on Friday by agreeing to terms on one-year contracts.

Grabow will receive a base salary of $832,500 plus performance incentives, more than double the $341,750 the left-handed reliever was paid in 2006. Grabow had filed an arbitration number of $925,000 while the Pirates has submitted a bid of $765,000.

The agreements leave the Pirates with only two unsigned arbitration-eligible players, infielders Freddy Sanchez and Jose Castillo.

Sanchez's case is scheduled to be heard Feb. 8 while Castillo's hearing is set for Feb. 14. The Pirates have offered Sanchez $2.15 million while the third baseman is seeking $3.1 million. Castillo wants $2.2 million while the Pirates have offered $1.8 million.

In other news, here is's preview of the NL Central Division. You might not want to look, the Pirates are predicted to finish dead last under the heading of, "Maybe Next Year."

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Pirates Bring on Armas

The Pirates today signed starting pitcher Tony Armas to compete for the fifth spot in the starting rotation this spring with Shawn Chacon and Sean Burnett among others. The one year deal has a mutual option for 2008.

He will make $3 million in base pay this coming season, $5 million the following season if the option is exercised. If it is not, the team must pay a $500,000 buyout.

Armas, 28, went 9-12 with a 5.03 ERA in 30 starts for the Washington Nationals last season.
Over eight seasons in Major League Baseball, he has gone 48-60 with a 4.45 ERA. That includes being the opening-day starter for the Montreal Expos in 2003