If there is a more red hot hitter in the major leagues this spring than Ronny Paulino, I'd like to meet him. The Pirates second year catcher homered again today, driving in two runs, as the Pirates beat the Red Sox, 3-2, in Fort Myers.
Paulino is now hitting an even .500 for the spring, with 4 homeruns and 15 RBI. This is a great sign for a guy who hit the ball as consistent as any catcher in the majors last year and is already putting to rest any thoughts of a sophomore slump.
Tony Armas, making his final start of the spring, tuned up successfully with 5 and 2-3 innings, allowing five hits, two earned runs, walking three and striking out six. Armas finishes the spring with a 3.70 ERA. He will make his first start of the year April 8th against Cincy.
Andrew McCutchen had two more hits, he is hitting .327 this spring, while Chris Duffy, who could stand as the only road block between McCutchen and the majors this year, went 1-for-5, lowering his spring average to .167
Other Bucs News:
-Freddy Sanchez will try to play in a minor league game on Wednesday to test his twisted right knee. It is still likely Sanchez will start the season on the DL and miss the first season series.
-The Pirates this morning optioned reliever Josh Sharpless to Class AAA Indianapolis, possibly, but far from definitively, clearing the way for Dan Kolb and Jonah Bayliss to make the bullpen.
-Masumi Kuwata's ankle is not broken, however it is severely sprained and he will not throw for 4 to 6 weeks. Kuwata should eventually pitch out of the bullpen in Indy.
-Despite his struggles this spring, struggles that strongly resemble the problems he experienced a year ago, Chris Duffy insists 2007 will not be a repeat of 2006. Last season Duffy had a terrible first third of the season before leaving the game to regroup and then tearing up the bigs in the latter part of the year.
Chris Duffy, in my mind, is the most important player on the Pirates roster this season. I believe the rest of the players on the roster will be good for what you can expect out of them, with Torres being somewhat of an unknown as a closer. However, Duffy holds the key. If he plays the way he did late in '06, the Pirates could have an extremely strong top of the lineup. Duffy has 50-steal potential, but doesn't seem to have 10-steal patience at the plate. Freddy Sanchez will do his share to get on base, but Adam Laroche and Jason Bay will not thrive if Chris Duffy doesn't jump start the lineup on a nightly basis. If Duffy falters, the Pirates will have to turn to Nate McLouth or Luis Matos, two options that won't blow anyone away. Option 2 could see Nady move to center, and Brad Eldred in right, a move that wouldn't help the Pirates defense, but would certainly improve their power output. Option 3 would be to rush Andrew McCutchen, an option I don't see the Pirates cashing in on before summer.