For me at least, Opening Day is a national holiday. Pirate fans come together once a year to celebrate this team and the start of the baseball season, and every baseball hangover is instantly cured.
I was at the gates around 10:00 for what was going to be an exciting day. The first thing I did was take a nice run from the Clemente Gate to home plate, which was a decent run. There, I ran into Randi Hoffman, who along with Joe Klimchak does interviews for the Pirates to place on their website and apparently Xfinity On Demand.
The interview itself was about Opening Day, and what it meant to me. I recalled my experience from two or three years ago when I was in the Lexus Club and saw Zach Duke put his fist in the air after beating the Astros. That was the year of the whole Stanton Heights police shootings, so it was a very emotional day.
With that I jogged back to the Clemente Gate.
Throughout the time before the gates opened, I saw Bob Nutting, Frank Coonelly and Neal Huntington greeting the fans as they were coming to the ballpark.
I was told that the gates were going to open at 11:30, so myself, Nick Pelescak and Erik Jabs all threw on the Clemente Bridge. This was my first test on the season, and by all reports I passed. My glove work was great and I did not have any of my wild throws. Erik cut the session short when he saw the ticket takers getting ready.
I was surprised because it was 10:49. Would we get in early? Well according to one of the ticket takers, we were getting in at 11. This made me very excited because the chance to see some of Pirates BP was exciting, and the chance of me getting a baseball is that much better.
There was one problem, and that was that the bag checkers and security were not at the gate.
Well 11:00 came and went and so did 11:10 and no sign of the security guards. All of a sudden, someone appeared around 11:15 and all of the Pirates employees huddled up (seriously, this isn’t football).
The ticket taker immediately changed his story then, and at 11:30 the gate was to be opened.
Even worse news was that it wasn’t just the Clemente Gate that would open at 11:30, it was all gates. Things just got a lot harder.
Of course, this was the case and for non-7:05 games, there will not be any season ticket holder time. Things are already tough enough with the grounds crew ruining time of BP to prepare a field that is already ready, and tarping the field even for a small rain shower.
Here is the official word from the Pirates website:
The 2012 PNC Park gate times are as follows:
“For Monday through Friday night games, Season Ticket Holders may enter the ballpark and proceed to the Left Field Bleachers 2 hours and 30 minutes prior to game time.
On Saturday night games, Season Ticket Holders are permitted to enter into the Left Field Bleachers and main concourse 2 hours and 30 minutes prior to game time.
Early access is granted by entering through the Clemente (CF) Riverwalk Gate, and proceeding to the bullpen gates where season ticket holders can then show their Season Ticket Holder card or have their season ticket scanned.
Season Ticket Holder early entry is not available on day games (12:35pm, 1:35pm and 4:05pm).”
Oh well, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose.
The Clemente Gate line was split into a Y with the line going two ways (??). I did search for Easter Eggs, but found nothing, and I knew that things were going to go bad from there.
Upon coming into the ballpark, I saw red, which meant that the Pirates were done with BP already. There of course were no Easter Eggs in left field, because Manny Sanguillen’s grandson snuck into left field and pocketed the five baseballs that were in there. Yes that is a fact as myself and several others saw him leave “Manny’s BBQ” and go into the seats, which is not allowed.
It felt wrong to wear Phillies gear, but really what choice did I have? Things were tough, and I could not get near a batted ball.
Joe Savery was in left field and he was not tossing anything up, which stunk.
I decided to relocate to center field and first base during BP and center yielded nothing for me, so I went back over to first base. Luckily Kyle Kendrick was there, and he tossed me a baseball. I guess I can say, Kyle you got Punk’d again.
Ball number one on the day and six on the season, crisis and shutout averted.
Despite me going to the dugout after BP, I was unable to snag anything else until I went over to the bullpen.
In the top of the first, my buddy bullpen catcher Herbie Andrade threw a baseball that a kid misplayed and I saved for ball #2 on the day. I immediately gave it to the kid, whose mother made him come over and thank me.
I then left to sit in my season ticket section (312). My dad was in his seat so, Colston and I stayed until the bottom of the seventh inning was over so that we could beat the traffic.
The game itself was a great pitching battle between Roy Halladay and Erik Bedard.
Both pitchers looked great warming up and seemed in their element, something that would carry into the game.
It was surreal to see the first pitch, because that is when it hits you that the 2012 season is underway.
The difference in the game was a Carlos Ruiz sacrifice fly. Right fielder Jose Tabata’s throw to catcher Rod Barajas was too high and Ty Wigginton scored the winning run in a 1-0 game.
Yes the Pirates ran into a great pitcher who has won 39 games over the past two seasons, however the Pirates offense still looked unprepared and mediocre at best. This will have to change if this team wants to become winners this season.
The Pirates had Friday off, so my next game was Saturday? Would I continue my strong start on the day where I averaged five baseballs a game last season, or would I choke? I guess you’ll have to find out soon. Thanks as always for reading.
As an added bonus, here are some extra pictures from the game:
Catcher- Chris Snyder just came back and is starting to produce. Ryan Doumit is still not the answer defensively and his hitting was not good either. Jason Jaramillo was sent down and was the best of the three thus far as Snyder was injured. Jaramillo continued his good hitting from Spring Training and defensively is a clear improvement over Doumit. It seemed like the team never traded Doumit and the three catchers either are good offensively or defensively but never both. Thus they all are missing a part of the game and it sets the team back.
First Base- Lyle Overbay has been a mixed bag. This “great defender” blew a play the second game of the season which cost the team a game. Overbay hit a nice home run against St. Louis, but hs hitting is not great. Much like Adam LaRoche, the lefty Overbay is known as a slow starter and this haunts the team. Overbay has not had a hit against lefties and in a power position, and he cost a good deal of money for not producing. He is going to have to do more, or else Steve Pearce may get some looks at first base.
Second Base- Neil Walker has been one of the best performing Pirates. He has picked up where he left off last season. The average is down and the strikeouts are up, however the power has improved and he is showing that he can defensively handle the second base positon. Walker will need to continue hitting like this, and he will have to hit better against lefties. He also struggled during the homestand and he will have to hit better for the hometown crowd.
Shortstop- Aki Iwamura gave up his position to Neil Walker, and if Ronny Cedeno is not careful, he could be next. Pedro Ciriaco had no reason to be sent down, especially since we have seen Cedeno and Josh Rodriguez get off to less than stellar starts. Cedeno usually starts off fast, and offensively he has not done much and he just is not getting the job done. Rodriguez has also had some good looks and he is just as bad. He was kept for his power, and I don’t see any power and I see a lack of patience at the plate. Cedeno has made a couple of spectacular plays at the shortstop position, however the routine plays such as grounders and turning the double play are just not up to snuff. Every time a grounder is hit his way, I hold my breath as it is an adventure. The shortstop position will need to produce more offensively and defensively will need to field their position.
Third base- Pedro Alvarez is expected to be the next big thing here in Pittsburgh. He is expected to be a power hitter and as a free swinger, is being compared to Adam Dunn. This season he has not met expectations. He is a notorious slow starter and in AAA last year hit in the .220’s this season. Alvarez will heat up when the weather gets hotter. His fielding is another story. His weight is in question and his fielding is inconsistent. He can make the plays half the time, and his arm strength is strong sometimes a little too strong. Steve Pearce has had looks at third and offensively hasn’t done much and defensively hasn’t done anything wrong, but hasn’t been truly tested. For all we know, he can do well but otherwise is could be another Delwyn Young experiment gone wrong.
Outfield- Jose Tabata has been the most complete player this season. He showed commitment to the team by putting on muscle and playing in the winter. He has already stolen seven bases and has added the home run to his game. He did well hitting leadoff but last night was bumped to the number two spot in the order. Despite his speed, he seems unsure in left field when he has to backpedal. Andrew McCutchen is known as a slow starter, however fans expected more from him after he tore the cover off of the ball in Spring Training. It seemed initially as though it would work as he hit two homers to start the season against the Cubs, but has since slumped. Clint Hurdle has tried to get him going again batting him leadoff but he struck out four times and was not a part of the offense. Furthermore McCutchen has as many steals for the team as I do right now- ZERO. McCutchen said at PirateFest that he wanted to have that “Ricky Henderson mentality” and know that the base was his when he would steal a base. He has looked like Lastings Milledge out there as the other day he was caught in a run-down. He like Alvarez will heat up soon. The platoon of Matt Diaz and Garrett Jones has not worked out well so far, with Jones hitting the lone homer. Diaz has been starting more as of late and he got two of the Pirates four hits on Wednesday against the Milwaukee Brewers. They need to produce now as that has been a part of the offense that has been missing. Finally we have not had a good look at John Bowker yet, but we know that he earned his spot with a solid Spring Training. He has been relegated to pinch hitting but has not done much with that. I say give him a start and see what happens.
Starters- The ace has been Kevin Correia and minus one inning on his start on Wednesday, he has pitched magnificantly. Correia gave up that homer to Fielder and was unable to field a bunt on Wednesday and that cost him, but he was able to pitch well in his previous starts. He will have to continue to pitch well as he is the ace, but I am unsure as to how long he can keep this up. Paul Maholm had his second great start on Thursday against the Brewers but took the loss giving up two runs in the first inning and was not helped by the offense or lack thereof. Paul has looked like Zach Duke at times as he has looked very hittable. He will have to be able to pitch inside more like he is trying to do. Ross Ohlendorf was the weakest looking of the starters, as he pitched ok at best in his first start against the Cubs and now is injured and Jeff Karstens has been forced back into the starting rotation when he will pitch tomorrow against the Cincinnati Reds. Charlie Morton has been nothing but stellar for the team, getting a complete game win last night. He changed his arm angle in Spring Training and the walks are finally down. I believe that before he was tipping his pitches, and now is getting a ton of groundballs due in large part to that newfound sinker. James McDonald was slated to be the team’s ace until his injury in Spring Training. I don’t have much on him, but now he should be able to pitch deeper in the games. He just needs to stop those innings where he labors. He seems to pitch 30-40 pitches in an inning and it effects how far he can go in his starts.
Bullpen- The plesant surprise has been Mike Crotta. That new sinker has proven to be vital and he already is a staple in the bullpen. Chris Resop had some trouble against the Chicago Cubs in the second game of the season, but since has looked pretty good and has picked up from where he left off last season. Joe Beimel is back off of the disabled list and we soon will find out what he has. He can be used in many different capacities and is the lone lefty in the bullpen after Garrett Olsen was designated for assignment. He was ok at best, but he was a good filler. Beimel is in his second tour of duty with the Pirates. Daniel McCutchen was called up during the season and he will now serve as the long reliever with Jeff Karstens now in the rotation. His ERA was a bit high last season and he will have to limit the mistakes. Jose Veras slow the pace of play when he pitches and earned the loss on Saturday against the Colorado Rockies when he gave up three runs in that infamous sixth inning. He has good stuff but needs to place his pitches in more adventageous positions so that he can take command of the batter. Evan Meek is finally coming back after the shoulder injury and before had a couple of bad outings in a row. Meek was sick it cost him dearly as his placement was off. He would leave pitches up to where hitters had no problem hitting him. When he came back Wednesday against the Brewers, his fastball topped at 92 when it usually tops out at 96-97 so the arm is not 100% yet. Lastly, Joel Hanrahan has done a solid job. He is not being called upon to close the game as much as the team only won one of six total games thru the first homestand. Hanrahan is the only closer in the NL Central who has not yet blown a save and he just seems to have extra competitiveness when he squares off against the hitter. Hanrahan is showing the Pirates that the made the right decision when it came to who would close the game.
As it stands right now, there are not many locks to the bullpen right now. Here is what pirates.com projects as the current bullpen.
1. Joel Hanrahan
2. Evan Meek
3. Chris Resop
4. Daniel McCutchen
There are only four spots on the Pirates depth chart which is interesting, but due to all kinds of changes to the 40-man roster as well as the wide open competition in the bullpen, it truly is anybody’s job to win.
Joel Hanrahan truly had a nice season for the Pirates. As one of two to make it the entire year in the Pirates bullpen, Hanrahan learned some valuable lessons from Octavio Dotel early in the year becoming the regular set-up man and eighth inning man. Hanrahan constantly mowed down hitters striking out a total of 100 batters, the second best total of all Pirates pitchers.
After Dotel was traded in July, management said that Hanrahan and Evan Meek would share closing duties. This seemed to be a lie though, as Hanrahan got almost all of the closing opportunities.
Hanrahan saved a total of six games and finished with a 4-1 record with an ERA of 3.62. In his 69.2 innings, he gave up 58 hits, 28 runs (all earned), 6 homers and he walked 26 batters. Hanrahan also had 18 holds.
For Evan Meek, the road to the Majors was a long road. He was selected by the Minnesota Twins in the 2002 MLB Draft but later played in the Minors for the San Diego Padres and Tampa Bay Devil Rays. He was selected by the Pirates in the 2007 Rule-5 Draft. During the season, Meek looked overmatched and he finished 0-1 with an ERA of 6.92. He was designated for assignment on May 4, 2008 and by Rule-5 rules was sent back to Tampa Bay on May 14. The Pirates sent cash to Tampa Bay in return for Meek and promptly sent him to the Minors. He pitched 9 games for the Altoona Curve and was then promoted to the Indianapolis Indians.
Meek spent the 2009 season in the bullpen with the Pirates. He finished the season with a 1-1 record in 41 appearances, had a 3.45 ERA, gave up 2 home runs, 0 hit batsmen, 29 walks, 42 strikeouts, a .209 average against, and a 1.34 WHIP, in 47.0 innings pitched. Unfortunately for Meek, he got injured in the latter part of the season, and thus did not pitch down the stretch.
Meek started the 2010 season as the seventh inning man behind both Hanrahan and Dotel. Then-manager John Russell asked Meek on numerous occassions to pitch multiple innings, and for most of the first half of the season had an ERA under 1. Early in the season, Dotel had given up a run in six straight games as closer and Meek was called upon for the save against the Los Angeles Dodgers and earned the save on April 29. Meek remembered the honor saying how much it meant for him, and how he idolized Los Angeles Dodgers Broadcaster Vin Scully and how much the save meant for him.
An early highlight for Meek occurred on May 14 against the Chicago Cubs. He entered the game in the sixth inning with the score tied at 6. He pitched two scoreless innings and struck out four including Derrick Lee, Xavier Nady and Alfonso Soriano. The Pirates won the game 10-6.
Another highlight came on June 10 against the Washington Nationals. He came into the game relieving Zach Duke. The bases were loaded with no outs, and Meek quickly got Willie Harris to line into a double play and then retired Cristian Guzman and ended the inning with only 6 pitches.
Despite Andrew McCutchen being the front runner, Meek was the Pirates lone representative to the All-Star Game as he carried a 4-2 record with an ERA of 0.96. “It’s surprising,” Meek said. “A lot of starters and closers go to the game. I’ve always said there are a lot of great middle relievers out there who deserve to go to the game. I think they’re overlooked a little bit. It’s amazing to be selected, an overwhelming feeling.” Meek was the first Pirates reliever selected that was not a closer to the game since Mace Brown in 1938.
On August 3, Meek stepped up to the plate against reliever Jordan Smith of the Cincinnati Reds. Despite the long shot, Meek lined single into right field and received an ovation from the crowd.
Meek finished the season with a 5-4 record, an ERA of 2.14, 70 strikeouts, 4 saves in limited duty and 15 holds. All of these numbers were career highs.
Chris Resop also has an interesting tale, as he went from seemingly the lowest of lows to the highest of highs. He was drafted by the Florida Marlins in the fourth round of the 2001 MLB Draft. He made his Major League debut for the team in 2005 and stayed with the team in 2006 until he was traded to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for Kevin Gregg.
He was claimed off waivers by the Atlanta Braves on October 25, 2007. On May 28, 2008, Resop was designated for assignment by the Braves. He was assigned to the Richmond Braves until July 7 when the Braves sold Resop’s contract to the Hanshin Tigers of the Japanese Central League.
Prior to the 2010 season, Resop signed once again with the Braves and was called up on June 15 after pitching 73.1 innings, recording a 1.84 ERA and allowing 46 hits, 27 walks, and striking out 81 batters. He held batters to a .183 average.
Soon after Resop was placed on waivers and on August 4, he was claimed by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Resop got off to a great start with the team using his fastball and other pitches to overwhelm the hitter.
Resop was doing a great job for the team and then another roadblock came for Resop in the form of injury. Resop was sidelined for much of the end of the season, although he did pitch close to season’s end. Resop’s work though exceeded everyone’s expectation, and barring injury, Resop is likely to start the season in the team’s bullpen.
Resop finished his 2010 season with a 3.86 ERA although those numbers did not show his work in Pittsburgh as his one appearance in Atlanta resulted in an ERA 22.50/ This start did not reflect what he did in Pittsburgh. While wearing the Pirates uniform, Resop appeared in 22 games. In his 19 innings pitched, Resop allowed 10 hits, 4 runs (all earned), one home run, 10 walks, 24 strikeouts, and 5 holds. His WHIP was 1.05 and his ERA was 2.45 in the month of August and 1.29 in September.
Daniel McCutchen often times is the forgotten piece of the Xavier Nady trade. People remember that Jose Tabata, Ross Ohlendorf and Jeff Karstens were brought over. McCutchen tried to make a name for himself as a September call-up in 2009, and did a respectable job. In 2010 Spring Training, McCutchen beat out Kevin Hart for the fifth spot in the Pirates rotation.
McCutchen had his struggles in the rotation though, and the Pirates sent him down to AAA to fine tune his game.
McCutchen was brought up later on in the season and still wasn’t pitching up to par. The decision was made for McCutchen to pitch long relief and it was a role that McCutchen was fairly successful in. McCutchen still received the occassional start, and even emerged victorious in a couple, but McCutchen’s role is seemingly clear.
McCutchen finished 2010 with a 2-5 record and an ERA of 6.12. He appeared in 28 games and started only 9 of them. In his 67.2 innings, he gave up 83 hits, 48 runs (46 earned), 13 home runs, 28 walks and 38 strikeouts.
From there the relief options are seemingly endless. One guy that will not be in the bullpen is Chan Ho Park. Park was designated for assignment by the New York Yankees on July 31 after having a 5.60 ERA. He was claimed off waivers by the Pirates on August 4. On October 1, Park became the winningest Asian pitcher in the Major Leagues. He was signed by the Orix Buffaloes of Nippon Professional Baseball this off-season although the Pirates did seem to show some signs of interest in Park. Park went 2-2 with the Pirates in 2010 and his ERA with the team was 3.49 and finished with a total ERA of 4.66 for the 2010 season.
One person that has a great chance of making the bullpen is Jeff Karstens. I failed to mention Karstens in my most recent post on starting pitchers. This is mainly because with the new mix of starters, it appears unlikely that Karstens will be a starter although there is a slight glimmer of hope for him.
Jeff Karstens attended Pirates spring training as a non-roster invitee. He pitched relief in 8 games for a 6.23 ERA and was reassigned to the minor league camp.
He began the season in the AAA Indianapolis bullpen, but problems with starting Pirates starting pitching prompted a call-up on April 27.
Since that time, Karstens has become the Pirates’ most reliable starting pitcher, posting an ERA of 4.31 that is the lowest out of the starting rotation.
Karstens was the pitching matchup in the highly anticipated debut of young phenom Stephen Strasburg, giving up 9 hits for 4 runs (4 earned) in 5 innings for his second loss of the season.
Karstens finished the 2010 season with a 3-10 record and an ERA of 4.92. Of his 26 appearences, Karstens started 19 times. He pitched in 122.2 innings, and gave up 146 hits, 72 runs (67 earned), 21 home runs, 27 walks and 72 strikeouts. Karstens though showed a lot of resilience and did not get much run support when he started, and thus his performance is not shown by his record. Karstens found himself with the ball in his hand when the Pirates needed a good performance, and more often then not he delivered. I could definitely see him being in the bullpen.
Another possible candidate for the bullpen is Aaron Thompson. Thompson was signed off waiver by the Pirates, and as a lefty will probably be given every opportunity to start the season in the Majors. The team has a shortage of lefties in the Pirates bullpen. Thompson, a former Washington Nationals prospect, finished his 2010 season with a record of 5-13 (although he went 1-0 for AAA affiliate Syracuse) and an ERA of 5.65 (1.80 for Syracuse). He appeared an started in 27 games, and 141.2 innings. He gave up 169 hits and allowed 97 runs (89 earned). He also allowed 16 home runs and walked 56 while striking out 99. Thompson is the team’s top lefty relief arm option as it stands right now, and he could provide a lot of innings for the team.
Another lefty option is Wilfredo Ledezma. Ledezma signed with the Pirates last off-season and started the season in AAA. He was called up on July 27 along with Steven Jackson to replace Brendan Donnelly and Brad Lincoln. He finished with a 6.86 ERA to go along with a 0-3 record. He appeared in 27 games and pitched 19.2 innings. He allowed 25 hits, 16 runs (15 earned), 2 home runs, 6 walks, 22 strikeouts and 3 holds. Ledezma was often a victim of bad luck though as he did not receive much help behind him. Still Ledezma was taken off the 40 man roster to make a spot for Thompson so Spring Training may be Ledezma’s last shot to make it with the Pirates, but as a lefty he will get looks but just because he is not on the 40 man roster, his chances do not appear to be that great.
Another possible innings eater would be Sean Gallagher. The Pirates acquired him from the San Diego Padres for cash considerations on July 7. He appeared in 46 games (31 with the Pirates and 15 with the Padres). He finished with a 2-1 record (all three decisions were with the Pirates) and a 5.77 ERA. He pitched in a total of 57.2 innings, allowing 62 hits, 40 runs (37 earned), 7 home runs, 41 walks, 43 strikeouts and 3 holds (all with the Pirates). Despite his control problems and being off the 40-man roster, Gallagher was invited to Spring Training and thus has a shot to pitch himself into the Pirates bullpen. To do this, he will have to show control and limit the mistakes that plagued him in Pittsburgh last season.
Another option for the bullpen is Chris Leroux whom the Pirates got off waivers on September 13. Leroux came off an injury earlier in the season and received limited time with the Pirates towards the end of the season. He appeared in 6 games with the Pirates pitching in 4.2 innings and allowing 4 hits, 3 runs (all earned), 3 walks and 4 strikeouts. He also had an ERA over 5 and a 0-1 record. If it makes you feel any better, his stats with the Marlins were worse as his ERA and WHIP were both higher in his 17 appearances with the team. I am unsure what the Pirates see in Leroux but they put Gallagher and Ledezma off of the 40-man and for no apparent good reason have kept Leroux.
One final option that is not to be forgotten is Scott Olsen. I do not have him making my projected rotation and thus he is on this list. The team is short of lefties and Olsen in the bullpen makes sense, as he can eat innings as well as provide that left-handed arm the team needs. I have more information on Olsen in the starting pitching preview.
There of course are more options for the bullpen, as these are only a few of them. Other names include Jose Ascanio who is still trying to come back from injury, Tony Watson a lefty, Kyle McPherson, Michael Crotta and Ramon Aguero. All of these options are on the 40 man roster.
The Pirates have a lot of bullpen options, but one question remains, who will be the Pirates closer?
Well it is a two-horse race between Hanrahan and Meek. Both have had their troubles with the position.
Hanrahan relies solely on two pitches, in the fastball and slider. While it has gotten him this far, I feel that he needs to add at least another pitch because if he stays the way he is, he will become way too predictable. It is true that Hanrahan had 6 saves last season, but he also blew 4 saves last season. He just does not seem like a reliable option as if he were to be closer, he would have a ton of opportunities and when he closed for Washington, he did not fare that well either.
Meek had some closing opportunities as well but each time he comes out to close, it seems to be an adventure. Technically speaking, Meek blew 6 games last year, but it is not like he pitched that many times in the ninth inning. When he did save games, they were very similar to Matt Capps when he wore the Pirates uniform. Meek in the ninth inning actually got what seemingly no other pitcher did, and that was defensive help. The defense had to help Meek save the day on numerous save situations and I don’t think that he is ready to take the ball in the ninth quite yet.
Unless the Pirates can find a more reliable option, Hanrahan will have to be the team’s closer. Hanrahan will face some failure, but hopefully the team will be able to help him out.
Here is my projected bullpen come April 1 2011:
Scott Olsen- long relief
Jeff Karstens- long relief
Aaron Thompson- long/middle relief
Daniel McCutchen- long/middle relief
Chris Resop- middle reliever
Evan Meek- set up man
Joel Hanrahan- closer
Of course all of this could easily change, as I think the Pirates could use another lefty. I think that Ledezma will fall short. As I said earlier, I project Olsen to just miss making the team’s rotation, although it makes sense for him to make it. This would provide the team with two left-handed arms in the bullpen in Olsen and Thompson. Both have starting pitching backgrounds and could be used as long or middle relievers. Regardless both can eat up a lot of innings.
Resop is the only projected middle reliever and I can see him as the team’s regular seventh inning man, much like Meek was last season. Karstens has pitched as a long reliever in the team’s bullpen before so the title of long-reliever seems to suit him most although McCutchen has long relief experience as well.
This bullpen can have as many as four long relievers but perhaps two of these “long relievers” could move to provide middle relief and perhaps even move to long relief, as injuries happen and a long reliever or two may need to make spot starts.
Thank you so much for reading my early season preview breaking down each of the Pirates positions as they stand today. I hope you have enjoyed my take. I will continue to keep blogging and I may put down quick previews of each team in the Majors. This would include breaking down either a division or team at a time. It would potentially feature key additions and losses, placement in division and more!
Each day, I plan on putting one Pirates signing in review. Today’s player is Scott Olsen.
Scott Olsen was the first player to sign with the team this off-season with the rumor coming forth on the first day of Winter Meetings and the contract being made official later.
Olsen’s salary for this season is $450,000 and much like the Octavio Dotel contract, the deal comes with an option for 2012. The option is worth $4 million and the buyout is $100,000. Olsen can earn up to $3 million in performance bonuses based on starts this coming season and up to $1 million more in 2012.
While the Olsen contract is cheap, his baggage is very well known. Olsen’s baggage has been well documented on Wikipedia and the problems will be revealed at the end of the entry.
Despite this baggage, Clint Hurdle is a no-nonsense manager, and even Joel Hanrahan has been quoted saying the Hurdle, “.. won’t put up with crap.”
The signing by a quick glance is a cheap one, but can get expensive if he starts too much. I am unsure what to think of the move as it was a buy low move, but Olsen’s stats resemble those of Zach Duke, so essentially he is a cheaper version of Zach Duke. The good news is that there is no Joe Kerrigan to mess up Olsen’s delivery and Searage has proven to be a better pitching coach, but I am worried that Olsen and his seemingly short temper could deliver a bad message to the young Pirates.
Zac’s Grade: C
“Olsen has had a history of disciplinary problems with the Marlins and legal issues. He was given a black eye by friend and former teammate Randy Messenger during the 2006 season. Shortly afterwards, then-manager Joe Girardi pulled Olsen by the collar and confronted him.
In a 7-6 loss to the New York Mets in July 2006, there was an incident involving former teammate Miguel Cabrera. While pitching to Mets catcher Paul Lo Duca, Lo Duca hit a hard grounder that glanced off Cabrera’s glove and rolled into left field. A run scored and Lo Duca raced to second for a double. While the ball glanced off of Cabrera’s glove, Olsen seemed to believe that Cabrera did not give his full effort to get to the ball, and as they came off the field, Olsen could be seen shouting something at Cabrera. A moment later, television cameras showed Cabrera in the crowded dugout reaching past teammates to poke his finger at Olsen as the pitcher walked past him. Olsen tried to jab back at Cabrera, who charged Olsen and tried to kick the pitcher before both players were quickly separated by teammates.
In September 2006, Olsen said he hated the Philadelphia Phillies because they dominated the Marlins. His emotions boiled over in the sixth inning of a May 2007 game versus the Phillies, when he became angry at Chase Utley for calling time just before a pitch. The next pitch was ball four, and Utley trotted to first base as Olsen angrily shouted and waved his glove at him.
On July 15, 2007, during a start against the Washington Nationals, Olsen had a confrontation with pitcher Sergio Mitre in the tunnel heading toward the team clubhouse. Olsen ripped his jersey off and tossed it in the direction of a trainer. According to a source, Mitre and other Marlins took exception to Olsen’s actions. That’s when tensions got heated. As they left the dugout area, Mitre pinned Olsen against a wall before the two were separated by teammates. Olsen then received a two-game suspension for insubordination, but was still scheduled to make his next start the following Friday against the Cincinnati Reds.
After serving his two-game suspension, and after making his scheduled July 20, 2007, start, Olsen was arrested by police in Aventura, Florida after fleeing from police following a speeding violation (he was clocked going 48 MPH in a 35 MPH zone). He fled for about a mile, at which point he stopped at his home and sat in a plastic chair in the front yard. When police arrived and tried to arrest him, he kicked at the officers who then used a taser to subdue him. Olsen failed a field sobriety test and refused a breathalyzer test. He was booked on charges of driving under the influence, resisting arrest with violence and fleeing and eluding a police officer.“
Pittsburgh Tribune- Review writer Rob Biertempfel published who the highest paid Pirates are today and I thought it would be an interesting write up. As a note, these salaries are before the Kevin Correia deal, as the financial terms have not been finalized.
#5: Ronny Cedeno $1.125 million: Cedeno hit .256 and hit 8 home runs and batted in 38 runs. He had an above average season, but hits .230 on the road and .246 against right handed pitchers which are causes for concern. Cedeno struck out 106 times last season as well. Looking at his season, Cedeno stepped to the plate a total of 487 times and hit flyballs 36.8% of the time, groundballs 39.4% of the time, struckout 21.8% of the time and grounded into a double play 2.1% of the time. The Pirates came to terms with Cedeno on December 3 at a time when they were looking for a shortstop that could potentially prove to be an upgrade. With J.J. Hardy, Brandon Ryan and others out of the picture the Pirates took a shortstop in the Rule-5 Draft to try and challenge Cedeno. There are now rumors that Ryan Doumit will be traded to the Boston Red Sox for shortstop Marco Scutaro who hit .275 with 11 home runs and 56 runs batted in. He would make $5.5 million dollars this season and hits lefties and righties at a fairly similar clip.
#4 Matt Diaz $2 million: Diaz was a much needed righty into the Pirates line up and can play both first base and the outfield. Diaz looks to be an option for a possible platoon in right field as Jose Tabata and Andrew McCutchen have left and center field locked up. In 84 games last season, Diaz hit .250 with 7 home runs and batted in 31 runs. He has some power having 17 of his 56 hits going for doubles, and 2 hits going for triples. Diaz platooning with Garrett Jones is a great idea, as Diaz was a .273 hitter against lefties and only hitting at a .223 hitter against righties. Out of Diaz’s 233 at bats, he hit flyballs 42.1% of the time, grounders 36.5% of the time, struckout 18.9% of the time and grounding into double plays 2.6% of the time. Diaz has a deal with the Pirates for two seasons.
#3 Lyle Overbay $5 million: I will start out by saying that Overbay is a fellow aquarius which has clearly helped his power. Despite a .243 average last season, he hit 20 home runs and batted in 67 runs. He projects just like Adam LaRoche meaning they walk a lot (Overbay walked 67 times last season) and strikeout even more (Overbay struck out 131 times). His career average is .274, so perhaps that average could come up a bit. He was paid $7.95 million each of the past two seasons and last season only hit .222 against lefties and .250 against righties. In his 546 at bats, he hit flyballs 40.3% of the time, groundballs 34.1% of the time, struck out 24% of the time and grounded into double plays 1.6% of the time.
# 2 Ryan Doumit $5.1 million: Doumit has been the biggest trade bait in the entire Pirates organization. He made $3.65 million last season. Doumit cannot play an entire season as he at one point or another always seems to get injured. Despite rumors of being traded for players such as Marco Scutaro and Kenshin Kawakami, Pirates GM Neal Huntington said at Winter Meetings that at that time Doumit was the team’s starting right fielder. Since that quote, the Pirates have signed Matt Diaz and Lyle Overbay and essentially rendered Doumit’s big salary useless much like Ian Snell’s a couple of seasons ago. After acquiring Chris Snyder from the Diamondbacks in July, Doumit (who couldn’t even throw out 10% of runners trying to steal a base) displayed a great arm and terrible fielding in right field. Still after the trade, Doumit started to hit some home runs leaving his bat in the line up. Last season he batted .251 and hit 13 home runs and batted in 45 runs. He was a horrendous .186 against lefties. In 425 at bats, Doumit hit fly balls 44.5% of the time, hit groundballs 30.8% of the time, struckout 20.5% of the time and grounded into a double play 4.2% of the time. Time will tell if Doumit dons the Pirates “P” come April.
#1 Paul Maholm $5.75 million: After the departure of Zach Duke, Maholm is the lone pitcher on this list. Maholm finished with a record of 9-15 and tied for second in the National League in losses, often a victim of poor run support. Lefties hit .231 against him, and righties had his number hitting .316. Away from home, hitters had a .318 average against Maholm in contrast to hitters hitting .289 against him at PNC Park. Maholm made $5 million last season. Maholm did pitch one complete game out of his 32 starts last season, but in 185.1 innings he allowed 228 hits and 119 runs (105 of them were earned). Maholm gave up 15 home runs last season and walked 62 batters. Sadly, Maholm’s 102 strikeouts were the most of any Pirates starter and only beat Joel Hanrahan by two strikeouts. Maholm’s WHIP was .11 above his career average as it ended up at 1.56. His pitches per game was also down .5 of a pitch as it was 95.9 pitches last season. Perhaps Maholm can better his numbers with Ray Searage as the new pitching coach, but for me, this is a make or break year for Paul.
Well the Pirates made some moves that had to be made one way or another by releasing these three.
With Duke, I remember the Opening Day 2009 start. It was his best outing in a Pirate uniform and he was really becoming a good pitcher until Joe Kerrigan messed up a good thing. Duke was great with the community as evidenc…ed with his Bowling With the Bucs event this past season. Duke leaving leaves Maholm and Doumit as the only two holdovers from the earlier rosters. I interviewed Duke during the 2009 season and he was very honest, candid and even funny during our brief time together. My other interviews were with Nate McLouth and Matt Capps, so obviously Duke was the last one standing. When I gave Duke a transcript of the interview during Bowling With the Bucs 2009, he quickly remembered me. I will always remember that and how nice he was to me.
While the Duke cut put a lot of money off of the table, the Andy LaRoche cut had to be the most painful for the Pirates. LaRoche was the main part of the Jason Bay trade. With Brandon Moss now on the Phillies, the release of LaRoche finally shows that management officially agreed with the public that the trade was a failed one. It probably took a lot for management to have to do that, and that makes me respect them. LaRoche had a lot of pressure as Neil Walker and Pedro Alvarez were both ready to take his spot. Walker had a fast start to the season in Triple-A and Alvarez was showing the team his power as well. LaRoche had a couple of good weeks early in the season, however faded fairly fast after that. The team tried to move LaRoche to second base and first base, but it never worked out. LaRoche was a big part of the community as well winning the Pirates Roberto Clemente Award. I was frequently at PNC Park during LaRoche’s time with the Pirates, and almost every game he would sign autographs for fans. I first met him on the final game of the 2009 season when we were allowed to take pictures with the players. Our camera was out of memory and thus we had to boost it up, LaRoche was very patient about the entire situation. He may not be missed for his accomplishments on the field but he was a champion off of the field.
Delwyn Young was a big part of the teams’ bench over the past two seasons. He would play third base, second base and the outfield, making him a very useful option. His glovework at third base was not pretty, but it would be expected as he was trying to learn a new position. Under Perry Hill in 2009, Young tried his hand at second base and did a decent job, however he was a bit slow in terms of turning the double play. His outfield work was average at best as well, and he was not the fastest of runners and had trouble dealing with the right field of PNC Park. Young hit the first home run off of Stephen Strasburg. He also hit a bottom of the ninth game tying home run against San Francisco Giants closer Brian Wilson with two strikes and two outs. Young’s bat was great, however the team cut him, as he just was not getting the job done. He also did a great job in the community.
I had made big plans for this game, as I was at Point Park to work on an article for the student newspaper. I was really looking forward to interviewing students about the topic but the moment I got off of the bus it started to rain. This angered me, as no students were any where near where I was and Pirates BP was at risk.
After waiting for a little while I walked down to the ballpark and the rain had stopped. I was somewhat surprised to see that the grounds crew was pulling the tarp off of the field and that the Pirates were getting ready to take BP. This was going to be great as there was a chance to see more BP.
I went to the game by myself, and got close to the front of the line. The usual suspects were there, and Ian and I who were separated by two baseballs at the time were ready.
I had a feeling that because the Nationals are a good bp team, that today had the potential to be a career day for me.
When we were let in, I searched for easter eggs, and came up empty-handed. In fact most of the Pirates BP was very uneventful. The only Pirate that really was tossing up was Chris Resop, and he had already tossed balls up to Erik and Nick. I started to get a little discouraged until Resop came over to talk to Nick and I. He asked us about BHL and how things worked. Between the two of us, we probably spilled out a little too much, but it was well worth it as Chris is a very cool guy. As the conversation ended, he told me that he would toss one up to me.
Sure enough, a ball was hit in the direction of Pirate Daniel McCutchen and Resop asked him for the ball. Shortly after Resop threw a perfect strike right into my glove for ball number 1. Thanks Chris!
For a long while afterwards I fell into another drought. Ian however was nowhere to be found and I had crept up to one ball behind him. His cousin on the other hand was getting baseballs left and right and ended up with six. The fact that he was a kid hurt me a little bit. As Pirates bp ended, I felt stupid as I only had one baseball and considering the circumstances, I was not happy.
Nationals BP got under way pretty quickly as the Pirates had a late start. I decided to play center field as I have fared pretty well there during recent batting practice. Again I was getting unlucky as I was in the wrong spot at the wrong time. Ian’s cousin was getting some more toss ups and if there was ever a time to be patient, then this was it.
Things changed for me when Adam Dunn stepped to the plate. He was hitting monster home runs and sure enough one went onto the riverwalk and after being bobbled by at least two people the ball went into my glove for ball number 2.
Ball number 3 came shortly after on another Adam Dunn home run. I almost snagged another Adam Dunn home run, but Ian got to it a second before I did. He had and finished with two snags on the day meaning one more snag and I tied him for third best ballhawk at PNC Park.
BP ended without another snag but I had an extra ticket and I decided to search the ivy outside of the stadium as there was no penalty. Sure enough I went out there and one minute in, found ball number 4. This tied me with Ian but more importantly tied my single game record for most snags in a single game. That would be the only ball I found in the ivy, but it was well worth it.
I then went into the ballpark again, and went by the bullpen to try for a toss up. Everything was going well but at the last possible second I missed out on the ball from starter Zach Duke as he threw it to a girl. My record attempting snag would have to wait.
I spent the majority of the game with Ian and his cousin. My tickets were listed for the 300’s section, however two generous people gave me a ticket to section 139 and I played a couple of toss ups from over there. My closest call while there was in the fifth inning, when the ball was meant for me but a guy got his hand on it at the last second. I was not pleased as I wanted this record very badly.
After a while and a Kent Tekulve autograph, Ian and his cousin left the ballpark and I aggressively tried for the “elusive” fifth ball of the day.
My quest took me to the bullpen where Herbie Andrade was throwing a ball up to a kid who was having a little bit of trouble. I motioned for Herbie to throw it to me and soon after ball number 5 was in my glove. I made sure to give it to the kid and Herbie gave me a thumbs up. Luis Dorante (and his new beard) saw the whole process and tossed me ball number 6. I thanked them both and left to try and get the last Cutch toss up.
The toss up was going to be in section 140 and I was stationed for it and it was a little to my right. I did make the catch however for ball number 7. I gave the ball away.
As a quick side note, congrats to legendary ballhawk and my buddy Jim Saylor for catching his second home run of the season. He caught a Ryan Doumit home run. Long live the king!
With my seven baseball performance that day, I had caught up to and passed Ian and also set a personal record. Because of the success of the day, I made a snap decision to attend the next day’s game. How would I do? You’ll have to read my next post.