Pedro Alvarez was named the National League rookie of the month on Monday afternoon.
Alvarez batted .311 with five home runs, 26 RBI and 10 runs scored in the month of September. He also had a 11-game hitting streak during this stretch and was also named Player of the Week when he batted .467 and had 21 RBI’s.
“I’m just trying to go out there and compete every day, and not worry too much about the results — but trust in my process and game plan,” Alvarez said at the time. “I believe that more times than not, it will pay off my way.”
Alvarez is just the second Pirate to earn NL Rookie of the month since 2005. (Garrett Jones was the other in 2009)
Shortly after it was announced that John Russell would be dismissed as Manager, hitting coach Don Long, third base coach Tony Beasley and bench coach Jeff Banister told MLB.com that they would welcome the opportunity to return as the major league’s coaching staff.
General Manager Neal Huntington said he would be evaluating the coaching staff individually, leaving a possibility that they may be back for 2011.
Huntington also told the staff they are welcome to peruse other opportunities.
Beasley has been with the Pirates organization for 18 years –three as third base coach.
“I would definitely love to be back, especially with where we are with the young kids,” Beasley said. “I’d definitely love to be a part of that and a part of the growth. The process that we talked about is kind of coming to an end. I see that in the near future, and hopefully I can be a part of that. I know it’s out of my hands, but until I’m told otherwise, I hope to stay.”
Don Long was hired in 2007 (the same year with John Russell) but his future with the team could be in jeopardy. The Pirates finished the season with a .225 avg –the lowest in the National League.
“The competitive side of me says we started that process and we’ve been through major overhaul on the roster,” Long said. “We’ve gotten to the point that guys who you thought would have the chance to come up here did, and they showed big signs of what they’re capable of doing. I would want to see through.
“For the people on the outside looking in, the most dominant stat is the record,” he added. “But to watch a group of players — where there is a lot of youth and not a lot of experience — go from where they started to where they finished, it’s definitely a step in the right direction. People on the outside looking in can scoff at that. But for me, as a coach, the most important thing is you take care of the things you can take care of and one of those is how you prepare and how you show up.”
Banister took over as bench coach when Gary Varsho was fired earlier this season. Jeff has been with the Pirates organization for 25 years, eight as the Pirates’ minor league field coordinator.
Asked if he would like to continue working with the organization, Banister said: “That’s an obvious yes. There’s a lot of guys I know very well who’ve come up through our system that are there. They’ve developed, they continue to develop. They’re not finished by any stretch of the imagination. I’d love to continue that if Neal, [president] Frank [Coonelly] and [owner] Bob [Nutting] allow that to happen.
“My passion is for this organization and where I think we can go, and where I think we are going. It’s unfinished for me. Until somebody tells me they don’t need my services anymore, I’ll always feel that way. I grew up in this uniform and there are a lot of things I think we can and will do. I’m sure some people think we are a ways away. I see it every day, and I know we’re not that far away. There’s a really strong nucleus of talented athletes that take the field every day. There is some finishing that needs to go along with their Major League experience before they truly know what it takes to win on an every-day basis. Hopefully, I’m part of that, in whatever capacity that is.”
After days of rumors swirling that John Russell was going to be fired after three seasons with the Pirates, it became official on Monday afternoon.
“John was incredibly committed to making good things happen,” general manager Neal Huntington said in a conference call with the media on Monday afternoon. “A valid argument could be made that he deserved a better fate.”
“This was a very difficult announcement and a very difficult decision. This isn’t about looking backward or finding fault. That lies mostly with myself and the baseball operations department. It’s about what’s in the best interest of the organization moving forward and finding a manager to move this team in the desired direction.”
Russell was the 38th manager in Pirates history –the fourth since 2000. He finishes with a 186-299 record. (95 losses in ’08, 99 in ’09 and 105 in ’10).
How did Russell take the news?
“Disappointed, but with extreme professionalism,” Huntington said. “He was looking forward to the challenge of year four, and was looking forward to meeting those challenges. He’s disappointed he won’t get to meet those.”
Well-respected in the Pirates’ clubhouse –it was quite the opposite outside. The fan base never seemed to like him.
“The media attention is like none we’ve ever seen before,” Huntington said. “The manager becomes the focal point. The reality of where we are, sometimes managers take the fall. At times, they get too much of the credit, and at times, they get too much of the public blame. This isn’t about a fall guy. It’s about moving forward and deciding a change was better for the organization.”
Despite the 105-loss season, General Manager Neal Huntington does not blame the losses on John Russell.
“I’ve been open [about the fact that] we did not anticipate a 105-loss season as we came out of the chute,” Huntington said when asked about the disappointment of the 2010 season. “Now, we have to focus on moving forward, on how to accentuate the positive and minimize the negative.
“We’re doing things in scouting and player development. and we’re looking forward to having that impact at the Major League level that will result in [more wins]. We have a much deeper farm system to move in a solid direction. That’s one of the bigger frustrations for someone like J.R. We’ve gone through a lot in three years, and he [won't] reap the rewards of that.”
So who exactly will take over as the new Pirates manager? Some options could be: Eric Wedge, Ken Macha? I asked some twitter followers who they would like to see. Some of the names were: John Farrell, Ryne Sandberg, Jay Bell, Jeff Bannister, Tim Wallach and Joey Cora.
I’ll keep posting as interviews are being held. Until then, here is one final shot on John Russell on the final game in 2010 at PNC Park:
It has been a long journey for Rookie second baseman Neil Walker but without all his hard work and dedication it wouldn’t be possible.
“I knew this was a huge year for me, but I don’t think it was make-or-break — well, maybe it was, within this organization,” Walker said. “I definitely felt like my time was coming.”
Walker was a first round pick in the 2004 draft, spent nearly three years at Triple-A Indy before he was given a real shot at the bigs. Drafted as a catcher, he was moved to third base in 2007. But with Alvarez and LaRoche in front of him, he was eventually moved to second base.
“I truly believe in my abilities. I truly believe I can play at this level,” Walker said. “But, position-wise, I had no idea where I’d be. I certainly didn’t see myself playing second base.”
“My mindset was, I was going to take advantage of an opportunity, no matter where (on the field) it was,” Walker said.
“Moving to second base was (Walker’s) idea — he came to us about it before we went to him, which was great,” Huntington said. “He swung the bat and worked his tail off, and for that he deserves a ton of credit.”
When Steve Pearce was injured in May, Walker got his second call up to the majors and he never looked back.
Walker ended his rookie season with a .296 batting average, 12 home runs, 66 RBI and 57 runs scored. He also ends the season with a great attitude.
“I can’t go into spring training with the mindset that I’ve got this team made at second base,” Walker said. “I have to find a way to get better, to be a leader. You have to find a way to stay hungry.”
Ray Searage took over as interim pitching coach after the Pirates dismissed Joe Kerrigan in early August. A lot of managerial changes are bound to happen this off season but Searage may be around for 2011.
“Certainly, the pitchers have thrown the ball better as of late,” general manager Neal Huntington said. “Ray deserves some credit for that, and we certainly recognize that. There’s a reason why he was added to the Major League staff this year. We believe he can make a positive impact on the pitchers that are under his care and his tutelage, and that’s something that will definitely be taken into consideration as we move forward to make those decisions that we talked about this offseason.”
Searage began the 2010 season as an extra pitching coach working mainly with the relievers in the bullpen.
Many players have spoke out on how they enjoy working with Searage and like his style of pitching. Since he took over for Kerrigan, the staff’s ERA has dropped from 5.07 to 4.85.
“Pitchers responded, have been more efficient,” manager John Russell said. “They’ve given us a much better opportunity to win. Ray has done a really good job. He’s very energetic. He lets them be themselves, but he can also be demanding at the same time. He has a good rapport with them.”
Paul Maholm –who has worked with Searage since he started in Single-A– said this about the interim pitching coach:
“If you’re not feeling good about yourself, then go throw a bullpen with Ray,” Maholm said. “He’s passionate, he’s positive, he brings out the best in you. He believes in you.”
“It’s more about going out there and getting outs instead of worrying about some of the other stuff,” Maholm said.
Searage allows the starters much more freedom than Kerrigan did, who had a numbers based approach to the game.
“It’s more of a two-way street,” Searage said. “I’ll talk, they’ll talk and we’ll come to a happy medium. They know what they need to do in order to keep themselves sharp. It makes it easier for me, and they’re in a more relaxed atmosphere.”
The Bucs lose the final game of the season to the Marlins 5-2 on Sunday afternoon sealing the Pirates 2010 record to 57-105 –the second worst record in franchise history and lowest since 1954.
Both the Pirates .242 batting average and the pitchers 5.00 ERA ranked last in the National League this season.
“Obviously, 100-plus loss season is not where we thought we’d be,” general manager Neal Huntington said. “The most obvious starting point is that the losses have been difficult, the losses have been tough. A good number of them were unexpected.
“At the same time, you see some pieces being put in place. You see some guys developing and getting better, and you begin to become optimistic about where we’re headed. It hasn’t translated into wins and losses as we would have liked and expected, but there are some pieces that we can build with as we go forward. Each one of us, myself included, has to get better.”
The Pirates bats fell silent on the last game of the season. Not a single player managed to get more than one hit and they combined to strike out 12 times.
Ryan Doumit committed an error, bobbled a ball in right field (which should have been ruled as an error) and struck out three times in, perhaps, his final game in a Pirates uniform.
Neil Walker and Jose Tabata –who were chasing to end the season at .300– both went hitless.
But despite the horrible season and loss, some of the players are looking forward to next season and beyond.
“A lot of us learned quite a bit,” Walker said. “If you look at it from a won-loss standpoint, it wasn’t very good. But I think a lot of us learned a lot at the Major League level — especially a lot of us young guys — and learned how to be resilient and how to push forward and get better. I think we can take a lot of positives here playing pretty good baseball late in the year.”
Added Tabata: “We need to come back next year with a winning mentality and do something good. There needs to be energy for next year.”
Brian Burres got the loss after allowing three runs on five hits through 5.2 innings. The Pirates rotation ended the season with a 34-84 record.
“Coming out of Spring Training, obviously, we didn’t know that our starting rotation was going to lose 84 games,” Russell said. “You look at our season in a nutshell, and it’s 84 losses from our starting rotation.”
The Pirates 2011 season opener is April 1st in Chicago.
· The Pirates game on Sunday against the Marlins is the final game for both clubs this season.
· The Bucs are 12-13 in the past 25 games, 9-6 in the last 15 and 4-4 in the past eight games.
· Jose Tabata (14), Pedro Alvarez (11) and Neil Walker (18) have all had double-digit hitting streaks this season. It is the first time since 1952 that the Pirates have had three rookies with double digit hitting streaks in the same season.
· Pedro Alvarez’s 16 home runs and 64 RBI and Neil Walker’s 12 homers and 66 RBI are the most in Pirates history. It’s also the first time that two rookies hit more than 10 home runs and 60 RBI.
· Joel Hanrahan struck out two fish in the eighth inning Saturday night giving up 100 K’s on the season. He is the first Pirates reliever to strike out 100 since Don Robinson in 1984 (101).
· The Pirates pitching staff have struck out 24 batters in the past two games and has posted 1022 strikeouts this season which is the highest since 2006 (1060) and just the 10th time the staff have struck out more than 1000.
· The Bucs season opener for the 2011 season is scheduled on April 1st in Chicago.
LHP Brian Burres (4-4, 5.01 ERA)
RHP Anibal Sanchez (12-12, 3.62 ERA)
Burres is making his 13th start –20th appearance– of the season on Sunday against the Marlins. He picked up the W against the Cardinals his last start allowing two runs (one earned) through 5.2 innings. Burres is 2-1 with a 2.86 ERA in his last five starts.
Sanchez is making his 32nd start of the season and has lost three straight starts. Sanchez allowed three runs on seven hits with two walks and six strikeouts over 6.2 innings. He has faced the Pirates once in his career in which he allowed three runs on seven hits over seven innings and received the loss.
Pirates final lineup of 2010:
Marlins final lineup of 2010:
*** Pedro Alvarez was not in the lineup due to injured knee. Alvarez hyper extended his right knee during the eighth inning of Saturday’s game when he stepped awkwardly on first base.
Manager John Russell said he would be available to pinch-hit but would not be able to start for the Pirates.
“If it was the regular season, he might miss today only, but the last thing we want to do is let it flare up so that it’s sore for the next two weeks,” Russell said. “We don’t want his knee hampering him so he can’t get his [offseason] work.”
It’s been a rocky up and down season for Charlie Morton but on Saturday night in Miami –despite the 2-0 loss to the Marlins– he ended his season with a smile.
The right-hander pitched his best start of the season and cracked a smile after the game when addressing the media. Morton pitched six innings allowing two runs on four hits with one walk and nine strikeouts –which were his career high and the Pirates’ season high from a starter.
It’s been a long process for Morton but in order for him to be successful he knew he had to move past the horrible first two months of the season that he said “felt like two years.” Morton finishes the season 2-12 with a 7.57 ERA (which has been steadily dropping from 10.03) but those numbers don’t indicate how much he has improved and performed since being re-called in August.
“I’ve moved on past it, which has allowed me to pitch better and do things I need to do,” Morton said. “It looks good on paper. I’m not really concerned with that right now. Other people are, and I understand that. But my attitude and my approach and the way that I go about things is what matters. Results come secondhand from that.”
Morton’s best pitch is his fastball –which he used four out of the nine k’s for the third called strike– although he used his curveball for some swinging strikes as well.
“He’s good when he pitches off his fastball, like most starting pitchers are,” Bucs manager John Russell said. “He had good velocity, good angle.”
“He did good,” noted Marlins manager Edwin Rodriguez. “[He has good] arm strength and a very powerful arm. He pitched a very good game.”
The only two runs Morton allowed were very unlucky. In the fourth inning, an infield single bounced over the head of Alvarez and a sac fly by Chad Tracy scored the lone two runs of the game.
“I’m really happy he was able to finish the way he did,” Russell said. “The way he is throwing the ball, it should be a good thing for him to take into the offseason. He should be a good guy coming into Spring Training.”
“I have, for a while now, wished I had more time because my approach is a lot different,” Morton said. “I think that I’m having more fun, which makes it more enjoyable. Now, I do know I can go out there and compete with what I have. Not only can I compete, but I can succeed and do my job. That’s what makes it hard to walk away knowing it’s my last one.”
John Bowker went 2-for-3 with a walk and Ronny Cedeno –who committed another error, six in the past 8 games– went 2-4 on the night. The bats fell silent and the Bucs left nine on base.
The Pirates fall to 57-104 –which matches the Pirates 1985 club who had the worst record in a 162 game season (58-104).
Joel Hanrahan hit a milestone on Saturday night in Miami. With the two strikeouts in the eighth inning, he reached his 100th K of the season –the most in his career. (His previous high was 93 in 2008)
Hanrhan’s 100 strikeouts are second-highest on the team only to Paul Maholm (102). With Maholm out the rest of the season and one game remaining, Hanrahan has the chance to finish the season with the most strikeouts on the staff. He also has the chance to surpass Don Robinson who struck out 101 in 1984 –the most in Pirates history in a single season by a reliever
“There are guys that have obviously had way more, but it’s a nice number to look at and save,” Hanrahan said. “Obviously, I wish our season was better. But on the individual side, it’s a good thing to look at.”
“That’s a phenomenal feat,” Russell said. “It was a good moment for him. Especially to do it the way he did to get out of a jam.”
Pedro Alvarez was promoted to the cleanup spot on Saturday night’s game against the Marlins.
Alvarez started the season with the Pirates batting sixth but spent the most time in the fifth spot behind Garrett Jones.
“Ultimately, the lineup is the manager’s decision,” general manager Neal Huntington said, when asked of that possibility. “But as we look ahead to the lineup composition, we’ve got some interesting pieces that you could mix and match.
“Pedro is probably the consummate four-hole hitter, with the raw power that can change the game with one swing of the bat. But we still want to continue to develop him as a hitter. In a perfect world, he’s good enough to hit No. 3 for us. That means he’s hitting and hitting with power. That’s ultimately where we need him to be.”