Incase you missed Hot Stove from Wednesday night, or perhaps you don’t get the channel, here is what the analysts from MLB Network had to say about the Pirates 2011 season (P.S. It’s not pretty).
Matt Yallof: “The Pirates. Every single year. It seems to get worse. 57 wins last year. That seems difficult to do.”
Bill Ripken: “You wonder what direction they’re heading in. Our friend Clint Hurdle is taking over this club. I think he’s going to bring an attitude and a positive mentality to this club. But for me, I look at the pitching staff. In all these years that they’ve finished down to the bottom of baseball, I’m wanting to know where that number one is. We mentioned [Steven] Strasburg when we talk about the Nationals. Now, he blew out his elbow and he got hurt. But when you draft, you draft a number one. You draft some cheddar. When I look at the Pittsburgh Pirates rotation, I’m kind of wondering, ‘where’s the heat’? I’m not saying heats everything because you can pitch to spots and you can locate. When everybody on your staff is throwing 91, 92, then you drop down below 90, throwing 86, 88. There’s not that one guy that actually wows me. [Charlie] Morton throws the hardest. When you’re looking at 93 topping out, I’m wanting to know, ‘where the heat is?’ If you didn’t draft it, and you go out and you pick out other guys that are kind of throwing the same, ‘where’s the heat?’ I want somebody in that rotation that’s going to make somebody swing and miss at a fastball and maybe get yourself out of a jam instead of giving up big innings.”
Pirates projected rotation (according to MLB Network)
James McDonald (4-6, 4.02 ERA in 2010)
Paul Maholm (9-15, 5.10 ERA in 2010)
Kevin Correia (10-10 5.40 ERA in 2010)
Scott Olsen (4-8, 5.56 ERA in 2010)
Ross Ohlendorf (1-11, 4.07 ERA in 2010)
Mitch Williams: “There has to be a guy on every staff that at some point in the game, can reach back and throw the ball 95, 96. If you’ve got two outs and the bases loaded, two strikes on a hitter, you have got to have that guy that can blow that hitter up. Pittsburgh does not have that guy. They have guys that throw hitting speed.”
Matt Yallof: “You know what, they’ve had their chances to draft guys of note and guys that do what you’re taking about but they’ve missed. They’ve had high draft picks over and over. That hurts. Look at the guys they’ve passed on. They’ve missed those type of guys.”
Pitchers drafted in first round by Pirates since 2002:
Drafted – Right hand pitcher Brad Lincoln
Missed on – Left hand pitcher Clayton Kershaw, right hand pitcher Tim Lincecum, Right hand pitcher Matt Scherzer
Drafted – Left hand pitcher Paul Maholm
Missed on – Left hand pitcher John Danks, Right hand pitcher Chad Billingsley
Drafted – right hand pitcher Brian Bullington
Missed on – Right hand pitcher Zach Greinke, left hand pitcher Cole Hamels
(*As a note: Kevin McClatchy and Dave Littlefield were the General Managers during this time. Since Neal Huntington took over as GM in September of 2007, the drafting and minor league system has done a complete 180. Huntington really hasn’t gotten enough credit for what he has done so far and how much better the organization is heading.)
Harold Reynolds: “That’s the easy stuff they’ve missed on. Those are the number one picks. It’s the guys in the fifth round, six round, that your scouting is suggesting and going after. They’ve done a nice job with some players that have come up as of late (Williams: “position players”). But they’ve really missed it on the pitching.”
Ripken: “That term that comes into baseball now: Sign ability. Some of that might be their hands are tied a little bit but boy when you see that list and some of those players they’ve passed up on, wow! They’d look a lot different.”
Reynolds: “If you look back at the ‘we are family pirates’ they were international. They were: Puerto Rico, Dominican, they may not have had the funds back then but they went in those countries and developed players. I still think they had the market cornered. That’s when everybody wanted to be a pirate.”
Williams: “They won the World Series with the ugliest hats in the history of baseball.”
Yallof: “Last winning season: 1992. It’s really hard to believe.”
Notable Transactions (by MLB Network)
First baseman – Lyle Overbay
Outfielder – Matt Diaz
Right hand pitcher – Kevin Correia
Left hand pitcher – Scott Olsen
Left hand pitcher – Zach Duke
Right hand pitcher – Chan Ho Park
Outfielder – Lastings Milledge
With the new year looming and spring training less than 10 weeks away, the Pirates look to have four starters locked for 2011.
Paul Maholm, Ross Ohlendorf, Kevin Correia and James McDonald seem to be the favored starters for the Bucs, although nothing has been officially announced.
That leaves one spot left, with plenty of arms to compete in spring training.
Charlie Morton hopes to rebound from a horrible 2010 season.
“When you know you can do well and you prepare to do well and you go out and struggle like I did, that makes it pretty hard,” Morton said. “I was really excited coming into this year and it just didn’t get me anywhere. It was tough.”
Morton was acquired by the Atlanta Braves in June of 2009 and had high expectations by the Pirates. He finished 5-9 with a 4.55 ERA.
A horrible first part of the 2010 season, Morton picked up nine losses and had an ERA of 9.35. By May 28th, he was put on the Disabled list for right shoulder fatigue and by July 2nd, he was sent to the minors.
“I think I let the results dictate how I felt on the mound, and that, in turn, led me to be in a place that when I was on the mound and things weren’t going right, it all kind of compounded,” Morton said. “It got harder and harder. And I’m not talking harder outing-to-outing. I’m talking harder pitch-to-pitch. You’re looking in and not believing. I definitely have to rethink and reanalyze what I was trying to do out there. At the end, I’d be looking at video of myself and you could see in my face the doubt.”
A lack of confidence was a major contributor of his disastrous starts and he began to doubt his future as a pitcher.
“I had a lot of questions about myself when I was in Triple-A and not pitching well,” Morton said. “I had a lot of doubts. When I started pitching better, I started feeling better about baseball, but I didn’t feel better about my career. I’m at the stage in my career where it’s, ‘Can you pitch in the big leagues? Or can you not pitch in the big leagues?’”
In the final two months with the Pirates (five starts) he finished with a 3.99 ERA, his record 2-12 with a 7.57 ERA.
Morton has spent the offseason pitching in Winter Ball where he allowed three runs through 15 innings, striking out 14 and walking two.
“We’re moving in the right direction, and winter ball is just going to help build on that,” general manager Neal Huntington said. “He’s made some mechanical adjustments. He’s believing more. He’s being more aggressive. He’s trusting the stuff more. He’s taken some nice steps forward.”
With just one option remaining, Morton has a lot to prove in Spring Training if he wants to be the fifth starter in 2011. The Pirates, however, haven’t given up on him just yet.
“I’ve learned that you can’t think about things long-term,” Morton said. “You can have goals and long-term dreams, but just looking at my next start and going out there and trying to execute pitches is the most important thing.
“Do I want the guys in this clubhouse and coaches’ locker room to count on me? Yeah, I want that responsibility. But when I start moving forward that can’t be the only thing on my mind. It has to be me taking care of what I need to take care of. Whether that leads me to a certain position on the staff or wherever, I can’t really focus on that.”
For Joel Hanrahan, Christmas consists of family and a competitive tournament of “The Black Velvet Open”.
The tradition began last year on Christmas Day. The Black Velvet Open takes place in an indoor driving range in Iowa. The winner takes home a bottle of Black Velvet with a golfer on top and a black velvet jacket.
“I was the champion,” Hanrahan said. “And I wasn’t even playing with my clubs. I was playing with my brother’s clubs. It was pretty interesting. Everybody can swing a little bit. It varies as to who is good or who is not.”
The second annual Black Velvet tournament takes place on Sunday and Hanrahan plans to hold the title.
On what Christmas is like at the Hanrahan family household: “Basically Christmas is just a whole lot of family coming over — about 20 — and we sit around and eat. Since we moved back to Iowa in ’97, Christmas has always been in Iowa. We play a lot of cards. The past couple of years my uncle has played the guitar and gets us to sing Christmas carols. Let me tell you, it’s not pretty.”
On what he remembers about Christmas as a kid: “It was my brother and I, and a typical Christmas began with waking up around four or five in the morning. We didn’t bother waking our parents up. Mark was the first one up every time, and he would come knock on my door and wake me up. We then ran to our stockings and began going through everything we got. The rest of the day was spent playing with the toys.”
On what he was looking forward to this Christmas: “The main thing is having all the family there this year. My grandma is going to be there, too. My schedule is pretty hectic, so it’s hard to get much family time. I’m looking forward to getting into the snow a little bit since I don’t get much of that in Texas. This is also my first time having a serious girlfriend at Christmas, so she’ll be with me. We’re headed up to Iowa before Christmas, then flying out to Washington, D.C., and then going back to Iowa for Christmas Day. This will be the first time doing both families.”
On what Hanrahan been doing this offseason: “I’ve been down in Texas working out at Athletes Performance. We have a group of about 14 of us working out down there. I’ve been playing catch for two to three weeks now. Once the new year starts, it’s time to crank up and start throwing. The offseason is flying by, and it’s really going to go by quickly after the holidays. I’ll head to Florida for mini-camp and then up to Pittsburgh for the caravan.”
The Pirates acquired Corey Wimberly from the Oakland Athletics’ in exchange for right-handed pitcher Ryan Kelly. He will also receive a non-roster invite to Spring Training.
Wimberly, 27, can play five different positions: shortstop, third base, second base, left field and center field. He hit .284 with three home runs, 57 RBI in 135 games for the A’s Triple-A team. Wimberly stole 56 bases last season, 259 bags in 563 career games.
Kelly, 23, was drafted by the Pirates in the 26th round of the 2006 draft. He went 2-3 with a 4.20 ERA through 75 innings during the 2010 season with Class A-West Virginia.
The Pirates have agreed to terms with infielder Garrett Atkins on a minor league contract with an invite to spring training.
Atkins will be reuniting with Clint Hurdle. He played for the Rockies from 2003-09. During that time he hit .289 with a .354 on-base percentage, 98 homers and 162 doubles.
He spent the 2010 season with the Orioles where he appeared in 44 games. Atkins was released in July. He batted .214 with seven doubles, one homer and nine RBIs.
Atkins made his major league debut at PNC Park in 2003, where he also recorded his first major league hit (Thanks for that info, @Townie813).
The Pirates claimed left-handed pitcher Aaron Thompson off waivers from the Nationals on Thursday.
Thompson, 23, made 27 starts during the 2010 season in the Nationals organization (26 at double-A, one at Triple-A). He went 5-13 with a 5.65 ERA. In 141.2 innings pitched he walked 56 and struck out 99.
In order to make room for Thompson on the 40-man roster, the Bucs designated Wil Ledezma for assignment. If he clears waivers, the Pirates have 10 days to trade, release or outright Ledezma to the minors.
Ledezma has already agreed to a contract with the Pirates for 2011, and the Bucs are hopeful he will accept the assignment to the minors and compete for a spot in the Pirates bullpen at Spring Training.
He appeared in 27 games for the Pirates during the 2010 season (19.2 innings). Ledezma 0-3 with a 6.86 ERA while striking out 22 and walking six.
The Pirates have spent $17.75 M so far this offseason, #17 on the list of Major league clubs.
$8M contract for Kevin Correia, $5M contract for Lyle Overbay, $4.25M contract for Matt Diaz, and $500K contract for Scott Olsen.
So far, combined, MLB has spent a reported $1.2 billion in offseason signings.
MLB Trade Rumors reports the average per team is $40.28MM. The Red Sox alone have spent $828M this offseason.
You can see the entire list to see how your team stands here.
The Pirates designated pitcher Joe Martinez for assignment on Wednesday, to make room for Kevin Correia who was added to the 40-man roster on Friday.
If Martinez clears waivers, the Bucs have 10 days to either trade, release or outright him to the minors (If out righted to the minors, he would receive an invitation to Spring Training to compete for a spot in the Pirates bullpen).
Martinez was acquired from the San Francisco Giants in the Javier Lopez trade, where he, along with John Bowker, were sent to Pittsburgh.
In five relief appearances with the Pirates in 2010, Martinez allowed three runs in 8.2 innings while striking out six and walking three.
The Pirates announced four more non-roster spring training invites. Tyler Yates, Jeff Clement, Rudy Owens and Justin Wilson. The non-roster list currently sits at 12. Those already invited are: Justin Thomas, Fernando Nieve, Josh Fields, Dusty Brown, Sean Gallagher, Donnie Veal, Andy Marte and Cesar Valdez.
- The Pirates have not decided on a starting rotation for Triple-A system for 2011. Those players who do not make the major league roster could be factored into the Indians rotation. The candidates include: Rudy Owens, Justin Wilson, Bryan Morris and Jared Hughes (who could begin trickling into the Pirates rotation after July).
- Infielder Josh Harrison finished the finished well in the Arizona Fall League where he hit .330 in 22 games and finished with a .516 slugging percentage. He could be a candidate to start the season in Triple-A.
“He’s a guy that’s going to continue to challenge people to think that he’s better than what they think,” farm director Kyle Stark said. “He went out there and played very well.”
- Andrew Lambo also finished well in the AFL, batting .274 with 23 RBIs in 28 games (The 22-year-old outfielder was acquired by the Dodgers in the Octavio Dotel trade). Lambo is also a starting candidate for Triple-A.
Despite the struggles during the Arizona Fall League, the Pirates are not concerned with the future of prospect Tony Sanchez.
After 18 games in the AFL, Sanchez batted just .206 with one double and four homers. He also struck out 21 times in 68-at bats.
The Pirates believe the low numbers were a result in a lengthy summer layoff.
Sanchez was batting .314 with 17 doubles, four homers, 35 RBIs in 59 games with High Class A Bradenton before he was hit in the face by a pitch. The result: a fractured jaw in two places and his jaw was wired shut for a month (He also lost 12 pounds). Sanchez was unable to get back behind the plate until the instructional league.
“I think part of it was just going out to the Fall League and trying to impress,” farm director Kyle Stark said. “Tony is a guy that cares a great deal and wants to impress. I think it was more those factors than anything else.”
“I think it was more he was just rusty getting back out there,” Stark said. “Actually, he stung some balls and didn’t have the results and tried to do a little bit more. We were pleased with how he went about things. The results just weren’t there.”
Picked fourth overall in the 2009 draft, Sanchez is expected to start the 2011 season in Double-A Altoona which could mean a major league debut as early as 2012.