Garrett Jones has a different role going into the 2011 season. After starting 106 games at first base, 46 in right field for the Bucs last season, he will be platooning in right field with Matt Diaz.
“I guess you can say it is kind of a demotion for me, not being in the lineup every day,” Jones said. “It is just going to be who is hitting, and maybe, for now, there isn’t an everyday guy out there, but it is my goal to make my way back into being that everyday guy. The way you do that is that you hit and you make them put you in there. That’s the ultimate challenge for me and, really, it is up to me to have it not be a choice for them. The way I do that is hit.”
“I’m going to try to work my way into being in there every day,” Jones said. “All I can do is do my part and play hard. All I can worry about is doing my job, helping this team win. If that is a lefty-righty thing, that is what it is.”
Despite getting less playing time this season, Jones work ethic has not changed.
“Garrett said he is willing to do whatever he needs to do because he wants to play,” Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said. “He knows, right now, he is going to be our right fielder against right-handed pitching, that is his role. But, there is always a chance to be more depending on how some other things go.”
As I pointed out on Wednesday, ESPN’s Keith Law ranked the Pirates system No. 21 out of the 30 major league clubs.
On Thursday, Law delivered his Top 100 list, and two Buccos made the list.
Pitcher Jameson Taillon was named No. 30, and catcher Tony Sanchez was named No. 63.
Law mentions Taillon’s tendency to overthrow and the need for a changeup as the critiques in his write-up.
“[Sanchez has] above-average raw power and would have a chance to hit for average at the same time, making him a fringe All-Star at that position. He’s an extremely hard worker who ended up at Boston College without a scholarship but improved his body to the point where he not only made the team, but became its best player. I wouldn’t bet against him at this point.”-Keith Law on ESPN Insider Top 100 Prospects
Law’s Top 10 in the Pirates minor league system:
1) Jameson Taillon, RHP (30)
2) Tony Sanchez, C (63)
3) Luis Heredia, RHP
4) Stetson Allie, RHP
5) Rudy Owens, LHP
6) Jeff Locke, LHP
7) Justin Wilson, LHP
8) Bryan Morris, RHP
9) Starling Marte, OF
10) Zach Von Rosenberg, RHP
Law on the Pirates minor league system: “This system consists of a few high-end prospects, including three teenage power arms, followed by a dropoff. The big investment in prep arms in 2009 hasn’t yielded any major prospects yet, although it’s early.”
Law’s thoughts on Luis Heredia, who just missed the list: “will sit in the low 90s (mph) already with a good feel for the fastball. He’s very well-developed physically for a 16-year-old, with a big frame and the potential to get heavy, which is more of a long-term concern.”
- The Tampa Bay Rays have eight players in the top 100. The Toronto Blue Jays and Kansas City Royals each have six. The Houston Astros have only one player and The Milwaukee Brewers have zero, zilch (YIKES!). Every other team has at least two in the top 100.
The 2010 season was a rough year for Ross Ohlendorf. He finished 1-11 with a 4.07 ERA and pitched only 108.1 innings (down from 176.2 innings in 2009). Ohlendorf also battled the disabled list twice –first with a back injury, then later in the season with a right shoulder strain. He also missed a start due to being hit by a line drive in the head.
“To Ross’ credit, he just kept grinding,” general manager Neal Huntington said. “Ross did a nice job of managing damage during the year and not panicking. The velocity will get better as he gets healthy. As he gets stronger, the slider will continue to develop and get better. The changeup really came on this year. Despite his won-loss record, Ross actually threw very well for us.”
“I wish that it had gone better, particularly the injuries,” Ohlendorf said. “But I felt like I had a two-month stretch where I was really pitching well. I was happy with how that went, and I felt like I had made some good adjustments to get there.”
Five months later, Ohlendorf says, “My arm feels really good.”
Ohlendorf started throwing in late November, a week earlier than usual. He also has been keeping track of his pitch counts of every session. This Friday will mark his fifth mound session supervised by pitching coach Ray Searage.
Sticking to a stricter schedule than in the past, Ohlendorf believes his off-season tweaks will have him better prepared for spring training.
“I’ve done some things differently and it feels really good,” Ohlendorf said. “I was not happy with where my arm was at the beginning of Spring Training last year. I felt like I needed to make an adjustment.”
“I feel really prepared,” Ohlendorf said. “I’m really looking forward to continuing that for the next couple weeks until Spring Training.”
Jameson Taillon hasn’t made his debut yet –he will most likely start the 2011 season at low-A West Virginia– in fact, he is still several years away from the majors.
The hype that surrounds the Pirates first round (2nd overall) draft pick from 2010 continues to buzz as he was named the 18th best prospect on MLB.com’s top 50 list (The top 50 prospects were named live on MLB Network on Tuesday). Taillon was also named the sixth-best right-handed pitching prospect in baseball by MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo (For a complete list, click here)
Taillon, who stands 6-foot-6 and weighs 225-pounds, was drafted out of The Woodlands High School in Texas this past June. He finished 8-1 with a 1.78 ERA and 114 strikeouts in 62 2/3 innings.
Pirates reliever Joel Hanrahan will be giving away his cleats from the game he notched his career-high 100th strikeout from the 2010 season once he reaches 5,000 followers on twitter. As of 9:45 PM on 1/26 he is currently at 4,893. Be sure to follow him, not only for the prize, but because he is one of the many baseball players that enjoys chatting with the fans. He also gives you an inside look of his life both on, and off, the field.
You can follow him at: @hanrahan4457
And while your at it, follow me as well: @kristpie
Andrew McCutchen was recently named the ‘Number one center fielder right now’ by MLB Network (If you missed the Top 10 countdown, read more here).
McCutchen commented on what an honor it was to be labeled as the best.
“Just to get on the list would’ve been a privilege,” McCutchen said Monday morning during a Pirates Caravan stop at Allegheny General Hospital. “But to be No. 1, that’s saying a lot. That was kind of big for me, and I’m really excited about it.
“This offseason, I’ve been working real hard to do what I need to do to have a great year this year, and seeing that (ranking) gave me an extra boost. I’m ready to go, and even more excited now.”
- Ross Ohlendorf spoke to Upper St. Clair middle school on Wednesday for day three of Pirates caravan. He, along with Andrew McCutchen and Evan Meek, discussed the importance of education the dangers of bullying.
“I like it a lot,” Ohlendorf said of participating in caravan. “Everybody is really big Pirates fans and it’s fun to interact with the people that support us and are looking forward to watching us turn things around. It’s also a lot of fun to come talk with the kids. When I was younger, I remember we had athletes come visit and it was always really cool.”
- Pirates pitcher Paul Maholm landed safely in Pittsburgh on Wednesday. He tweeted, “Just landed in the burgh it looks cold but looking forward to seeing some die hard fans over next few days.”
- The Pirates farm system was ranked No. 19 in the Baseball America Prospect Handbook (Royals were No. 1).
- ESPN’s Keith Law ranked the Pirates farm system 21st out of 30 in Major League Baseball.
- Pirates Outfielder Andrew McCutchen was interviewed on MLB Network Radio on Wednesday (Unfortunately, I was unable to listen or tape the interview). Jim Bowden did say this after the chat, “A.McCutcheon [sic] told us he loves the city of PG. He is open to being with Pirates for years to come.; had no comment if offered long term deal.”
Pirates caravan continued as they traveled to areas such as: Wheeling, WV., Steubenville, OH., and State College, PA. Here are some pictures from day two and three.
James McDonald, Jeff Karstens and Neil Walker made a snowman in Latrobe (via @BucsInsider)
Jose Tabata and Joel Hanrahan signing autographs in Erie, Pennsylvania (via @ErinRagan)
Joel Hanrhan chatting live with The Hound, the Pirates radio affiliate in Ridgway (Via @BucsInsider)
The entire group 3 caravan leg in Altoona with the Curve (Via @BucsInsider)
The Pirate Parrot is a little hesitant to try the wings in Steubenville (Via @BucsInsider) –Perhaps, he is a vegetarian, like me!
Here’s to you: Neil Walker checking out his introductory video here at the Fort Steuben Mall (Via @BucsInsider)
Pirates Caravan kicked off on Monday (be sure to check out the schedule here, to see when the Pirates will be stopping near you).
There are three groups this year.
Group one: Andrew McCutchen, Evan Meek, Ross Ohlendorf, third base coach Nick Leyva and broadcasters Bob Walk and John Wehner.
Group two: pitching coach Ray Searage, James McDonald, Jeff Karstens, Neil Walker and broadcaster Tim Neverett.
Group three: bench coach Jeff Banister, Garrett Jones, Joel Hanrahan, Jose Tabata and broadcaster Greg Brown.
Here are several pictures from day one of the Caravan:
James McDonald and Jeff Karstens chat with a fan who has been collecting autographs since 1944 (Via @BucsInsider).
Joel Hanrahan and Garrett Jones sign autographs from fans (Via @BucsInsider).
Neil Walker talking baseball in Morgantown, West Virgina (Via @BusInsider).
Evan Meek signs autographs on day one of the winter caravan (Via @RobBiertempfel).
Pirates beat reporter Jenifer Langosch answered questions in this weeks inbox where she discussed the search for lefty bullpen help, contract extension with Neil Walker and more (You can read the entire transcript here).
- When Hurdle took over as manager, he said he felt we needed a couple of left-handers in the bullpen. Do you see any left-handers on the horizon other than Scott Olsen?
Assuming that Olsen remains in a starting role, the Pirates do lack proven left-handed options in the bullpen. Lefties Justin Thomas and Brian Burres both signed Minor League deals with the club and could be possibilities for the bullpen. Internal options include Tony Watson and Daniel Moskos, though neither has any previous Major League experience.
The Pirates continue to scour the market to see if there are other left-handed options available, and don’t be surprised if some additions are made in the next few weeks. It would be a substantial risk to begin the season without a reliable left-handed option, even if management insists that it doesn’t see a strong benefit in having a lefty specialist.
- Is there any chance that both Ryan Doumit and Jason Jaramillo make the team out of Spring Training? The Pirates have already said that they are going to play Doumit more than just as a backup catcher, so could we carry three catchers into the season?
Yes, I believe there is a chance that the Pirates will carry a third catcher this season, though such a decision has not yet been made. As you mentioned, the Pirates’ plans for Doumit are not to plug him solely into a backup role. In order to have the flexibility to liberally insert Doumit in as an outfielder, first baseman or pinch-hitter, the Pirates would need to have a third catcher available in case of an emergency.
This decision is certainly one to keep an eye on as the makeup of the bench comes into better focus during Spring Training. It will also be intriguing to see how Doumit’s new role develops, and how he handles the decrease in playing time.
- With all the talk about the fifth spot in the rotation going to Olsen and Brad Lincoln, is there a chance that Rudy Owens could be rewarded with the job instead?
It’s unlikely that Owens will make the jump from Double-A to the Majors without first stopping in Triple-A to begin the 2011 season. This will be Owens’ first taste of big league camp, and he will technically be competing for a rotation spot with the Pirates as camp gets under way. However, I just don’t see the Pirates slotting Owens into the rotation on Opening Day no matter how well he pitches this spring.
I’d project that Owens will start the year in Indianapolis, and it is certainly possible that you could see him in Pittsburgh sometime midseason. That will depend on how the rotation is faring at the Major League level and how Owens continues to develop in the Minors. I will say that, from a selfish standpoint, I’m looking forward to getting my first look at Owens in person this spring. The numbers that he has put up over the last two seasons are sensational, and he is a left-hander to get excited about.
And as you mention possible fifth starter candidates, don’t forget about Charlie Morton. He, along with Olsen and Lincoln, seem the three likeliest options.
- Neil Walker was great last year and, in my opinion, was one of the bright spots for the Pirates last season. Do you see the Pirates signing him long-term?
While there is definitely reason to be excited about Walker’s potential, it is too early to begin talking about a long-term contract for the former first-round Draft pick. The reality is that Walker has had just four months of success at the Major League level. That’s not to say that his 2010 success was a fluke. It’s just to point out that Walker must consistently produce for another few seasons before the Pirates would feel comfortable offering multi-millions his way.