As the Pirates try to avoid their first winless road trip of the season, I bring you some Sunday notes to chew on…
- Speaking on his radio show on Sunday, GM Neal Huntington would neither confirm, nor deny, that top prospect Pedro Alvarez could make his Major League debut this week. There is a lot of speculation that Tuesday could be the big day for Alvarez, but it’s no surprise that the organization hasn’t made any announcement even that is the circled date. Given that Alvarez is the most hyped Pittsburgh prospect probably since Barry Bonds, you’d think the Pirates would at least announce Alvarez’s promotion a day before it happens. That would give Pittsburghers a chance to scoop up tickets, which would surely happen.
- Why does this time seem ideal for Alvarez’s arrival. Well, from a schedule standpoint, if the Pirates would like to bring Alvarez up at home, they don’t have many options between now and the All-Star break. Outside of this upcoming six-game homestand, Pittsburgh has just one other series at home (July 1-4) before the break. Do I think this is a huge deal for management? No. The Pirates showed with Brad Lincoln and Jose Tabata that they have no issues bringing up notable prospects on the road.
- If Alvarez comes up this week, it’d be because the Pirates are pleased with what he has done recently. Since the start of the month, Alvarez has hit .409 with five doubles, two triples and two homers. He drove in 30 runs in May and seven so far in June. Very critical, too, is that Alvarez has upped his season average against left-handers to .328 (he’s hitting .276 against righties). The Pirates needed to see Alvarez have success against southpaws before feeling comfortable with him making the move.
- Regardless of whether Alvarez arrives or not, Lincoln and Tabata will be making their PNC Park debuts on Tuesday. Lincoln will actually make two starts during the homestand (Tuesday and Sunday), while Tabata is expected to be the everyday guy in left field.
- I’ve gotten a lot of questions lately about the likelihood of the Pirates signing first-round pick Jameson Taillon and second-round choice Stetson Allie. First off, don’t expect either signing — if there are ones — to be soon. These negotiations are going to mirror the 2008 Alvarez ones much more than the Tony Sanchez ones from last year. Both Taillon and Allie (who fell to the second round because of his college committment) are going to ask for well over slot money. And the Pirates are willing to pay that… to an extent, of course. I’d guess that Taillon is a likely sign (probably for Alvarez-type dollars) considering he doesn’t really have the leverage to say he wants to go to college to increase his Draft standing. You can’t really do that much better when you’re already No. 2. Allie could be tougher, but if the Pirates offer first-round money, he’ll at least listen closely. Either way, these negotiations are expected to go up until the Aug. 16 midnight deadline.
- Ryan Doumit was back behind the plate on Sunday for the first time since last Sunday, when he was hit in the head by a foul tip. This is good news for the defense. I don’t forsee the Pirates giving up the idea of using Doumit at first base sporadically even after his issues on Saturday. But it is clear that Doumit does not look comfortable over there yet. To Doumit’s defense, he had only a week’s worth of reps at first (since 2007) before he was thrown into play the position. But that’s not much of an excuse for missing a throw that never hit the dirt.
- Why wasn’t Doumit the DH on Saturday instead of Garrett Jones, who could have played first? There were two primary reasons given. One, it’s always a risk to have your second catcher as the DH. If Doumit was DHing and Jason Jaramillo got hurt, the Pirates would lose the DH by moving Doumit behind the plate. By having him at first base last night, a switch like that could have been made, if necessary, withhout forfeiting the DH. Also, manager John Russell really wanted to give Jones a night off from playing defense.
- If you haven’t already read last night’s game story, you’ll find that Doumit was especially hard on himself afterward. As a reporter, you always appreciate honesty. And I commend the fact that both Doumit and Brendan Donnelly were in the clubhouse waiting to talk to reporters as soon as we were allowed in.
- The Pirates are having serious issues throwing out base stealers, though Russell insists that the issue is being strongly addressed on both the pitcher and catcher ends. More on that here. This story doesn’t take into account that the Pirates allowed another two last night.
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