Results tagged ‘ Erik Kratz ’

Kratz off to Philadelphia

Jenifer Langosch/

Kratz, Eric.jpgCatcher Erik Kratz won’t be returning to the organization next year, as he has signed a Minor League contract with the Phillies for 2011.

Kratz was one of the feel-good stories for the team last season. His nationally televised call-up was unforgettable. And after all those years toiling in the Minors, the 30-year-old had a plenty memorable Major League debut.

With Kratz no longer a back-up option for the Pirates next year, the club will need to go out and bring in a catcher or two to provide depth at the Triple-A level. This will be especially necessary if the team were to trade Ryan Doumit. The Pirates currently have three catchers — Doumit, Chris Snyder, Jason Jarmamillo — on the 40-man roster.

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Minor League Free Agent list

Jenifer Langosch/

It doesn’t get nearly the fanfare the big-league free agent market does, but the Minor League free agent market has opened for all as well. Here is a list of players in the Pirates’ system who were granted Minor League free agency because of service time accrued:

  • C: Hector Gimenez. Erik Kratz, James Skelton, Milver Reyes
  • 1B: Bryan Myrow
  • 2B: Rodolfo Cardona, Yung Chi Chen, Jose de los Santos
  • SS: Doug Bernier
  • OF: Kevin Melillo, Mitch Jones, Jonathan Van Every
  • RHP: Tyler Yates, Jeremy Powell, Jean Machi, Derek Hankins, Dustin Molleken
  • LHP: Dana Eveland, Corey Hamman

* Note: OF Brandon Moss and RHP Steven Jackson were also granted Minor League free agency. They are not on this list above because they were able to declare earlier than these others after being removed from the 40-man roster last week.

Here, in a nice organized form, is the full list of players who became Minor League free agents over the weekend. Why might this be of interest to you? Well, remember the Pirates are now free to scour this list and negotiate with anyone in this group. You’ll find some interesting names in here, too.

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Team USA Wrap

Jenifer Langosch/

Chase d’Arnaud and Erik Kratz recently completed their stints playing for Team USA, which finished tied for third in the COPABE Pan American Qualifier.

The team went 9-1, but couldn’t play the third-place game against Venezuela due to rain. Still, by finishing in the top six, Team USA guaranteed itself a spot in the 2011 Pan American Games and in the 2011 IBAF Baseball World Cup. Both events will take place next fall.

D’Arnaud appeared in eight games and finished with a .321 batting average. He had four doubles, one homer, drove in four and scored six runs. He led his team with two stolen bases. Kratz started half of Team USA’s games. He batted .278 and drove in four.

The Pirates had no other representatives on the squad.

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Special Monday notes edition

Jenifer Langosch/

In my four years covering the Pirates, I’ve come to expect to see new faces every time the calendar flips to August. Today was no different, as Chris Snyder and James McDonald introduced themselves to their new teammates (and the media) just hours before Monday’s game.

You can find what both had to say about the trades in the Pirates Beat. But here are some highlights.

  • Righty James McDonald will be your starter on Thursday. Manager John Russell said McDonald is plenty stretched out to start, but looking at McDonald’s workload over the past two weeks, I’m not thinking he’s going to be pitching all that deep. Since starting on July 19, McDonald has logged 2 2/3 innings out of the bullpen.
  • McDonald’s arrival has sent Daniel McCutchen to the bullpen. This is a bit of a surprising move given how much the Pirates value their pitchers as starters. Though both Russell and GM Neal Huntington said this doesn’t mean that they are giving up on McCutchen being a starter again, he’s certainly falling down the depth chart. You have Brad Lincoln, Charlie Morton and Brian Burres in Triple-A, and the Pirates consider all to be key parts of the organization’s Triple-A depth. One thing McCutchen can’t say is that he wasn’t given a chance to be a starter with this team. He simply never seized it.
  • McCutchen has almost exclusively started in his career (Minors and Majors), so it will be interesting to see how he adapts to the new role. Expect him to be the primary long guy, with Sean Gallagher as the other option.
  • Catcher Ryan Doumit is beginning his Minor League rehab assignment tonight with Triple-A Indianapolis. He’s serving as the DH to get a day to ease back into things and will then play right field on Tuesday and Thursday. (Indy is off on Wednesday). Doumit will be reevaluated after Thursday to see if he is cleared to come off the DL on Friday.
  • Jason Jaramillo (as expected) was optioned to Triple-A in order to make room for Snyder’s arrival. He’s falling down on the depth chart, too. A year ago, the Pirates were talking about Jaramillo as a legitimate potential starter down the road (i.e. if Doumit were to be traded). Now he’s behind Snyder, Doumit and Erik Kratz.
  • Speaking of catchers, here are some numbers to chew on. Though the sample size is small, pitchers have fared best when Kratz is behind the plate (4.37) and worst with Jaramillo back there (5.70). The ERA is 4.91 with Doumit.
  • Welcome back Jose Ascanio, who struck out the side in his first game in over a year. Ascanio (right shoulder surgery) has begun a Minor League rehab assignment with the Gulf Coast League Pirates. It’ll be interesting to see if Ascanio might join the Pirates as a September call-up to get a little bit of work.
  • The Pirates made a Minor League trade on Monday, sending outfielder Brandon Jones to the Tigers for a player to be named later. Pittsburgh picked Jones up off waivers, but he never came close to making the big-league club. In fact, Jones was demoted to Double-A earlier in the season.
  • New acquisitions Joseph Martinez (RHP), Pedro Ciriaco (SS) and John Bowker (OF) all joined Triple-A Indy on Monday. Ciriaco made his first start for the club and Martinez was available out of the bullpen.
  • Jose Tabata entered Monday with a 12-game hitting streak. It’s the third-longest current streak in the Majors behind those belonging to Justin Upton (17) and Yorvit Torrealba (14)
  • McDonald will be wearing No. 53 and Snyder has No. 19, Ryan Church’s old number.

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McCutchen progressing/other Tuesday notes

Jenifer Langosch/

Andrew McCutchen said that he is feeling much better — better than he expected to feel this quickly — after spraining the AC joint in his right shoulder on Sunday. He’s not in the lineup today and is not taking batting practice or throwing. McCutchen is doing some light running on the field now and will catch flyballs during BP.

He’ll continue to be reevaluated each day until cleared to start swinging again. Swinging and throwing will be the last things he can do since those motions rely so heavily on the extension of his shoulder.

Some other stuff to pass along…

  • Ryan Doumit is out of Tuesday’s lineup in order to give him a breather after he was hit in the mask by a foul tip on Monday. He didn’t sustain a concussion, and the Pirates aren’t even labeling him as having concussion-like symptoms. But he wasn’t 100 percent after the game and manager John Russell says he sees no reason to run him out there. Erik Kratz will make his second Major League start. 
  • Infielder Brian Friday (ankle) has rejoined Triple-A Indianapolis after a short Minor League rehab stint with Bradenton.
  • Pittsburgh had two representatives in Monday’s Dominican Summer League All-Star team: LHP Angel Sanchez and C Samuel Gonzalez. Sanchez is 4-0 with a 2.95 ERA and 16 strikeouts in 21 1/3 innings pitched. Gonzalez has hit .348 with 15 extra-base hits and 29 RBIs in 38 games.
  • Speaking of All-Star Games, this is old, but I forgot to pass along the link last week. After being a late addition to the Eastern League All-Star team, infielder Chase d’Arnaud hit a grand slam in the game and earned MVP honors. Altoona catcher Hector Gimenez won the Eastern League Home Run Derby as well. The full story on d’Arnaud’s big game can be found here.
  • Infielder Shelby Ford has been placed on the disabled list with a sprained right ankle. Ford was hitting. 242 in 55 games with Double-A Altoona at the time of the injury.

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July 17: Astros (37-53) @ Pirates (30-59)

Jenifer Langosch/

Erik Kratz will make his Major League debut tonight, as he takes the place of Ryan Doumit behind home plate. Kratz hit .296 with nine homers and 37 RBIs in 56 Triple-A games this season.

With the day game on Sunday, manager John Russell decided to give Kratz Saturday’s start and keep Doumit available for tomorrow against Roy Oswalt.

“I just thought tonight would be a good night to get him in there,” Russell said of Kratz. “I know he’s very excited. When we get guys called up, I try to get them in there really quickly. I don’t want them to sit around too long before they get their first taste of it, especially the position players.”

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for pirates.jpgPIRATES:
A. McCutchen (CF), J. Tabata (LF), N. Walker (2B), G. Jones (1B), P. Alvarez (3B), L. Milledge (RF), E. Kratz (C), R. Cedeno (SS), R. Ohlendorf (RHP)

Ohlendorf vs. HOU: 0-6 in 8 games, 34.1 IP, 48 H, 25 ER, 6 HR, 10 BB, 22 K


Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Astros.jpgASTROS:
M. Bourn (CF), J. Keppinger (2B), L. Berkman (1B), C. Lee (LF), H. Pence (RF), C. Johnson (3B), J. Castro (C), A. Sanchez (SS), B. Norris (RHP)

Norris vs. PIT: 1-0 in 1 start, 6 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 1 HR, 1 BB, 7 K

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April 27: Pirates (7-12) @ Brewers (9-10)

Jenifer Langosch/

I often get asked what it is like to cover a team that (since I’ve been in Pittsburgh) loses more games than it wins. Is it harder? Does it wear you down? Do you wish you could cover a team that wins more?

My answers are always the same. My job is to report on the Pirates, good and bad, during winning streaks and losing ones. The wins and losses don’t affect my ability to write. I don’t root for the Pirates to win — if I did, I’d be working a different job and buying tickets to come to the ballpark as a fan. If I root for anything, it’s good stories, good people and (especially on getaway days) quick games. There are intriguing stories to be found in losses, too, and actually, sometimes that’s where the best stories are.

It’s no secret that this past week has been excrutiatingly trying for the 25 players and members of the Pirates coaching staff. This group has endured the worst lost in franchise history, continued starting pitching woes and having a pitcher knocked out by a line drive.

From a news perspective, there has been plenty to write about. But going into a clubhouse the way it was after a 17-3 loss last night is never easy. Reporters don’t want to ask the pointed questions — but we have to. Players don’t want to answer them — but they try to. You just do your job, get out and let the players be on their own, where emotions can die down.

I won’t lie. It is more pleasant to go to a clubhouse after a win when players want to talk and everyone is in a good mood. But win or lose, everyone has a job to do. So in that spirit, we truck along with the blog…

  • With the way Monday’s game developed, Ryan Doumit’s failure to block the plate while taking a relay throw home seemed fairly inconsequential in the outcome. However, it was noteworthy, and since it didn’t make it into the gamestory last night (I opted to instead look big picture), it’s worth mentioning here. The play happened in the second when Doumit took a throw from the outfield that beat baserunner Gregg Zaun to the plate. Only, Doumit set up on the outside of the plate and never aggressively went for the tag. Zaun was ruled safe. Doumit argued, as did manager John Russell, though replays show the call was correct. On Tuesday, Russell noted that the call was the right one: “He was safe. Ryan didn’t get in the front of the plate and just lost track of where he was. My argument was that he just slid into the catcher and it was to protect the catcher last night.”
  • Jeff Karstens becomes the eighth different pitcher to start for the Pirates, and this is only game 20. You have to go back to 1953 for the last time the Pirates used eight different starters within the first 20 games of the season. Who were they? Murry Dickson, Johnny Lindell, Howie Pollet, Bob Friend, Paul LaPalme, Bob Hall, Bill MacDonald and Paul Pettit.
  • On this day one year ago, Karstens pitched here at Miller Park against the Brewers. And you should remember what happened. The righty drilled Ryan Braun in the back after Braun took him deep earlier in the game. Both benches were warned, and Braun made it quite clear afterward that he took exception to the pitch. Milwaukee retaliated and plunked Karstens last July.
  • Everyone is available in the Pirates’ bullpen tonight, though Russell would obviously love to limit the number of phone calls made.
  • Though Karstens has only made one start in Triple-A this year, Russell said the right-hander is not on a particular pitch count. He was stretched out even through relief appearances. How long could he go? “Hopefully nine innings,” Russell said.
  • The big news here in Milwaukee involves long-time broadcaster Bob Uecker, who announced today that he will be undergoing open heart surgery on Friday. He hopes to be back in the booth in 10-12 weeks. Wisconsinites Jason Jaramillo and Jack Taschner shared their memories of Uecker, and you’ll be able to find those on the site later.
  • Brian Bass and Brian Burres remain starting options for Thursday. Whether they’re needed in the next two days will determine the club’s final decision.
  • Right-hander Vinnie Chulk (right shoulder) has been activated off the Triple-A DL.
  • Speaking of Triple-A, heck of a night Indianapolis had on Monday. Jose Tabata hit a game-winning home run in the 15th inning against Louisville. With the team running out of pitchers, catcher Erik Kratz came in to pitch the final inning for Indianapolis. Pitcher Jeremy Powell was summoned to play in the outfield.

Pirates lineup:

  1. Andrew McCutchen (CF)
  2. Andy LaRoche (3B)
  3. Lastings Milledge (LF)
  4. Garrett Jones (RF)
  5. Ryan Doumit (C)
  6. Jeff Clement (1B)
  7. Aki Iwamura (2B)
  8. Jeff Karstens (RHP)
  9. Ronny Cedeno (SS)

Brewers lineup:

  1. Rickie Weeks (2B)
  2. Craig Counsell (SS)
  3. Ryan Braun (LF)
  4. Prince Fielder (1B)
  5. Casey McGehee (3B)
  6. Jim Edmonds (CF)
  7. Corey Hart (RF)
  8. GeorgeKottaras (C)
  9. Randy Wolf (LHP)

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Day 40: Pirates @ Tigers; Kratz reassigned

Jenifer Langosch/

The Pirates reassigned catcher Erik Kratz to Minor League camp this morning, which makes Jason Jaramillo your backup catcher for the start of the season. Don’t assume that this means the dilemma of deciding if Jaramillo is better up backing up in the Majors or playing every day in the Minors. That debate will continue. And if Ryan Doumit stays healthy and Jaramillo gets scarce playing time, the Pirates might change course and send Jaramillo to the Minors at some point midseason.

For now, though, this is another roster decision to check off the list.

As for other early morning news…

  • The club announced its planned Opening Day festivities and that entire release can be found here. Highlights include: Frank Coonelly will present the “Pride of the Pirates” award to a member of the organization; Andrew McCutchen will be honored for being named Baseball America’s Rookie of the Year; God Bless America will be performed by Pittsburgher and recording artist Sarah Marince; National Anthem will be perofmed by nine year old Jackie Evancho; First pitch will be thrown out by Jamie and Ali McMutrie, who were made national headlines for bringing Haitian orphans to Pittsburgh after the earthquake.
  • All position players traveled to Lakeland today, which is an unusual thing to see in spring. The Pirates’ lineup is as it will be on Opening Day.
  • Shortstop Ronny Cedeno (tightness in lower back) was in the lineup this morning and is no longer. I assume this means there is still some lingering tightness. He hasn’t played since Saturday.
  • Asked if he was ready to name Jeff Clement the team’s Opening Day first baseman, GM Neal Huntington stopped short of giving a confirmation. His response: “He’s doing what he needs to do.”
  • Reliever Joel Hanrahan will begin the season on the disabled list and will stay in Florida when the team leaves for Philadelphia tomorrow night. He will continue to pitch in extended Spring Training and then may join the organization’s Triple-A team when it begins its season on April 8. Whether Hanrahan joins Indianapolis to finish up his spring work will largely be dependent on the weather. The Indians begin the season in Columbus, Ohio.
  • Wednesday will be Zach Duke’s final start before he takes the mound on Opening Day. He will be limited to about 60 pitches in order to ensure he’s fresh for Monday.
  • Also sending a Happy Birthday to president Coonelly, who I heard was turning the big 50 today.

Pirates lineup:

  1. Aki Iwamura (2B)
  2. Andrew McCutchen (CF)
  3. Garrett Jones (RF)
  4. Ryan Doumit (C)
  5. Lastings Milledge (LF)
  6. Jeff Clement (1B)
  7. Andy LaRoche (3B)
  8. Zach Duke (LHP)
  9. Ronny Cedeno (SS) Bobby Crosby

Pitchers: Duke, Brendan Donnelly, Evan Meek, Jack Taschner

Tigers lineup:

  1. Ryan Raburn (CF)
  2. Johnny Damon (DH)
  3. Magglio Ordonez (RF)
  4. Miguel Cabrera (1B)
  5. Carlos Guillen (LF)
  6. Gerald Laird (C)
  7. Scott Sizemore (2B)
  8. Ramon Santiago (3B)
  9. Adam Everett (SS)

Pitchers: Justin Verlander, Phil Coke, Brad Thomas, Fu-Te Ni, Jose Valverde

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Yankees 6, Pirates 3

Jenifer Langosch/

Virgil Vasquez hung a pitch to minor leaguer Colin Curtis with two on and one out in the ninth on Wednesday and that’s how this one ended. When Curtis made contact, there was never any question that it would clear the right-field fence. Three runs scored on the walk-off blast.


On a positive pitching note, things couldn’t have started off much better for Paul Maholm and Ross Ohlendorf. Both retired the side in order in their one inning of work. Maholm won the battle of efficiency, though, with nine of his 11 pitches for strikes. Ohlendorf needed 12 pitches — including one nasty, low, called third strike to Alex Rodriguez. Seven were strikes.

“I challenged [Ohlendorf],” Maholm joked when their outings were completed. “I told him I had 11 pitches. He threw 12. So I’m one ahead of him right now.”

Neither pitcher had much time to get comfortable on the rubber either. Maholm’s first opponent was Derek Jeter. And Ohlendorf drew Rodriguez as his first batter of the spring. So much for warming up against a Triple-A squad.

“It’s always interesting to see Alex Rodriguez as the first hitter you face,” Ohlendorf said. “Of course, it’s his first time out, too. It was a lot of fun to get out there. I was a little bit overexcited, but not too bad.”

Both pitchers were limited to one inning to simulate what would have been their normal day for a side session. Expect both to throw two innings next time out and then start building up from there.


Ohlendorf didn’t throw a single changeup on Wednesday, but expect that to change his next time out. The right-hander really wants to perfect the pitch as the spring progresses, but he particularly wants to throw it to left-handed hitters. As luck would have it, Ohlendorf faced three right-handed batters in this one.

Left-handed hitters batted .286 against Ohlendorf last year as compared to the .221 mark posted by right-handed hitters. He hopes the addition of an improved changeup can limit the success left-handed hitters have against him this season.

The fact that Ohlendorf is not out competing for a rotation spot like last year gives him a better platform to really focus on this pitch without worrying about results.

“I feel a lot better right now just because I feel a lot more confident in my ability,” Ohlendorf said. “I feel like I know more what it takes to get guys out than last year. So I feel better for that reason. The main thing is that I may try and work on things a little bit more.”


The Jeff Clement experiment moved from the practice field at Pirate City to George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa on Wednesday. And he fared just fine. Clement made a nice play in the first on a chopper his way and made it through four innings without any noticeable issues.

“He did fine,” manager John Russell said of Clement’s defense. “He was in the right position. He didn’t stiffen up or panic. The biggest thing is being in the right position and knowing the fundamentals of what he’s doing. He looked fine.”

Clement continues to put in early work in the field daily.


After going 2-for-2 with a solo homer and RBI single in Tuesday’s exhibition game against the Manatees, catcher Erik Kratz split the left-center field gap with a line-drive, two-run double in the Pirates’ three-run seventh inning. That was his only at-bat of the game.

“Right now you’re just trying to look for a pitch to hit,” Kratz said after Wednesday’s hit. “I’m looking for something in the zone and the last two days I’ve gotten pitches that were in the middle and I was able to take a good swing at. I wasn’t trying to do too much with them, and I got more out of them than I was looking for. I was just trying to hit a line drive.”

Kratz is back with Pittsburgh as a non-roster player and is coming off the best season he’s had professionally. Kratz hit .273 with 41 extra-base hits and 43 RBIs in 93 games with Triple-A Indianapolis last year.

“He has picked up where he left off last year,” Russell said. “He put himself on the map with a very solid Triple-A season and he’s doing a good job here. He’s a threat at the plate. He’s catching the ball well. He’s another nice addition with our catching corps.”


Because your Pittsburgh media contingent was up in Tampa today, we didn’t get to see Joel Hanrahan get back into action. However, we were told this afternoon that he did throw on flat ground Wednesday (45 feet) and that all went well.

I’ll keep you updated on what his progression will be as we learn more.


Up next: It’s a two-hour drive to Orlando for the troops on Thursday, the first of two that we have to the land of Disney in the next nine days. Charlie Morton will get the two-inning start for Pittsburgh and is scheduled to be followed by Brian Burress and Brad Lincoln, among others.

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Pirates 6, Manatees 1

Jenifer Langosch/

The title of best baseball program in Bradenton is back in the Pirates’ hands after the club avenged its ’09 loss to State College of Florida with a win on Tuesday. The seven-inning exhibition game was highlighted by back-to-back-to-back home runs from Steve Pearce, Brandon Moss and Erik Kratz in the fourth.

Also on an important note, with 1,872 fans in attendance, the game raised $13,104 for charity. That money will be split up to benefit the Manatee Education Foundation, Wakeland Elementary and Rogers Garden Elementary.


Bryan Morris, who started the game, got the win after pitching a scoreless inning. He struck out two. Morris is the subject of my feature on (should be up later this afternoon), so you can read more about the mechanical changes and mental adjustments that he has made since the end of a pretty ugly 2009 season.

As for Morris’ thoughts on his first outing of the spring: “It was good to get back out on the mound since last year and since the mechanical changes we did during the winter. I might have been a little too excited to start, but I fought my aggression and put it together.”


Ramon Aguero was the only other one of the seven Pirates pitchers to record a 1-2-3 inning against the junior college boys. Aguero also struck out two.

Jeff Sues gave up a monstrous home run on the first pitch he threw and walked two more in between striking out the side in the sixth. Anthony Claggett managed to give up three hits without allowing a runner to score in the game’s final frame.

Donnie Veal (1 BB, 2 K), Ronald Uviedo (2 H, 1 K) and Justin Thomas (2 H, 2 K) each pitched scoreless innings.


There would be no slow start for third baseman Pedro Alvarez, who had three hits (including an RBI bloop double) in his first three at-bats. He finished 3-for-4.

Jose Tabata drilled a 390-foot double off the center field wall in his 1-for-4 performance. Kratz and Moss each finished with two hits.

“He’s been swinging the bat well,” manager John Russell said of Moss. “It’s tough in the first game no matter who you’re playing. Brandon swung the bat well. We know what he’s capable of doing. It’s just being able to put it all together. Hopefully he can relax enough and let his mind relax enough to where he can do some of the things he’s capable of doing.”

Moss is by no means guaranteed a spot on the 25-man roster. He’s fighting for a bench spot and quite possibly, his future on the team.


It was not such a great day for center fielder Gorkys Hernandez, who went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and left five men on base. Remember, though, that pitchers (even junior college ones) are always ahead of hitters this early in the exhibition season. You’ve still got to love the feistiness this kid exudes.


Up Next: The Pirates kick off Grapefruit League play with a 1:05 pm ET game against the Yankees in Tampa on Wednesday. Paul Maholm is scheduled to start for Pittsburgh and will be followed by Ross Ohlendorf, Brian Bass, D.J. Carrasco, Chris Jakubauskas, Steven Jackson, Jack Taschner and Jean Machi. The Yankees are starting Chad Gaudin.

Most of the Pirates’ projected starting position players will make the one-hour trip north and Russell said that a number of them will see their first bit of game action. “Get ’em goin’,” he said.

The game will be broadcast on 104.7 FM back in Pittsburgh. It will also be televised on MLB Network and on MLB.TV.

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