Results tagged ‘ Jack Taschner ’

Lincoln, Tabata headed to DC

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

So I’m supposedly “off” this week (I know, bad timing), but I’ve gotten word that right-hander Brad Lincoln has already taken a flight to Washington D.C. and that outfielder Jose Tabata was told after Indianapolis’ game on Tuesday that he would be heading to the big league club as well.

The additions of Lincoln and Tabata on Wednesday were obviously made possible by the two roster moves the Pirates made after Tuesday’s loss. Reliever Jack Taschner was designated for assignment, and first baseman Jeff Clement was optioned to Triple-A.

Lincoln had been widely speculated as the one who was going to take the TBD spot in the Pirates’ rotation. The addition of Tabata, though, wasn’t as expected, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t plenty deserved.

The 21-year-old outfielder hit .308 with 40 runs scored, 13 doubles, two triples, three homers and 18 RBIs in 52 games with Triple-A Indianapolis this season. He had also swiped 23 bases.

I’d have to believe that Tabata is going to jump into the starting lineup immediately and stay there. I can’t see the Pirates bringing up one of its top prospects and putting him on the bench. That likely means that Garrett Jones is headed to play first base regularly.

Tuesday may have been the Nationals’ day to see part of its future, but Wednesday is poised to be the Pirates’ time in the limelight. Tabata and Lincoln represent 2/3 of the Big 3 prospects that everyone knew would be up sooner or later this summer. Pedro Alvarez, obviously, represents the remaining one, and his arrival will undoubtedly be the biggest.

OK.. now back to my “night off.” This NBA game is getting good…

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June 2: Cubs (24-29) @ Pirates (22-31)

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

MLB released All-Star Game online voting totals on Tuesday, and once again, the Pirates didn’t have a player dent the Top 5 (or Top 15 with outfielders). The glaring omission, obviously, has to be center fielder Andrew McCutchen.

Consider that he entered Wednesday…

  • Ranked 2nd among all NL outfielders with a .310 batting average
  • Ranked 6th among all NL outfielders with a .385 on-base percentage
  • Ranked 2nd among all NL outfielders with 13 stolen bases
  • Ranked 2nd among all NL outfielders with 61 hits

Sure, McCutchen is not among the HR and RBI leaders, but that’s not where he is expected to be. There’s no doubt that McCutchen has caught the idea of players/coaches/managers around the league all year — I’m always getting quotes (unsolicited) about the outfielder from our MLB.com writers covering other teams — but he’s just not getting the public recognition his season deserves. Part of that likely has to do with the fact that he doesn’t play for a big-market team or for a top club. We’ll see if it changes as the month progresses.

Voting will continue online at MLB.com for another month. You can cast your vote here. Updated NL voting totals will be released weekly.

TODAY’S NEWS AND NOTES:

  • This moustache and high socks fad has caught on in the clubhouse, but I’m going to make you read more about Bobby Crosby’s initial challenge to grow out the facial hair in the Pirates Beat on the main site a little later. Don’t expect to see any razors until the team loses.
  • In case you missed it after last night’s game, lefty Jack Taschner has been activated off the DL and Steven Jackson was optioned back to Triple-A Indianapolis.
  • First baseman Steve Pearce (sprained right ankle) was cleared to hit off the tee on Wednesday for the first time. “Moving on up,” he said, smiling. He has not yet begun any sort of running. That will be last on the list.
  • Starter Chris Jakubauskas is headed to Bradenton, Fla., tomorrow to continue his throwing program. He threw two sides here and will throw at least two more sides and two sessions of batting practice down there before the Pirates continue a Minor League rehab assignment. The best news continues to be that he is feeling no more effects from being hit in the head on a line drive.
  • Outfielder Ryan Church may have come back from a bruised right wrist injury weeks ago, but he said on Wednesday that this series has marked the first time since the initial injury (May 7) that the wrist hasn’t affected him.
  • Jeff Karstens is likely to start for the Pirates on Sunday, though manager John Russell hesitated to say that was etched in stone. Newly-acquired Dana Eveland is unlikely to be ready to join the rotation by then. And Brian Burres is being skipped.
  • As for Burres, Russell said he’d be a bullpen option tonight, but the plans for him moving forward were fuzzy. That sure seems to suggest that he might be on his way out when Eveland arrives on Friday. The numbers just don’t seem to add up otherwise.
  • Pirates president Frank Coonelly held his monthly online chat on Wednesday, and here is the transcript. Coonelly discussed the Draft throughout, and to complement that, I’ll have two Draft stories coming out over the next two days to go into more detail on the Pirates’ Draft plans.
  • While we’re talking Draft, MLB.com Draft guru Jonathan Mayo made his latest first-round predictions on Wednesday. His guess at who the Pirates will take with the No. 2 pick? High school shortstop Manny Machado. Though he cautions everyone not to count out high school pitcher Jameson Taillon. Here is Mayo’s full list.
  • For those of you not close enough to get FSN Pittsburgh, MLB Network has announced that it will be telvising Stephen Strasburg’s Major League debut against the Pirates next Tuesday. You had to figure that was coming…
  • Recently benched second baseman Aki Iwamura was out taking groundballs at third base this afternoon. Iwamura played third during his time in Japan, and the Pirates are refamiliarizing him with the position so that he can be an option there off the bench.
  • How good have the Pirates been against the Cubs this year? Well, the team is 7-1 and has won five straight games against Chicago at PNC Park. That comes after the Pirates went 1-8 in their previous nine against the Cubs. Garrett Jones and McCutchen have been especially potent against Chicago pitching — the two have combined to go 27-for-53 with four homers, 17 RBIs and 17 runs scored.
  • According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Pirates’ seven wins this season while scoring three or fewer runs trails only the Padres, who have won 12 times while scoring no more than three runs.

Pirates lineup:

  1. Andrew McCutchen (CF)
  2. Neil Walker (2B)
  3. Lastings Milledge (LF)
  4. Garrett Jones (1B)
  5. Ryan Church (RF)
  6. Ryan Doumit (C)
  7. Andy LaRoche (3B)
  8. Ronny Cedeno (SS)
  9. Zach Duke (LHP)

Cubs lineup:

  1. Ryan Theriot (2B)
  2. Jeff Baker (RF)
  3. Marlon Byrd (CF)
  4. Xavier Nady (1B)
  5. Aramis Ramirez (3B)
  6. Alfonso Soriano (LF)
  7. Geovany Soto (C)
  8. Starlin Castro (SS)
  9. Carlos Zambrano (RHP)

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Taschner activated; Jackson optioned

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

After Tuesday’s win, the Pirates announced plans to activate lefty Jack Taschner from the disabled list prior to Wednesday’s game. The club optioned right-hander Steven Jackson to Triple-A in order to clear a roster spot for Taschner. Jackson, who had just joined the club on Friday, made a scoreless 1 2/3-inning relief appearance on Friday.

Taschner had been on the DL with left hamstring tightness, and Wednesday was to be the first day the lefty would have been eligible to come off. He tossed one scoreless inning in a rehab appearance with Double-A Altoona on Monday after pitching an inning in relief on Saturday.

“I felt really good,” Taschner said. “The hamstring felt great.”

Taschner tested out the hamstring in front of the Pirates’ trainers on Tuesday, after which the club made the decision that he was ready to return. In 17 1/3 innings this season, Taschner has allowed 12 runs on 21 hits and six walks. He has 15 strikeouts.

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June 1: Cubs (24-28) @ Pirates (21-31)

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

Had plenty to take care of for the main site this afternoon, so apologies for the late pre-game news and notes. But here is what you need to get caught up on…

  • The Pirates traded for left-hander Dana Eveland today, sending Minor League right-hander Ronald Uviedo to the Blue Jays. Eveland is expected to go into the Pirates’ rotation, though that might not be immediate. He is throwing a bullpen session at home (California) on Tuesday and again on Thursday. He’ll report to Pittsburgh on Friday. The Pirates’ concern? Eveland hasn’t pitched in a game since May 22, which means that plugging him right into the rotation might be a bit too much to ask.
  • Instead, the likeliest route is that Eveland will pitch a few games out of the bullpen and then go into the rotation next week. The Pirates were understandable vague (given that they don’t know how the layoff has affected Eveland), so we should know more on Friday.
  • Speaking of Friday, scratch Brian Burres as the probable starter. With Thursday’s off day, Burres is going to be skipped, and Paul Maholm will take the mound on normal four days of rest. This could very well mean that Burres will be squeezed off the roster entirely when Eveland joins the team on Friday. Uviedo cleared a space on the 40-man roster for Eveland, but a spot on the 25-man will still have to be opened.
  • Manager John Russell said that Jeff Karstens is not going to be one-and-done after his start on Tuesday. Russell threw out June 12 as another date that Karstens is scheduled to pitch, though depending on how the Eveland transition works out, he might make another before that.
  • You might be wondering how Eveland’s arrival affects both Charlie Morton and Brad Lincoln? Well, Morton is still resting his shoulder and there is no timetable with him right now. This is me speaking, but I don’t expect to see the right-hander here any time soon. With how badly these first two months have gone, a mental break and a number of starts in a less-pressured environment would likely serve him well.
  • As for Lincoln, I’m just not getting the impression that his call-up from Triple-A is imminent. It sure seems like the Pirates have the rotation planned out through June 12, which would mean that Lincoln likely has at least 2-3 more Triple-A starts in his future. Maybe things will be re-evaluated after that. Lincoln pitched five scoreless innings in his last start and had pitched at least seven innings in his three starts before that.
  • Lefty Jack Taschner has returned from his Minor League rehab assignment and could be off the DL as early as Wednesday. Taschner pitched two innings with Double-A Altoona and reported his left hamstring to be just fine. Steven Jackson seems the most likely candidate to be sent down when Taschner returns.
  • After sitting out with a sore hamstring, D.J. Carrasco has been cleared to pitch again on Tuesday if needed.
  • Two Pirates Minor League players earned Pitcher/Player-of-the-Week honors for their performances last week. Tim Alderson (Double-A) went 2-0 with 10 strikeouts and one earned run allowed in 13 innings (two starts). Outfielder Calvin Anderson (high-A) went 14-for-27 with three extra-base hits and eight RBIs in seven games.
  • Closer Octavio Dotel finished May a perfect 8-for-8 in save opportunities. That tied him for second among all National League closers. It also was a refreshing change from the struggles he endured during the first month of the season.
  • Righty Chris Jakubauskas threw another side session on Tuesday, this one 38 pitches. He’ll throw again on Friday, possibly down in Bradenton.

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May 31: Cubs (24-27) @ Pirates (20-31)

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

The blog is back, as am I after a much-welcomed getaway to Europe over the past two weeks. And as Lastings Milledge informed me in the clubhouse this morning, there will not be any more European adventures in my future since the team didn’t do so well during my absence. We’ll see about that…

Let’s jump right back in, but not before I thank all the men and women serving this country in the military. Thank you for what you do. And a special shout out to all you Pirates fans overseas who stay connected by reading this blog. I know there some of you since I have received notes from you. Thank you.

TODAY’S NEWS AND NOTES:

  • Manager John Russell announced that Neil Walker will be the team’s regular second baseman moving forward. Walker has hit safely in four of his first six games since being promoted last Tuesday. And with Aki Iwamura never finding his footing this season, the switch has been made. Iwamura, who is the highest paid player on the club, will be moved into a bench role after having nearly two months to get back on track.
  • Walker might also spell Andy LaRoche some time at third base if LaRoche continues to have any back issues. But the goal is to have Walker get comfortable at second, a position that he began playing only in Spring Training.
  • With Iwamura out of the lineup, the Pirates will use Andrew McCutchen as their primary leadoff hitter. Russell liked what McCutchen offered out of the No. 3 spot, but they have little other choice than to use him at the top of the lineup. For now, Walker is hitting second. Russell would not commit to him staying there, but said noted that it’s been a good fit thus far.
  • While I was gone, lefty Donnie Veal was placed on the Triple-A DL with soreness above the ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow. He is scheduled to visit with Dr. James Andrews later this week. A visit to Dr. Andrews often isn’t a good thing, as Kevin Hart was reminded of earlier this month.
  • The Pirates reacquired Jonathan Van Every from the Red Sox in exchange for infield Josue Peley. Pittsburgh had dealt Van Every to Boston on April 24. Van Every will join Triple-A Indianapolis on Monday.
  • Spoke with Chris Jakubauskas this morning, and he remains encouraged with his progress. He threw 30 pitches (all fastballs) on Saturday and is scheduled to throw 40-45 in his next session on Tuesday. He’ll likely mis in some sinkers and changeups this time.
  • Steve Pearce (sprained right ankle) has had his protective boot removed and is walking with hardly a limp. Pearce said the ankle is still sensative in spots, but that it is improving.
  • Lefty Jack Taschner will make his second Minor League rehab appearance with Double-A Altoona later tonight. Taschner is eligible to come off the DL later this week.
  • Former Pirates reliever John Grabow has been placed on the DL with a left MCL sprain on Monday. That means the Cubs lefty won’t be facing his former team in this series.
  • A reminder to women interested: Milledge will host a “Bats Against Breast Cancer” baseball clinic from 7:45 am – 1:35 pm before the team’s game against the Giants on Sunday. For those interested in more details, go here.

Pirates lineup:

  1. Andrew McCutchen (CF)
  2. Neil Walker (2B)
  3. Andy LaRoche (3B)
  4. Garrett Jones (RF)
  5. Ryan Church (LF)
  6. Ryan Doumit (C)
  7. Jeff Clement (1B)
  8. Ronny Cedeno (SS)
  9. Ross Ohlendorf (RHP)

Cubs lineup:

  1. Kosuke Fukudome (RF)
  2. Marlon Byrd (CF)
  3. Derrek Lee (1B)
  4. Aramis Ramirez (3B)
  5. Mike Fontenot (2B)
  6. Alfonso Soriano (LF)
  7. Geovany Soto (C)
  8. Starlin Castro (SS)
  9. Randy Wells (RHP)

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April 18: Reds (5-7) @ Pirates (6-5)

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

Before getting to the day’s news and notes, here is one leftover quote from reliever Jack Taschner that wasn’t able to make it into the gamestory last night. It came after he was asked about whether getting off to a good start was more important for a team, like the Pirates, that has endured so many consecutive losing years.

“It’s important for any team, and for this team it’s no different,” he said. “It’s easier when things are going well than to kick start midseason. I don’t see a whole lot of reasons to panic in here. We all know the history. I’m sure we’ll hear about it all year. It’s not something that we think about in here.”

Here are your pregame notes on another chilly morning in the ‘Burgh:

  • Andy LaRoche remains sidelined with back spasms. He still isn’t swinging a bat, though manager John Russell said there is a chance that he might return on Tuesday.
  • Ross Ohlendorf, plagued by the same injury, didn’t throw on Sunday but is expected to do so again on Monday. If he continues to feel well, he’ll use his delivery motion and throw on flat ground.
  • Russell shuffled his lineup some for the series finale, inserting Delwyn Young, Jason Jaramillo, Bobby Crosby and Ryan Church into it for the day. Nothing more than a day off for the usual starters who aren’t in there.
  • Jeff Clement could use the day off after going hitless in his last 17 at-bats. Russell described him to be pressing, and that’s been pretty obvious. Clement is just 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position and 0-for-11 against left-handed pitching this year.
  • With last night’s win, the Pirates have now won consecutive home series to start the season for the first time since 1992.
  • The consecutive walk-off wins marked the sixth time the Pirates have done that at PNC Park. The last time was May 24-25 when Jason Bay delivered in extra innings in both games.
  • I rarely look at the standings this early in the season, but for anyone who cares, the Pirates are currently in second place in the NL Central, one game behind the Cardinals.

Pirates lineup:

  1. Delwyn Young (2B)
  2. Andrew McCutchen (CF)
  3. Lastings Milledge (LF)
  4. Garrett Jones (1B)
  5. Ryan Church (RF)
  6. Bobby Crosby (3B)
  7. Jason Jaramillo (C)
  8. Paul Maholm (LHP)
  9. Ronny Cedeno (SS)

Reds lineup:

  1. Drew Stubbs (CF)
  2. Orlando Cabrera (SS)
  3. Joey Votto (1B)
  4. Brandon Phillips (2B)
  5. Jonny Gomes (LF)
  6. Ryan Hanigan (C)
  7. Jay Bruce (RF)
  8. Paul Janish (3B)
  9. Bronson Arroyo (RHP)

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04/12: Pirates (3-3) @ Giants (5-1)

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

I’m back on the beat for those who were temporarily worried — meant to mention this on Thursday, but I had a family wedding to attend this past weekend, which was why I was not with the team in Arizona. Seems like I got back just in time for all sorts of news.

Obviously, this is the first time that the Pirates have been San Francisco since last July, and none of us who were here (and most of those Pirate fans who weren’t) will never forget that trip. July 29 was probably one of the draining day I’ve had on this beat.

It started with an early day game after a night game, which is always tiring enough especially with the time change element. I remember setting up the computer that morning only to find out Jack Wilson had just been traded. After getting reaction from him and other members of the club, I started writing. In the middle of the game, I spent time on the phone talking to Ian Snell, who had also been traded. I also started hearing that Freddy Sanchez was soon to be next.

I don’t think I watched a single pitch during the game, which if I remember right featured a terrific start by Zach Duke. Sure enough, after the game Sanchez was dealt, and all of us were ushered down to the press conference room at AT&T Park to watch him put on a Giants uniform. Absolutely surreal experience there.

Many more stories later, I finally boarded a red eye flight to Missouri, where I was to be in a wedding the next day.

Needless to say, let’s hope this visit to San Francisco goes a bit smoother. As for today’s news, and there is plenty…

  • As reported earlier, the Pirates made a handful of roster moves this afternoon. Ross Ohlendorf has been scratched from Monday’s start due to back spasms. He started feeling tightness in his lower back on Friday and he’s still not able to throw. The Pirates remain optimistic that Ohlendorf will be ready to go on Saturday, but realistically, he’d need to be able to throw a side session on Wednesday to be able to do so. We’ll see how the next 48 hours go. Not sure I’m as optimstic as the team is, but I’m no back expert either.
  • Pitching in Ohlendorf’s place tonight will be lefty Brian Burres. He was the call-up candidate primarily for two reasons. First, Monday was already his scheduled night to pitch so Burres doesn’t get messed up there. This was to be his first start of the season. Second, without placing someone on the disabled list, teams are not allowed to call up a player already on the 40-man roster until after April 14. The Pirates are not ready to DL Ohlendorf, which means starters Donnie Veal, Brad Lincoln, Kevin Hart and Chris Jakubauskas couldn’t have even come up if the Pirates had wanted.
  • In order to make a roster spot for Burres, the Pirates designated Hayden Penn for assignment. The Penn experiment failed miserably for now, though the Pirates hope they can continue working with him in the Minors. As manager John Russell noted again on Monday, the club sees potential there. Penn just needs much more work in a less pressurized setting.
  • The Pirates have 10 days to trade, release or waive Penn. If he can clear waivers, Penn could be outrighted to Triple-A. He is out of options.
  • Righty Joel Hanrahan is back with the team after spending an extra week getting ready for the season. Hanrahan made two Minor League rehab appearances (Thursday and Saturday) and is now set to be a fixture in the back end of the Pirates’ bullpen.
  • Daniel McCutchen has been optioned to Triple-A (clearing a 25-man roster spot for Hanrahan). The Pirates don’t plan on needing a fifth starter until April 24, so there was no need to have McCutchen remain with the club idle. He’ll stay on a normal pitching schedule in Indianapolis.
  • However, McCutchen was still with the Major League club in San Fran on Monday and he is the Plan B if Ohlendorf is unable to go on Saturday. As mentioned earlier, the Pirates should know by Wednesday if Ohlendorf can pitch this weekend. If not, the Pirates will hold off on having McCutchen start in the Minors and have him spot start in Pittsburgh.
  • Russell didn’t rule reliever Jack Taschner out on Monday, though I’m sure that would be the preference. The former Giant pitched on both Saturday and Sunday and logged 2 1/3 innings yesterday.
  • Hart has been suspended three games for throwing behind a batter in his start last Thursday. He was ejected after doing so. Teammate Brian Friday had already been plunked twice earlier in the night. The suspension began on Sunday, meaning that Hart will not be able to make his scheduled start on Tuesday. He’s now expected to make his second start of the season on Wednesday instead.
  • In other Triple-A news… Jeremy Powell is making the spot start for the Tribe tonight because of the need for Burres here in San Francisco. … If you missed it, third baseman Pedro Alvarez went deep three times in his first two games with Indianapolis. … Steve Pearce went deep for the first time this season in the fourth inning on Monday. That brought his average up to .500.
  • For those of you keeping an eye on what’s going on in Indy (and you should), Indians broadcaster Scott McCauley keeps a great blog. It’s a great source of information and quotes, and I recommend making it a daily stop for Pirates news.

Pirates lineup:

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

Giants lineup:

  1. Aaron Rowand (CF)
  2. Edgar Renteria (SS)
  3. Pablo Sandoval (3B)
  4. Aubrey Huff (1B)
  5. Mark DeRosa (LF)
  6. Bengie Molina (C)
  7. Juan Uribe (2B)
  8. Andres Torres (RF)
  9. Barry Zito (LHP)

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Sifting through the options…

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

So, the goodbye to Brandon Moss cleared up one question the Pirates had remaining this spring, but it sure seems to have clarified little else. In fact, I’m actually finding more questions than before at this point.

Let’s roll through some of them really quickly, keeping in mind that the club has until 3 pm ET on Sunday to solidify its Opening Day roster…

  • Where does RHP Hayden Penn fit?

General manager Neal Huntington made it clear on Monday that Penn, who the team claimed off waivers, will have every chance to make the club. He’s likely to only get two to three appearances at most this week before the decision has to be made, so his chance at making the Opening Day roster will largely lie on how he fares. His numbers this spring haven’t been exceptional; in fact, in his last two outings, Penn has allowed nine earned runs in a combined 4 2/3 innings. 

One thing that muddies Penn’s future is the fact that he is out of options. That means that if the Pirates start him on the 25-man roster and decide to move him out (either because of ineffectiveness or to make room for Joel Hanrahan), the club would risk losing him on waivers. You would think that the Pirates didn’t make this waiver claim without planning on it being beneficial for more than a week or so.

  • What does this mean for the Jack Taschner?

Yesterday, I was pretty certain that Jack Taschner was going to be the sixth man in the Pirates’ bullpen to begin the season. Knowing that Hanrahan will be available beginning the second week of the season, this sixth spot was effectively the last long-term one to fill. With Penn in the mix now, this all changes.

Sure, there’s always the option of keeping both Taschner and Penn, though Hanrahan would squeeze someone out of a spot a week later. The problem is that Taschner and Penn are both out of options. So if you start one in the Majors and then want to send him down, you’re dealing with waivers again. And with the way Taschner has pitched this spring, I don’t see him getting through unclaimed.

The likely scenario is that one of these two starts in the Minors so you don’t have to worry about the lack of an option right away. Or could the Pirates have something else in mind — say, sending someone like Evan Meek down when Hanrahan returns since he does have an option remaining.

Oh, so many scenarios…

  • How about the rest of the relief candidates?

Clearly, the acquisition of Penn is not good news for the other non-roster relievers trying to make this club. Guys like Jeff Karstens, Vinnie Chulk and Brian Bass were seen as legitimate candidates to be a placeholder for Hanrahan. It would seem that their chances of being on the Opening  Day roster, though, just took a hit.

Keep in mind that this doesn’t mean they won’t be up at some point. Relievers always come and go throughout the season, and the Pirates need the depth.

  • Is this good news for John Raynor?

With Moss out of the outfielder mix, this would seem to suggest that the Pirates are leaning toward making Raynor their fifth bench player. With Raynor, you have a player that is still raw in a lot of areas, but the Pirates obviously see long-term potential if they’ve kept him around this long.

The Pirates’ bench right now has Bobby Crosby, Ryan Church, Delwyn Young and a backup catcher on it. That would seem to leave one spot open for Raynor, Ramon Vazquez and Steve Pearce. Because Pearce has an option left, my guess is he’ll be squeezed out of consideration and will start in Triple-A. Vazquez is owed $2 million, but he won’t be around past this year anyways, so Raynor is the better investment for the long term.

It would sure seem that things are looking good for the Rule 5 pick to at least start the season on the Major League roster.

  • Will the Pirates open with six or seven relievers?

Good question, and it’s one the Pirates are still asking themselves. How Penn does this week could play a role in this. Where Hanrahan is in his rehab could affect it as well. It would seem, though, that if the Pirates start with just six relievers (and, in turn, a six-man bench), it would only be until Hanrahan is ready to return. Then in order to make room for Hanrahan, the Pirates could eliminate one of the extra bench guys or Daniel McCutchen.

My guess is that it would be McCutchen, simply because the Pirates don’t need him to start the second and third times through the order. He could get his first start in, go back to Triple-A and start regularly there and then be ready for a call up once the Pirates need a fifth starter again. At that time, the club could go with McCutchen or Kevin Hart, but we won’t get into that discussion just yet.

If you do this, you’d be able to keep the six-man bench and have seven relievers.

There could be a benefit to a six-man bench. It could give the Pirates an additional few weeks to try and trade Vazquez, instead of releasing him and eating his $2 million salary. It could also give the organization additional time to evaluate Raynor and decide if he can stick all year.

Obviously, I asked plenty more questions than I answered. But I just wanted to think outloud here for a few minutes to try and get you thinking about what decisions management is left pondering. There are so many different ways things can go, and keep in mind that the team could make a trade or waiver claim tomorrow that changes the dyanmics of everything.

If nothing else, this all gives you something to follow during this final week of spring.

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB

Red Sox 3, Pirates 2

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

You can read more on Paul Maholm’s start on the pirates.com shortly, so we’ll leave him out of the post-game blog pitching rundown. Let’s break the rest of the day’s pitchers into three Spring Training-centric categories for the heck of it:

Helped his cause: Javier Lopez.

  • He breezed through his one inning of relief and has now made four scoreless appearances this spring. As the only lefty reliver on the 40-man roster, Lopez was already expected to be in the Opening Day bullpen before Spring Training began. At this point, that seems like a lock barring any unexpected step back.

Hurt his cause: Chris Jakubauskas.

  • Jakubauskas has had two strong relief appearances and two very rocky ones. On Saturday, he faced five hitters and was only able to get one of them out. The final total: three runs, three hits, one walk. The Pirates were eyeing Jakubauskas as a long-relief candidate, but his start-to-start inconsistency is probably room for concern. And there are other possible long relievers who have done better.

Somewhere in between: Jack Taschner. D.J. Carrasco. Anthony Claggett. Jeremy Powell.

  • Taschner escaped a precarious bases-loaded jam with the help of a key strikeout of Jacoby Ellsbury. It wasn’t an entirely pretty inning for Taschner, but he got the job done. Carrasco walked two, but still has not allowed a run this spring (six innings). Claggett helped end the inning that Jakubauskas started, though there was nothing spectacular that stood out about his performance. Powell got out of some trouble and pitched a scoreless eighth, but he is not expected to be in the mix for a bullpen spot out of camp.

***

Based on comments from GM Neal Huntington earlier this week, it’s hard to see Delwyn Young not making the team on the bench. But he’s taking no chances.

Young boosted his batting average this spring to .300 with a solo homer in the sixth. The home run was his team-leading second. Young doesn’t have a shot at earning a starting job at the beginning of the year, but his bat is certainly an asset off the bench.

“He’s swinging the bat really well,” manager John Russell said. “He did a nice job for us last year. He’s a dangerous hitter. Having him around, there’s a chance to really solidify our bench. The guy can really hit.”

And in case you missed Huntington’s recent comments about Young, here they are:

On playing second base: “It’s night and day compared to where he was in July when he first started playing the position and even in August. Significantly ahead of where he was. He’s very capable of filling in there if Aki [Iwamura] needs a day here or there.”

On his bat: “His right-handed swing looks better this year. He was very left-handed dominant last year. The right-handed swing looks better this year, which is an intriguing element that he brings. It’s fun to watch him take at-bats. It’s a great option to have off the bench. He’s still got to get to Opening Day and earn that, but he does some things that helps a manager win games.”

That last sentence sure does hint that Young would have to play his way off the team, even though the Pirates maintain he’s in competition.

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB 

Rays 15, Pirates 11

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

Round 2 of the rotation spot battle between Kevin Hart and Daniel McCutchen is now over, and if you’re going simply by results (which the Pirates aren’t, by the way), McCutchen would have the early leg up.

McCutchen looked sharp in two innings on Wednesday night. Hart, on the other hand, was again a bit erratic. His first inning looked just fine — two flyouts and a strikeout.

“We’ve been working a lot in the past week, and it felt good,’ Hart said. “It felt under control. It was just like strike one, strike two, then putting a guy away.”

He also pitched that whole inning out of the windup. The second inning — particularly when Hart to pitch out of the stretch – would be a different story, though. Hart walked Dioner Navarro to start the inning, which only ended after he gave up five runs on three hits and three walks. Hart didn’t come out to pitch the third (as expected) because of how many pitches he needed in that second frame.

“Out of the stretch, I kind of went back to some of the old stuff,” Hart said. “I made the adjustment late. The other time, I didn’t make the adjustment the whole time out there. I look at my line, and the way I threw the ball, I feel like I took a step forward. Stuff-wise and pitch-wise, I felt better and more confident.”

Added Russell: “One of the things we’ve been working on is not collapsing [with his body]. He had a little trouble with that, but did make some adjustments. It was obviously a very tough day to pitch, but I thought his stuff was better, especially in the first inning.

“He’s making progress. He’s starting to take what he’s doing in his sides and it’s starting to show up a little more often in games. If he can be a little more consistent with it, he’ll finally get the confidence with it. I’m encouraged with some of the adjustments he made today.” 

Still, the esclating walk totals have to be of some concern. Hart has now allowed seven runs on four hits and seven walks in three innings.

Prior to Hart’s start, GM Neal Huntington characterized the fifth starter battle as an open competition. That hasn’t changed after Thursday’s outing. But the bottom line is that the Pirates are going to need to see Hart parlay his potential into results at some point this spring if they are going to trust him with a spot in the rotation.

“Kevin continues to show the stuff,’ Huntington said. “He just needs to trust it. He cares. And he’s so intense. And he wants to do so well that sometimes he gets in his own way and overthrows and over thinks and doesn’t let his natural ability play. When he’s relaxed and he trust it, he’s got quality Major League stuff. We’ve seen that stuff. It’s just a matter of the delivery and the mentality and just trusting it and attacking. When he does that, he’s a Major League pitcher without a doubt. When he doesn’t, he’s going to fall behind. When he trusts it, he belongs in the big leagues and he belongs in the big league rotation. We’re just working hard to try to help him believe it and trust it and let it happen.”

***

It was not an afternoon for pitching at McKechnie Field. We’ll blame some of it on the wind — there were constant 25-30 mph winds with gust getting close to 50 mph — but not all of it.

There were a total of seven home runs hit, three by the Pirates (Neil Walker, Ronny Cedeno and Delwyn Young). On the pitching end, Jean Machi and Ramon Aguero each served up two long balls. 

So it’s probably best to note the good pitching lines of the afternoon rather than the other way around. Evan Meek, Jack Taschner (more on him on pirates.com later), Donnie Veal and Jeremy Powell all threw scoreless innings. Everyone in attendance thanks you, too.

How much can you actually evaluate from a game played in conditions such as they were on Thursday?

“Not much,” Russell said. “For pitchers it’s tough because flyballs go out. And you don’t want to be an outfielder today.”

***

Three hour and 41 minute games in Spring Training should not be permitted. Just saying…

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB

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