Results tagged ‘ Octavio Dotel ’

Throwing out runners 101

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

You can read all about John Russell’s thoughts on the team’s issues throwing out base runners in this story I wrote earlier, but I wanted to expand on a few additional items here

A few points of emphasis before we get into some stats:

  • The fact that the Pirates have thrown out just 12.8 percent of runners trying to steal (this doesn’t count stolen bases with no throws, double steals or caught stealing by pitchers) is a problem that lies with both the pitchers and catchers. Ryan Doumit has had his share of issues, but for the large part, the pitchers aren’t helping him out.
  • When it comes to Doumit, Russell pointed out two things he needs to improve upon. His footwork needs to be quicker/shorter and his throwing motion needs to be shortened.
  • On the pitching end, Russell said he likes what he’s seen from Jeff Karstens and Brad Lincoln both in terms of how they vary their deliveries and how long they hold the ball. He noted that Zach Duke and Paul Maholm struggle in that area, and that when they lift their leg on the delivery it gives runners even more time to take off.
  • The other thing worth noting again is that the Pirates have a program in place from the lowest Minor League level on up to teach pitchers how to better hold runners on. So the expectation is that these pitchers should be better prepared with differing deliveries and timing by the time they get here.

Anyways, this issue has become such a widespread problem this year that it has garnered a ton of scrutiny. But I was interested to see how all these pitchers had done in these same areas in recent years. Have the individual numbers really gotten that much worse? Here are the specifics, which will allow you to see which pitchers are getting taken advantage of the most and which have taken steps back:

Ross Ohlendorf

  • 2010: 13 SB, 1 CS (93% success rate for runner)
  • 2009: 12 SB, 8 CS (60%)

Zach Duke

  • 2010: 6 SB, 1 CS (86%)
  • 2009: 7 SB, 8 CS (47%)
  • 2008: 6 SB, 6 CS (50%)
  • 2007: 5 SB, 5 CS (50%)
  • 2006: 13 SB, 12 CS (52%)

Paul Maholm

  • 2010: 4 SB, 1 CS (80%)
  • 2009: 15 SB, 6 CS (71%)
  • 2008: 5 SB, 7 CS (42%)
  • 2007: 11 SB, 6 CS (65%)
  • 2006: 13 SB, 11 CS (54%)

Jeff Karstens

  • 2010: 3 SB, 3 CS (50%)
  • 2009: 9 SB, 2 CS (82%)

Brad Lincoln

  • 2010: 2 SB, 1 CS (66%)

Octavio Dotel

  • 2010: 4 SB, 1 CS (80%)
  • 2009: 14 SB, 5 CS (74%)
  • 2008: 16 SB, 1 CS (94%)
  • 2007: 2 SB, 0 CS (100%)
  • 2006: 1 SB, 0 CS (100%)

Evan Meek

  • 2010: 9 SB, 0 CS (100%)
  • 2009: 4 SB, 2 CS (66%)

Joel Hanrahan

  • 2010: 5 SB, 1 CS (83%)
  • 2009: 6 SB, 3 CS (66%)
  • 2008: 11 SB, 0 CS (100%)
  • 2007: 4 SB, 2 CS (66%)

Sean Gallagher

  • 2010: 1 SB, 1 CS (50%)
  • 2009: 2 SB, 1 CS (66%)
  • 2008: 5 SB, 4 CS (56%)
  • 2007: 4 SB, 4 CS (50%)

Brendan Donnelly

  • 2010: 6 SB, 0 CS (100%)
  • 2009: 2 SB, 0 CS (100%)
  • 2008: 1 SB, 1 CS (50%)
  • 2007: 2 SB, 0 CS (100%)
  • 2006: 1 SB, 0 CS (100%)

D.J. Carrasco

  • 2010: 7 SB, 3 CS (70%)
  • 2009: 1 SB, 3 CS (25%)
  • 2008: 3 SB, 2 CS (60%)

Javier Lopez

  • 2010: 1 SB, 1 CS (50%)
  • 2009: 1 SB, 0 CS (100%)
  • 2008: 1 SB, 3 CS (25%)
  • 2007: 0 SB, 1 CS (0%)
  • 2006: 2 SB, 0 CS (100%)

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July 1 Odds and Ends

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

Catching up on some recent news….

  • Second baseman Neil Walker has targeted Saturday as a potential return date. He went through Wednesday without any headaches or other concussion symptoms, and that cleared him to be able to play catch and take groundballs on Thursday. Walker suffered a concussion last Friday in Oakland when he collided with right fielder Ryan Church.
  • Bobby Crosby is back in the lineup and starting at short. In all, he missed just two games (and part of a third) after his collision. Manager John Russell hasn’t said as much, but I’d expect Crosby to get regular playing time like he was before the injury. Ronny Cedeno has not been impressive at all lately (six hits in his last 65 at-bats), and Crosby was doing well in the starting role over the last few weeks.
  • Russell said that his decision to move Pedro Alvarez up into the No. 2 hole was done in hopes that he’d see more pitches to hit batting in front of Andrew McCutchen. It’s also a spot where opposing managers will have to think twice before bringing in a situational lefty to face Alvarez. Why? Because hitting behind Alvarez is McCutchen, who is a career .341 hitter against lefties. So you either burn two pitchers in a span of two hitters, or you take your chances against McCutchen.
  • Left-hander Dana Eveland cleared waivers and has been sent to Triple-A Indianapolis. It remains to be seen whether Eveland will pitch in a starting or relieving role with the Indians.
  • Right-hander Chris Jakubauskas will continue his Minor League rehab work in Triple-A now. Jakubauskas last pitched for high-A Bradenton on June 27. He went 4 1/3 innings and allowed seven hits and three earned runs in that outing. He will be used in a multi-inning relief and spot starting role. The Pirates have not announced a specific timetable for a potential return yet.
  • Speaking of timetables, as I noted earlier in the week, don’t expect to see Zach Duke to be back until after the All-Star break. He’s scheduled to throw off the mound for the first time during this homestand and will likely need two side sessions before then making a Minor League rehab start.
  • Happy Anniversary to Garrett Jones, who on this day last year arrived in Pittsburgh and established himself as a key piece in this lineup not long after. In 159 games over the past year, Jones has batted .289 with 38 doubles, 31 homers and 91 RBIs. Only 10 players in the National League have more home runs during that year-long span.
  • With his save on Wednesday, seven of Octavio Dotel’s 16 saves this year have come against the Cubs. That is the most saves against any team before the start of July since saves started being officially recorded in 1969 (thanks Elias Sports Bureau for that tidbit).

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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 5: Cubs (13-14) @ Pirates (11-15)

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

For all the terms laced upon baseball players these days — hero, superstar, larger than life, etc. — sometimes it is nice to be reminded that at the core, these guys are just like anyone else. Being around them so much, I see that. But I know that the public has a tendency to put athletes on a pedestal.

Maybe that’s why I felt inclined to share something Octavio Dotel told reporters after Tuesday’s win. After Dotel was asked a few baseball-related questions, someone asked the closer about his new baby boy, Eduardo, who was born on Sunday. Dotel lit up as any proud papa would do:  

“It’s been great,” he said. “Every hour that I wake up, I see my little one and it makes me really excited and happy. Now I live for someone who needs me. That’s really nice to see my boy every morning when I wake up.”

Baseball isn’t everything to these guys, so maybe we should all make sure not to define them solely by that. Just my thought for the day.

Onto your news and notes for Wednesday…

  • Center fielder Andrew McCutchen is back in the lineup (insert collective sigh here) after missing Tuesday’s game with a mild right ankle sprain. He tested the ankle out this afternoon and was cleared to return. Watching him from this vantage point, McCutchen seemed to be running just fine.
  • Expected to be an everyday player coming into the season, Lastings Milledge has been given his fair share of days off to this point. He’s not in the lineup on Wednesday, marking the fifth time he’s been out of the starting lineup. Manager John Russell’s explanation continues to be that he wants his bench guys (i.e. outfielder Ryan Church) to stay active. But with Milledge hitting just .171 since April 21, Milledge is going to have to start proving that he belongs as a regular.
  • Recently recalled first baseman Steve Pearce will get his first start tonight. As I mentioned yesterday, don’t be surprised if you slowly see a platoon situation develop between the right-handed hitting Pearce and the left-handed hitting Jeff Clement, assuming Pearce fares well. Pearce is 3-for-7 lifetime against Cubs starter Ted Lilly.
  • Clement is hitless in his last 19 at-bats.
  • In case you missed it, Double-A lefty Rudy Owens tossed six no-hit innings and notched 11 strikeouts on Tuesday. You can read his thoughts on the outing here.
  • Ross Ohlendorf will make his Minor League rehab start with Double-A Altoona tonight. First pitch is at 7:05 pm. There will be an update on the outing later tonight, but obviously it wouldn’t be until much later. The club is still hopeful that Ohlendorf will be ready to make a May 10 start in Pittsburgh.
  • Andy LaRoche spent a good part of BP visiting with two local children as a part of his Down Syndrome initiative. LaRoche is involved in all sorts of outreach to local children with Down Syndrome and that includes 6-7 visits that he has set up where he invites kids with Down Syndrome to the ballpark. This was the first of those visits.

Pirates lineup:

  1. Bobby Crosby (2B)
  2. Andy LaRoche (3B)
  3. Andrew McCutchen (CF)
  4. Garrett Jones (RF)
  5. Ryan Doumit (C)
  6. Ryan Church (LF)
  7. Steve Pearce (1B)
  8. Ronny Cedeno (SS)
  9. Charlie Morton (RHP)

Cubs lineup:

  1. Ryan Theriot (SS)
  2. Kosuke Fukudome (RF)
  3. Derrek Lee (1B)
  4. Marlon Byrd (CF)
  5. Alfonso Soriano (LF)
  6. Aramis Ramirez (3B)
  7. Mike Fontenot (2B)
  8. Koyie Hill (C)
  9. Ted Lilly (LHP)

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May 4: Cubs (13-13) @ Pirates (10-15)

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

I had brief flashbacks to Spring Training this afternoon as the entire Pirates team took the field for extra work at 3:20 pm. It didn’t help us (the media) since we typically have a small window (beginning at 3:30) to talk to players pregame… but manager John Russell felt that after a 3-7 road trip, some extra work is needed.

The work ran the gamut — pickoffs, fielding drills, cutoffs, etc — much like it does in the spring. It’s not all that often that there is this type of full-team workout on the field during the season, but the Pirates have done it from time to time to time before, especially when they’re at home.

The most notable observation of the session was that Andrew McCutchen (mild right ankle sprain) stood on the side watching. He was out on the warning track talking with the team’s trainers for a while before moving toward the dugout and playing spectator. McCutchen is out of the lineup tonight, saying that the ankle was still feeling a bit tender when he tested it out. 

McCutchen is optimistic that he’ll be back in the lineup on Wednesday. 

Here’s the rest of your news and notes…

  • Reliever Brendan Donnelly has been placed on the DL with a left oblique strain. Donnelly has not pitched since April 27, which is when he suffered the injury. He expects to be off as soon as he’s eligible (May 13).
  • With Donnelly on the DL, the Pirates have recalled 1B/OF Steve Pearce from Triple-A. Pearce has been raking down there this season, hitting .349 with 16 extra-base hits before the call-up. The question is whether that production can finally translate at the Major League level. To this point, it hasn’t. In 342 big-league at-bats, Pearce has a .237 average, eight homers and 37 RBIs with the Pirates.
  • Pearce isn’t starting against RHP Ryan Dempster tonight, but Russell said to expect Pearce to play first against a left-handed starter tomorrow night. If Jeff Clement continues to struggle and Pearce produces, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a platoon situation evolve. That will be something to keep an eye on over the next few weeks.
  • GM Neal Huntington has not yet gotten word about Kevin Hart’s surgery, which was performed by Dr. James Andrews this morning. Assuming all goes well, Hart is looking at about a nine-month recovery period.
  • The Pirates have lost outfielder John Raynor. Raynor was claimed back by the Marlins, who had to pay the Pirates $25,000 for the purchase. Huntington confirmed that a trade attempt was made, but the Marlins’ asking price was too high.
  • LHP Brian Burres has been named Thursday’s starter.
  • Ross Ohlendorf will make his second Minor League rehab start tomorrow with Altoona. If all goes well, he will start for the Pirates on May 10.
  • Congratulations to Octavio Dotel and his wife Massiel, who welcomed their first child, Eduardo, on Monday. Dotel was beaming today when asked about the new addition.
  • Chris Jakubauskas (head contusion and concussion) remains in good spirits as he continues to slowly work his way back. He was able to begin light exercises on Monday and reported no recent headaches or dizziness.
  • You’ll notice again that Russell has the pitcher batting ninth again, which makes sense given McCutchen’s absence. Remember that the reasoning behind having the pitcher bat eighth was to get three hitters in front of McCutchen.
  • So here’s a good one: Paul Maholm got his ERA to drop from 4.83 to 4.26 before ever throwing a pitch on Tuesday night. How, you might ask? Well, Houston’s official scorer went back and changed a hit to an error in Maholm’s start there on the April 23, and that took away two earned runs from Maholm’s line.

Pirates lineup:

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

Cubs lineup:

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

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May 2: Pirates (10-14) @ Dodgers (10-14)

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

Garrett Jones spoke about his food-stuck-in-the-esophagus ordeal this morning, and you can read more about that on pirates.com in a bit. In short, it was a piece of beef that got stuck where the esophagus meets the stomach. Doctors had to administer anesthesia to Jones at the hospital yesterday, and while Jones was under, the doctors went down his throat with tubes to dislodge the piece of meat. The procedure lasted about 30-45 minutes.

Jones is back in the lineup today, though he is still battling a sore throat. He said he slept pretty well last night, unlike on Friday.

Now that I’m done playing doctor, here’s the rest of your news…

  • With Jones’ throat now cleared, the larger concern is his production at the plate. Jones’ batting average has dropped to .207 since going 9-for-51 in his last 15 games.
  • Octavio Dotel has left the team to fly to Pittsburgh and be with his wife, who is about to give birth with their first child.
  • Manager John Russell said that closing duties would likely fall to either Joel Hanrahan or Evan Meek today if need be. He said it won’t be Brendan Donnelly, who hasn’t pitched since Tuesday. 
  • Speaking of Donnelly, he was somewhat under the weather this morning. Apparently he wasn’t the only one in the clubhouse not feeling great either as he said something was going around.
  • For the first time this season, the Pirates are hitting their pitcher in the ninth spot. You’ll remember that Russell had the pitcher hitting eighth early this season in order to get two hitters in front of No. 2 hitter Andrew McCutchen. Well, with McCutchen now hitting third, that’s accomplished even with a more traditional batting order.
  • Today wraps up the team’s only 10-game road trip of the season. The only other three-city trip the club will make the season comes in late June when they jump from Texas to Oakland to Chicago.
  • This is also the final game that the Dodgers and Pirates will play in 2010. The season series is 3-3 so far, and with a win on Sunday, Pittsburgh would have its first winning season against LA since 2000.
  • Ryan Church is back in the lineup, with struggling first baseman Jeff Clement getting the day off. The move makes obvious sense, too. Church is 27-for-69 lifetime at Dodger Stadium in 20 games. Clement, on the other hand, is hitless in his last 15 at-bats. He has struck out eight times in that span.

Pirates lineup:

  1. Lastings Milledge (LF)
  2. Aki Iwamura (2B)
  3. Andrew McCutchen (CF)
  4. Garrett Jones (1B)
  5. Ryan Church (RF)
  6. Andy LaRoche (3B)
  7. Bobby Crosby (SS)
  8. Jason Jaramillo (C)
  9. Jeff Karstens (RHP)

Dodgers lineup:

  1. Xavier Paul (LF)
  2. Russell Martin (C)
  3. Andre Ethier (RF)
  4. Matt Kemp (CF)
  5. James Loney (1B)
  6. Ronnie Belliard (3B)
  7. Blake DeWitt (2B)
  8. Jamey Carroll (SS)
  9. Hiroki Kuroda (RHP)

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April 30: Pirates (10-12) @ Dodgers (8-14)

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

Dodger Stadium is proving to be a much more pleasant work setting today than it was yesterday. In addition to having issues with the blog software on Thursday (sorry, that’s why there was no usual pregame blog), the wind here yesterday was brutal. With winds apparently close to 40 mph, even laptops were being moved by the biggest gusts. It’s always a challenge when you’re trying to hold down your scorebook, notebooks, notes and media guide while typing.

And no, there were no windows to shield us from the element.

The winds are just mild today, so Charlie Morton won’t get the same benefit that Brian Burres did on Thursday when home runs were going to be near impossible to get through the wind tunnel. I feel like you could have labeled each of Morton’s last three starts as “critical” given his poor start, and this is yet another.

At some point — and the Pirates need it to be soon — Morton is going to have to prove that having great “stuff” can also make himself an effective big-league pitcher. As Morton told me yesterday, it all starts with his head. He hasn’t made any huge changes to his game plan. He simply wants to be aggressive and execute.

While we wait for Morton to take the mound, here is your news…

  • In case you missed it earlier, Kevin Hart was diagnosed with a torn labrum in his right shoulder on Friday. Pirates medical director Patrick DeMeo has recommended that Hart undergo season-ending surgery. Hart will seek a second opinion from Dr. James Andrews next week, but even he sounded resigned to the fact that his season is over when speaking by phone on Friday.
  • The Indianapolis rotation continues to be a merry-go-round of pitchers. The Pirates have already borrowed Chris Jakubauskas, Jeff Karstens and Burres. Now Hart is out for the season. Jakubauskas is recovering from a head injury, too. In order to fill Hart’s spot in the Triple-A rotation, the Pirates have promoted RHP Michael Crotta from Double-A Altoona.
  • Ross Ohlendorf gave the Pirates some good news on Friday with a 43-pitch start in an extended Spring Training game. Ohlendorf reported no issues with his back afterward. He was throwing consistently between 88-93 mph and reached 94 a few times with his fastball.
  • Ohlendorf will make a second rehab start on May 5 (location: TBD). If that goes well, he will make his return to the Pirates’ rotation on May 10.
  • That means that the Pirates will need to plug his spot in the rotation one more time. Burres is the most likely candidate to get that final spot start, though the Pirates haven’t written his name in pen yet.
  • Speaking of Triple-A starters, Brad Lincoln had a rocky outing with Indianapolis on Friday. He allowed six earned runs on seven hits in six innings against Pawtucket. He walked four and struck out three.
  • For those who didn’t stay up late last night, Evan Meek recorded his first Major League save on Thursday. Now, that does not mean the Pirates have a closer controversy going on. It was predetermined that Octavio Dotel would have the night off (he pitched two innings the day before), and Meek was simply the freshest arm. That said, you have to like what you saw from Meek in a 1-2-3 inning. He sure does seem to possess the skills — physically and mentally — to be a closer down the road.
  • Aki Iwamura is back in the leadoff spot after sitting with a cold on Thursday. He is 6-for-39 in his last 10 games.
  • Manager John Russell called it “just a day off” for left fielder Lastings Milledge on Friday. Russell has made it a point to keep his bench players active, especially Ryan Church. Russell noted he liked the matchup with Church against Chad Billingsley, though Church is just 2-for-14 against the right-hander. Church has had success at Dodger Stadium, however. Here he is 24-for-62 lifetime.
  • The Pirates’ shutout last night was their first at Dodger Stadium since 9/5/2000 when Jose Silva, Rich Loiselle and Marc Wilkins combined for one.
  • Though the Pirates have endured their share of blowout losses this season, the club is 7-1 in games decided by two runs or less. They’re 8-0 when leading after four innings, which is another sign of how dependant they are on decent starting pitching.
  • If the Pirates can win on Friday, it would mark the team’s first four-game road winning streak since 2007.

Pirates lineup:

  1. Aki Iwamura (2B)
  2. Andy LaRoche (3B)
  3. Andrew McCutchen (CF)
  4. Garrett Jones (RF)
  5. Ryan Church (LF)
  6. Ryan Doumit (C)
  7. Jeff Clement (1B)
  8. Charlie Morton (RHP)
  9. Bobby Crosby (SS)

Dodgers lineup:

  1. Xavier Paul (LF)
  2. Russell Martin (C)
  3. Andre Ethier (RF)
  4. Matt Kemp (CF)
  5. James Loney (1B)
  6. Casey Blake (3B)
  7. Blake DeWitt (2B)
  8. Jamey Carroll (SS)
  9. Chad Billingsley (RHP)

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04/08: Dodgers (0-2) @ Pirates (2-0)

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

The Pirates are on pace to win 162. Garrett Jones is on pace to hit 243 home runs. D.J. Carrasco, Evan Meek, Brendan Donnelly and Octavio Dotel are on pace to appear in every game this season.

OK, I only say this tongue-in-cheek to remind you that we are only two days in. And obviously it’s hard to make any definitive conclusions after two games. I don’t say this to sap the excitement that two thrilling wins have provided the fan base. I say it just to make sure we all stay in reality.

As for what I do think we can conclude… here are three things:

1. This team has some resolve and fight in them. Now, we’ll see if that maintains through the downs that are inevitable. But for now, you have to like the way the team fights.

2. This bullpen has the potential to be pretty good. Dotel is not going to get out of a jam like he did Wednesday every night. No one does. But the mix of looks and the mix of experience in that ‘pen sure does seem better than what the Pirates have had in recent years.

3. These players are confident that they can compete with anyone. Call it being naive if you’d like, but they don’t feel outmatched. Certainly, that’s part of the battle.

OK, as for your pregame notes…

  • Forecast still doesn’t look exceptionally good for this afternoon. The rain has stalled a bit but is still on its way. A rain delay isn’t what the Pirates need for many reasons, one of which is that their bullpen has already been worked pretty hard these last few days. The Pirates’ freshest arm is Hayden Penn, and his ability to go multiple innings could be critical if the Pirates do endure a rain delay.
  • Manager John Russell did say all relievers are available today if needed, though, for at least a little work.
  • Bobby Crosby, Delwyn Young and Ryan Church get their first starts of the season with the day game coming after a long night game. They are replacing Lastings Milledge, Jeff Clement and Ronny Cedeno. It’s hard to see much of a drop off there, which is a plus.
  • Charlie Morton is preparing for his start in Arizona on Friday and since I didn’t mention it earlier this week, he did throw most recently on Sunday. Morton stayed behind in Bradenton to throw 60 pitches (four innings) in a Double-A intrasquad game on Sunday to give him one more tuneup before the regular season start.
  • Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic (aka Mike and Mike) will be throwing out today’s ceremonial first pitch.
  • The Pirates are 2-0 for the first time since 2007. That Pittsburgh club swept a three-game set with the Astros to start the season.
  • Though the Pirates are just 10-24 against the Dodgers at PNC Park, Pittsburgh has won five of the last six meetings here. That includes taking three of four against LA late last September.
  • Two Minor League notes of interest (repeats from yesterday): Joel Hanrahan begins his Minor League rehab assignment with high-A Bradenton today. Kevin Hart will make the Opening Day start for Triple-A Indy tonight.

Pirates lineup:

  1. Aki Iwamura (2B)
  2. Andrew McCutchen (CF)
  3. Garrett Jones (1B)
  4. Ryan Doumit (C)
  5. Ryan Church (LF)
  6. Delwyn Young (RF)
  7. Andy LaRoche (3B)
  8. Paul Maholm (LHP)
  9. Bobby Crosby (SS)

Dodgers lineup:

  1. Rafael Furcal (SS)
  2. Reed Johnson (LF)
  3. Matt Kemp (CF)
  4. James Loney (1B)
  5. Ronnie Belliard (3B)
  6. Garret Anderson (RF)
  7. Jamey Carroll (2B)
  8. Brad Ausmus (C)
  9. Chad Billingsley (RHP)

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04/05: Dodgers @ Pirates

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

Interestingly enough, the Pirates and LA Dodgers have never met in a season opener. Now, the Brooklyn Dodgers did beat the Pirates twice on Opening Day (1953 and 1955), so there is some history there.

But before the 2010 season kicks off with a pitch from Zach Duke, let’s hit some pregame notes…

  • The Pirates’ batting order is as expected. Duke is hitting eighth and Andrew McCutchen is batting behind leadoff hitter Aki Iwamura. And though the Pirates never officially announced it, Jeff Clement is your first baseman du jour. He’s going to have to keep improving defensively, though, to keep that spot.
  • Six Pirates are on an Opening Day roster for the first time: McCutchen, Garrett Jones, Clement, John Raynor, Daniel McCutchen, Charlie Morton.
  • Octavio Dotel’s nine appearances on an Opening Day roster represents the club high.
  • Manager John Russell reported continued progress with right-hander Joel Hanrahan (right elbow injury). Hanrahan is eligible to come off the DL as early as April 10, but Russell said that Hanrahan’s pitching schedule has him lined up to come off on April 12. The Pirates haven’t publically said this, but you can expect Daniel McCutchen (who is pitching on April 11) to be sent down when Hanrahan comes off. Those dates sure do conveniently match up, huh?
  • By sending McCutchen down, the Pirates can keep him starting regularly. You’ll remember that his next two turns in the rotation were going to be skipped anyways. The Pirates can then use an eight-member bullpen for two weeks until another starter (could very well be Kevin Hart) is needed. This would also give the Pirates a total of three weeks to evaluate Hayden Penn.
  • For now, the Pirates plan on keeping Penn and D.J. Carrasco stretched out. Both would be long relief options if a starter is knocked out early.
  • There are no limitations with Dotel, who ended up pitching five innings in Grapefruit League play this spring after being slowed early by an oblique injury.
  • For anyone coming to the park today, gates open at 11:30 and on-field festivities will begin a bit before 1 pm. That includes a presentation to Andrew McCutchen, who was named Baseball America’s Rookie of the Year in 2009. Team introductions will begin shortly after 1.
  • The USA Today came out with its annual listing of Opening Day payrolls and has the Pirates sitting at $34.9 million. That is a 28 percent decrease from last year and the lowest payroll in the league. The season-ending payroll is obviously the bigger deal, but I know many of you were curious as to the current figure.
  • The Pirates have won three straight season openers. A fourth would give the club its longest string of season-opening wins since the Pirates won six straight from 1935-40.
  • This is the first time the Pirates have opened up at home since 2005. Overall, it’s just the 28th time the team has opened at home. In comparison, the Pirates have played 96 season openers on the road.

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)

Dodgers lineup:

  1. Rafael Furcal (SS)
  2. Russell Martin (C)
  3. Andre Ethier (RF)
  4. Manny Ramirez (LF)
  5. Matt Kemp (CF)
  6. James Loney (1B)
  7. Casey Blake (3B)
  8. Blake DeWitt (2B)
  9. Vicente Padilla (RHP)

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB

Day 38: Astros @ Pirates

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

This morning, manager John Russell revealed his plans for the Pirates’ lineup this season. It includes having the pitcher bat 8th and sliding Andrew McCutchen from the leadoff spot to the No. 2 hole. Aki Iwamura will bat at the top of the order, and Ronny Cedeno will hit in the 9th spot. The middle of the order, Russell noted, could be more interchangeable depending on the pitcher.

I’ll go into more detail and provide Russell’s explanations behind such a lineup in a story on pirates.com later, but you can debate his choices in the meantime.

Other news on a rainy Bradenton morning…

  • Cedeno has already been scratched from today’s lineup due to some tightness in his lower back. It is purely precautionary, and apparently Cedeno had been scratched late Sunday, too, but since the game in Clearwater never started, no one ever knew. He said he can’t pinpoint when or how the tightness started, but he expects to return to the lineup on Tuesday.
  • Ryan Church said his fractured left middle finger is just fine. He isn’t in the lineup on Monday, but is available off the bench.
  • Because of Sunday’s rainout, a handful of pitchers are pitching in a Minor League game today to get their work in. D.J. Carrasco is scheduled to throw three innings (45 pitches) at Pirate City. Brian Bass (two innings) and Jeremy Powell (one inning) are also scheduled to throw.
  • Right-hander Joel Hanrahan will up his workload to two innings (40 pitches) in a Minor League game on Tuesday.
  • With no cuts this morning, the Pirates still have 37 players in Major League camp. Rosters have to be set by 3 pm on Sunday.
  • Tomorrow’s scheduled pitchers: Charlie Morton (6/7 innings, 95 pitches), Javier Lopez, Vinnie Chulk, Anthony Claggett, Jeff Karstens, Steven Jackson.
  • Closer Octavio Dotel will have his first back-to-back outing today. He threw one scoreless inning in Port Charlotte on Sunday.
  • One week until Opening Day, folks! Currently, the extended day forecast calls for a high of 66 degrees and rain showers in Pittsburgh next Monday. I’ll take the 60s as long as we can get rid of that rain.
  • Kudos to V. M Whitaker who is leading (by a decent margin, I might add) our Bucs Bits Bloggers NCAA tourney challenge through the second weekend. My bracket is a mess, though I know I have a lot of company in that department. I will say my rooting interest the rest of the way lies with Butler, who I did see play at Hinkle Fieldhouse earlier this season.

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. Paul Maholm (LHP)
  9. Bobby Crosby (SS)

Pitchers: Maholm (6 innings/90 pitches), Lopez, Jack Taschner, Evan Meek, Octavio Dotel

Astros lineup:

  1. Jeff Keppinger (2B)
  2. J.R. Towles (C)
  3. Hunter Pence (RF)
  4. Geoff Blum (SS)
  5. Jason Michaels (CF)
  6. Chris Johnson (3B)
  7. Chris Shelton (1B)
  8. Edwin Maysonet (LF)
  9. Gustavo Chacin (LHP)

Pitchers: Chacin, Brandon Lyon, Sammy Gervacio, Wilton Lopez

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB

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