Pittsburgh Pirates Roundtable #17

Question #1:
Which Pirates’ pitcher would you love to see have a strong Spring Training? Why is it important for him to perform in Bradenton?

Chris from The Unofficial Pittsburgh Pirates Message Board:
Salomon Torres is an important pitcher on the Pirates’ staff with his new role as the full-time closer. Spring Training is important for him because of the slow start he got off to in 2006. Jim Tracy and Jim Colborn need to be careful how he is used, because he is in a different role as the closer, which usually is a one-inning stint. If Torres is blowing saves early, it could affect the Pirates’ ability to get off to a fast start and carry over the good second half of 2006.
Andrew/azibuck commentor from Bucs Dugout:
Yo Herrera. With injuries and poor talent evaluation, and the good young pitchers already in Pittsburgh, the system is extremely thin with pitching. Barring injury, 2007 looks solid with the big three, Gorzelanny, and Armas/Chacon, plus the marginal guys like Youman and McLeary. If Herrera has a good spring, it will provide a greater margin for error in the event that the back-end guys tank, or one of the big three is hurt. It’s not extremely important that he have a strong Spring Training, because he’s not costing all that much money. But if he performs, it will restore faith in the organization’s ability to spot and sign talent. If he performs really well, we can even think about trading a pitcher, or having Herrera called up to replace the weakest link in the rotation.
Cory, the moderator:
As much as I respect Ian Snell’s skills, and as much as I admire his leading the staff in wins in 2006, his peripherals tell me that he didn’t have that impressive of a year. I’m fairly certain that Zach Duke will continue to progress in 2007, and I’m leaning towards expressing the same trust in Tom Gorzelanny. No one expects much from Paul Maholm or Tony Armas, so a strong Spring from them isn’t imperative. We have enough bullpen arms to fill out three or four 25-man rosters, so I’m not concerned with how our relievers throw in camp. I’d feel a lot better entering the season knowing that Snell was dominant in Grapefruit League play. If he starts hot and the rest of the pitchers perform to their career numbers, our pitching staff could be strong enough to keep the Bucs hovering near .500–or dare I say, above it–all year long.
Randy from Pittsburgh Lumber Co.:
Ryan Vogelsong needs to have a big Spring to prove he was worth giving up Jason Schmidt for. Oh wait, that was 2004. It’d be a great problem to have if a number of pitchers stepped forward this year and battled for a spot on the club. I give a half a pick to both John Van Benschoten and Sean Burnett. Van Benschoten turns 27 in April and Burnett will be 25 later in 2007. Both are former first round picks. Both are recovering from arm trouble. Both struggled in the minors last year (though Van Benschoten didn’t pitch much). Both of them enjoy the music of ABBA. Okay, that last point I made up. The Post-Gazette has mentioned in light of the apparent arm issues Brad Lincoln has that the Bucs have had rotten luck with pitchers taken in the first round. One of these two guys needs to come through.
Nicolas from “82”:
I would like to see strong spring trainings from three players: Tony Armas, Jr. and Yoslan Herrera or Sean Burnett. It is important for Armas to perform because I know there is an above average starter hidden in that right arm of his, and if he can rediscover it (or something close to it), that gives us one less question going into the season. If we can also get a shining performance from Hererra and/or Burnett, the Pirates would once again have the happy problem of more quality pitching than spots to use them. Even if odds are 50/50 that Herrera or Burnett would start at AAA initially even with a good showing, they would still give the Bucs the luxury of flipping Armas (and/or Chacon?) when a good deal came along.
Tony from The Confluence:
It has to be Zach Duke. Those four young starters are the absolute key to any kind of success that Pirate fans have to hope for, and if they falter, it’s just going to be more of the same. Duke needs to start the transformation into the staff ace. Duke has started to become the pitcher when on every fifth day, he can get the ball and the Pirates should get a win. He’s been in the league for over a full year now, and should have the book on the vast majority of National League hitters by now. If Duke and one or two of the other two get off to strong starts, the Pirates could possibly contend for a wild card. But if they continue to stumble as they did for most of last year, it’ll just be year number 15 of the same for the Pirates.
Bones from Honest Wagner:
Yoslan Herrera. Not having pitched in two years, Herrera’s current skill set is unknown. The early reports for Yo that we’ve seen have all been positive. Optimistically, a strong Spring Training could reveal that Herrera has the skills to join the rotation within the next year and that he doesn’t have that much rust to shake off. Pessimistically, in this mythical land where Littlefield signings reap unexpectedly positive rewards, Herrera breaks out, only to be gored, mid-delivery, by a pack of rabid unicorns. Regardless, we’d also love to see Ian Snell continue his emergence as staff ace, beginning right now.
Harry from What’s Wrong With Portland, Maine?:
Paul Maholm. I think that Maholm had the least promising 2006, and is probably the most expendable of all Pirate starting pitchers. He needs to have a good year in 2007, or I seriously think he may get traded. I see him out next year and Herrera in.
Question #2:
Who will be the subject of our scrutiny next year at this time? Who will enter Spring Training 2008 needing to impress?

Andrew/azibuck commentor from Bucs Dugout:
The subject of our scrutiny will be Todd Redmond. I think he could blitz through Lynchburg and Altoona in the same way Duke did a few years ago. However, being young, he won’t “need” to impress. Just a hunch, but the guy who will “need” to impress this time next year will be Gorzelanny. He’s got the stuff, but I’m not sure about his makeup. If he can’t handle adversity this year and ends up getting sent down for an extended period, we might begin to wonder if he’ll put it together and have a future in Pittsburgh. Again, that’s just a hunch.
Randy from Pittsburgh Lumber Co.:
There are a couple of guys that come to mind. But I think next year will be put up or shut up time for Neil Walker.
Cory, the moderator:
I think next year at this time, we’ll be taking a close look at both Xavier Nady and Chris Duffy. Even though X is high on Littlefield’s list of favorites, he showed in the second half of 2006 that he’ll struggle to hit for power in PNC Park. If he doesn’t provide a batting average well over .300, then he could be the one battling Andrew McCutchen for a starting job, as he won’t hit many more than 15 home runs and his defense will be ordinary.
On the other hand, if Nady plays to his potential and has a strong 2008 campaign, it could be Duffy who is forced to lock horns with McCutchen. No matter what, I think Andrew is going to be ready for the majors at the start of next year. Jason Bay isn’t going anywhere, so we’ll be keeping an eye on our other two outfielders as Littlefield tries to determine who stays and who goes.
Tony from The Confluence:
If I had to guess, it’ll be Jack Wilson. I hope I’m wrong, but Jack had absolutely no right to call out Castillo the way he did several weeks ago. Not that I disagree with his statements, but Jack did nothing on his own end to warrant criticizing Castillo. The Pirates will be hoisting up Wilson once again as the #2 hitter, which I strongly disagree with. But I believe that Wilson will once again disappoint and be an offensive liability.
Chris from The Unofficial Pittsburgh Pirates Message Board:
That is hard to say, but it might be Andrew McCutcheon, just because of the high expectations of the young center fielder. This might not be an issue if Chris Duffy has a good 2007, which lessens the pressure of McCutcheon to make the big club. However, if Duffy is a bust this season, the Pirates might feel obligated to bring McCutheon up in 2008 even if he is not ready.
Nicolas from “82”:
Subject of scrutiny…Well, I’m going to be optimistic and say that the players we have now will continue to move another notch up the food chain, which means the players under scrutiny in Spring Training ’08 will be players expected to start: Neil Walker and Brian Bixler. Both are a good spring — good season — good spring away from Opening Day 2008. However, they are also both destined for “what happened?” territory if any of those three chunks of time goes wrong. I hope to be scrutinizing them in a “I can’t believe he’s starting Opening Day” way, but optimism is not the strong point of a Pirate fan.
Bones from Honest Wagner:
Andrew McCutchen. This time next year, the brightest star in the Pirates’ minors will have had one year of AA (and potentially AAA) experience. The scrutiny in 2008 will be over whether McCutchen is ready to start for the Bucs, and if so, where in the outfield he’d play. Center field is the obvious choice, unless Duffy breaks out. Neil Walker also seems likely to be scrutinized in spring 2008. Walker will enter Spring Training 2008 needing to impress that he should start at third base in 2008.
Harry from What’s Wrong With Portland, Maine?:
I truly can’t say right now. There is no way to predict what moves DL will make, who will get injured, and who will simply regress. We’re going to have to wait till about mid-summer to answer this.

Author: PLCArchives

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