Kevin Correia took the mound at PNC Park on Wednesday afternoon fighting for a spot in the rotation. The Pirates traded for left-hander Wandy Rodriguez on Tuesday night, which will make one of Pittsburgh’s current starters an odd man out. Rodriguez is expected to be added to the active roster on Thursday, in which the club will make a corresponding roster move.
“We’re going to wait until we get our guys together and round our guys up and talk to them all,” Manger Clint Hurdle said. “We’ve talked about a lot of things.”
Rodriguez’s turn in the rotation on normal days rest is set for Saturday in Houston. Although, Hurdle said he is unsure of how they will shuffle the rotation. Fellow southpaw Erik Bedard is currently slated for that day, but Hurdle said he didn’t want to pitch the two lefties on back-to-back games.
“He could very well slide into pitching on his normal day, his next turn,” Hurdle said. “And then we’d make some adjustments accordingly. I think at this time we’ll probably also try and stay away from him being piggybacked with Erik if that’s the way it all falls out. We still got to move a man out of the rotation.”
On Sunday, both Hurdle and General Manager Neal Huntington said they are considering spot starters to step in during the club’s 20 game stretch starting August 3 without a day off. Brad Lincoln, Jeff Locke and Justin Wilson were names that were all considered in the discussion. After the trade, Hurdle said he is considering that the starter removed from the rotation could step in and fill that void.
“It very well could fall that way,” Hurdle said. “That’s another conversation we’ve had in place.”
So who is the one to go? Right-handers A.J. Burnett and James McDonald can be certainly thrown out of the mix. And with the recent adjustments from Bedard, he is likely a safe bet in the rotation. Jeff Karstens or Correia, unless one is traded before the deadline, could wind up in the bullpen.
Correia stepped up in a big way on Wednesday afternoon and helped the Pirates snap their two game losing streak. The right-hander tossed six innings holding the Chicago Cubs to just two runs on four hits with two walks and four strikeouts. Correia needed just 78 pitches in his 19th outing of the season before Hurdle handed the remainder of the game over to the bullpen.
“I’m out there to try to get wins,” Correia said. “At this point in my career, I’m not really concerned with my ERA or anything like that. I want to go out there and I want to win games for the team. However that has to happen, I’m happy to get it done that way.”
The two runs that Correia allowed came in the first and third frames. After retiring his first two batters to start the game, Correia fell behind to rookie Anthony Rizzo. The first baseman took an 0-2 pitch for a ‘no doubt about it homer’ to right field.
In the third, David DeJesus launched what would be ruled a double to right-center field just shy of a home run. After review the play was ruled a two bagger due to fan interference leaning over the foul line to catch the ball. The run, however, scored when Rizzo drove in his second RBI of the game with a base knock to right. Correia left the runner stranded after picking up his fourth strikeout of the game.
“I made a couple bad pitches to Rizzo and that was about it,” Correia said. “Besides that, everything else was pretty much as planned.”
Correia is aware that someone will be removed from the rotation, but said that was not on his mind this afternoon.
“Something is going to happen,” Correia said. “[Rodriguez is] a good pitcher obviously. He’s going to come in here and help the team. We’re obviously going to have to some sort of decision at some point. I was pitching today and I wasn’t putting a lot of thought into it. I was just focused on this game because it was an important game. I haven’t gotten to talk to anybody about it really. I have no idea. Obviously it’s going to change something.”
Rodriguez has posted a 3.79 ERA over 21 starts with 89 strikeouts over 130.2 innings. Hurdle said that he spoke with Rodriguez last night after the game and is excited to have him on board.
“It was good to hear his voice,” Hurdle said. “I told him I’ve been trying to figure ways to beat him since he got in the league. It’s nice to join forces…One of the biggest attributes — one of the three best left-handed pitchers behind Hamels and Kershaw the last three years. Experience, stuff. I don’t think there’s one. It’s the package.”
“I believe that the one thing that you want to have in place is a clubhouse that can embrace players of all different gender, nationality, origins and bond them up a little bit. This is a guy that’s pitched in a very challenging situation and atmosphere for the past eight years. It think we’ve got some great diversity out there to help him along the way. He hasn’t mastered English. He’s more comfortable with Spanish. We have plenty of people that speak Spanish. We’ve got three coaches on my staff that speak fluent Spanish. We’ve got a handful of players out there that identify with it. I’m sure Burnett will get involved in his own way, [Rod] Barajas. Some of the other guys.”
“The excitement of getting a bump up in the standings combined with that. A lot of it will be on how quickly we can get him to get comfortable. That’s always going to be a challenge. I don’t expect that the first day by any means. That will be the thing we try to get in place sooner than later. To get him in a comfort zone that’s good and competitive.”
Zoltan Throws Out the First Pitch
The Zoltan “Z” has been taking over Pittsburgh. The quirky hand symbol, which first started back in May while on the road in Atlanta, has been not only bonding the Pirates together, but the fans and the city as well. If you don’t know the story behind the “Z”, read here.
The craze caught on so much that the character in the movie, the Zoltan himself, threw out the first pitch prior to the game on Wednesday afternoon. Hal Sparks threw to Rod Barajas, who came up with the idea to flash it when the club hit for extra bases or an RBI, and held up his own “Z” in front of the crowd at PNC Park.
The star from “Dude, Where’s My Car?” talked about the craze before the game this afternoon.
— On coming up with the “Z” symbol in the movie: “It was originally in the call sheet for the first day of shooting. Anybody that came up with the Zoltan hand symbol gets like $29.65. It was a ridiculous number, I forget what it was exactly. I still have it somewhere. So I went, ‘I’m Zoltan, I have to be the one that wins.’ It wasn’t even about the money, it was about being the one. I came up with several different versions, one that included using Spock symbols and then putting them together, which made a ‘Z’. It was too complicated. Too few people could do the Spock symbol. So I had to go back to the drawing board. The simplest, quickest one I could come up with was just flashing a big giant ‘Z’. I was like, alright, it’s simple but it may work. I came back the second day of shooting and they had all the extras in the corner in their bubble wrap jumpsuits practicing the hand symbols. So, I said, ‘I guess that’s it. That was the winner.’”
— On the craze: “This doesn’t surprise me at all. Not that anything would anymore. But it’s so obtuse. It’s so just odd. It’s not like the they had a player that’s the magic player on the team, it just became a thing. It made it nice. And that’s what makes it sweet, organic and fun. My girlfriend’s family is from here. And they’re all huge Pirates fans. They come to games all the time. Half of them we invited them to come with us today and they already had tickets.”
— How he found out about the team flashing the “Z”: “It almost happened the same day. I started getting all these tweets. They’re like ‘@HalSparks = Zoltan.’ And I was like, ‘yeah, that was a while back. Get over it. That’s what you’re picking up on right now?’ Then I noticed all the ‘Go Bucs’ kind of hash tags associated with it. And then that afternoon it was kind of a firestorm…I answered one of them. It was Pirates Zoltan on Twitter and they said, ‘You should come and throw out the first pitch or sing the National Anthem.’ And they had a picture of one of them flashing the Z. I was like, I insist. So, I called everyone on my team, my publicist, agents. I don’t know how to make this happen, but it has to happen immediately.”
— On rooting for the Pirates: “We’re fully behind the Pirates…This is just awesome the way this has worked out. It’s absurd. And funny, and stupid, and amazing, and great, and silly, and terrific. In that order. It’s just the silliness of it.”
— Sparks didn’t wear bubble wrap when he took the mound. He did sport a Pirates jersey with “Zoltan” on the back. He said if he gets the opportunity to come back if the Pirates make the playoffs, he’d go all out: “We were hoping that we could stop by a hardware store and get bubble wrap for a bubble wrap red carpet so I could walk out to the mound going, ‘Crack. Crack. Crack.’ …The return visit for game five or whatever, we will have a whole red bubble wrap that’s mic’d so everyone can hear the crackle when I walk out. That must occur. So they must win today and continue to win through the rest of the season. There is no option but victory.”
Pirates Set Crowd Record on Wednesday
33,935 fans came out on Wednesday afternoon to watch the Pirates beat the Cubs, 3-2. Two days ago, Pittsburgh saw their biggest crowd ever on a Monday come out. And this afternoon set another record. Today marked the highest attendance for a 12:35 start in PNC Park History. The fans in Pittsburgh continue to come out and watch the Bucs, who are currently two games out of first place in the National League Central.
“A Wednesday 12:30 game. That crowd. Significant. Special,” Hurdle said. “I cant wait to get stuck in traffic on the way to the airport. I mean, literally. Those are good things. Those are good signs. You feel it. You absolutely feel it…There’s a good vibe in the clubhouse because of the fan support. The buzz in the city. The synergy downtown. You can feel it. It’s real and it’s up to us to keep pushing it forward.”
“I continue to challenge these guys — we’re here to make history. So you’ve got to think different. You’ve got to believe different.”