Don Kelly, Tiger Transplant

A new face to the Pirates’ system:
born: 2/15/80�� Butler, Pennsylvania
Ht: 6′ 4″���� Wt: 190 lb��������� B: Left��� T:� Right
Kelly is a Pittsburgh area native who attended Mount Lebanon High School and Point Park College (in downtown Pittsburgh).� He was drafted by the Detroit Tigers in 2001, and progressed steadily up through their system.� He was a Florida State League All-Star in 2003, with a .317 AVG and 38 RBI for Lakeland (A+).� His 2004 season was cut short due to a shoulder injury after playing only 28 games for Erie (AA).� He was�again named to the All-Star team in 2005, this time�for the Eastern League, hitting .340 with 54 RBI for Erie.� He finished the 2005 season with Toledo (AAA), hitting .250 in 43 games.� In Erie,�Kelly played more third base than shortstop, though in Toledo he played shortstop in 34 of those 43 games.� �
Kelly started the 2006 season with Toledo, though he struggled at the plate and in the field, hitting .228 with 19 RBI, and making 12 errors.� He ran reasonable well, stealing 18 bases.� On July 4,�Kelly was reassigned to Erie, where things went better for him.� He hit for a .275 AVG and 24 RBI to finish out the season with Erie.�
Kelly�became a minor league free agent in the off season and jumped at the chance to sign with his hometown�Pirates.� It is also a family affair — his brother-in-law (wife’s brother) is Neil Walker, the Pirates’ catcher/third�base prospect.� Kelly has done well in spring training.� He has played second base, third base, and shortstop, and has done well at all positions.� He is hitting .296, with 3 RBI.� He is expected to hit well for average but not for much power, and has the speed to steal more than a few bases.� His fielding needs to continue to improve, but he has the advantage of being able to play all the infield positions if necessary.� He is expected to begin the 2007 in Indianapolis.�
Brian Bixler continues to hit well, going 1 for 2 yesterday, for a .450 AVG.� It would be interesting to have Bixler and Kelly together in Indy.
Brad Eldred is surprising many people at how well he is doing with his transformation into an outfielder.� He has not yet had to chase down any wild fly balls, but he is making the routine ones look fairly routine.� And, he has continued to hit, going 3 for 4 with two doubles on Saturday, though 0 for 2 yesterday, for a .478 AVG.� He might force�the Pirates’ management to have to make a difficult decision:� Keep him on the Pirates’ bench to keep his bat?� Send him to Indy to learn more about playing the outfield and continue to work on�plate discipline?
Sean Burnett pitched 3 innings on Friday, giving up one hit, two walks,�and one unearned run.� He has�not given up an earned run in any of his Grapefruit League appearances.�
The Pirates announced more roster reassignments today.� According to the�mlb webcast, these are the players who were sent to the Minor League camp:� Dave Davidson RHP,�Romulo Sanchez LHP, Josh Shortslef LHP, Allan Simpson RHP,�Franquelis Osario RHP, Carlos Maldonado C, Javier Guzman INF, Eddy Garabito INF,�Vic Buttler OF, Nyjer Morgan OF, Rajai Davis OF.�� The Indians’ begin playing spring training games later this week.
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Shane Youman — one taste is not enough

A pitcher who�had a short taste of the Pirates’ at the end of last season….
born: 10/11/1979� in New Iberia, Louisiana
ht: 6′ 4″���� wt: 220 lb
B: Left���� T: Left
Shane Youman (pronounced YOU-min) was first selected by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1997 draft, but elected not to sign.� Instead, he went to college at Louisiana State University, and played with the LSU Tigers in the 2000 College World Series.� In 2001 he was drafted again, this time by the Pirates.� In his first three years in the Pirates’ minor league system, in Williamsport, Hickory, and Lynchburg, Youman was almost exclusively a relief pitcher, making only one start, but earning 19 saves, with 12 of those coming at Hickory in 2003.� In 2005 with Altoona, he was also primarily a reliever, earning a 4.46 ERA in 39 relief appearances.� He also started 5 games towards the end of the season, winning 4 of the games (no losses) with a 2.54 ERA.� He finished the year with 101.0 innings pitched, 3.92 ERA, 1.49 WHIP, 48 walks, and 77� strikeouts.
Youman started the 2006 season again in the Altoona bullpen.� After 7 outings, he had pitched 22.2 innings, with a 1.59 ERA, 3 walks, and 10 strikeouts.� He was called up to Indianapolis on May 11th, to make a spot appearance in relief.� He pitched two innings and gave up 4 runs.� He returned to Altoona and made his first start with�the Curve on May 16th.� He made a total of 11 starts for the rest of his time with Altoona, and won his last 7 decisions, for a record of 7 wins and 2 losses.� He was named to the Eastern League’s Southern Division All-Star team, and was the starting pitcher for the Southern Division.� He pitched the first inning of the All-Star game, retiring the side in order, including two strikeouts.���Youman returned to Indianapolis on July 31st, where he made 7 more appearances, all starts.� He finished with 4 wins and no losses, and a 4.46 ERA and 1.23 WHIP in 42.1 innings, with 10 walks and 19 strikeouts.
�Youman was promoted to the Pirates at the end of Indianapolis’s season, and made his MLB debut on Sept 10th.� He pitched five shutout innings, scattering three hits (one was a double) and three walks.� In the bottom of the 6th, though, he started off the inning by giving up a four-pitch walk followed by two singles and a sacrifice fly, and he was removed.� A subsequent single meant that Youman was charged with three earned runs and the loss.� He made two more starts and two relief appearances for the Pirates, finishing with no wins and 2 losses, for a 2.91 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in 21.2 innings, with 10 walks and 5 strikeouts.� He also hit a bit: 3 hits in 7 AB’s, for a .429 AVG, with one RBI.� Youman also pitched for Caracas in the Venezuelan Winter League, but only appeared in two games, both starts and both for losses, giving up 8 earned runs in only 3 innings.�
In spring training so far, Youman has appeared�in two Grapefruit League games for�the Pirates.� He has pitched 5 innings and given up 4 hits but no earned�runs, with two strikeouts.� He is still very much in contention for a spot on the Pirates’ Opening Day roster.� It could be either as a starter or a reliever –and Youman doesn’t care, as long as he’s there.� If not, then he’ll be back at Indianapolis, but probably not for long.
Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Youman yesterday:��.���Apparently Youman can cook too!
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Brian Bixler

A look at a possible middle infielder for the Indianapolis Indians….



born: 10/22/82��� in Sandusky, Ohio

Ht: 6′ 1″�� Wt: 190 lb

B: Right���� T: Right

Bixler was drafted by the Pirates in the second round of the 2004 draft.� He got off to a slower start than expected in Williamsport in 2004 and in Hickory in 2005.� His batting average was decent, .276 and .281 respectively, and he stole a 21 bases with Hickory, but he showed poor discipline at the plate, averaging about one strikeout per game in both years.� His fielding was also a problem, committing 33 errors at Hickory.

Things began to turn around in 2006 for Bixler.� He began the season at Lynchburg, where he hit .303 AVG with 5 HR’s and 33 RBI, and he stole 18 bases in 73 games.� He drew more walks and struck out a bit less.� He continued to make progress with the glove too, and he was named to both the mid-season and post-season Carolina League All-Star teams.� In mid-season, Bixler was promoted to Altoona.� There he continued to hit well, for a .301 AVG, with 3 HR’s and 19�RBI,�and he stole 6 bases.��He had a particularly strong August, hitting .353 with 10 doubles and one home run.� He continued to improve in the field and in his patience at the plate.� Bixler played winter ball in the Hawaiian Winter League, where he appeared in 17 games for the Honolulu Sharks.� He hit for a .304 AVG and stole 2 bases.�

Bixler was invited to Pirates’ spring training as a non-roster invitee.� So far, he has appeared in 4 Grapefruit League games,�and�hit .500, including a triple and a home run, in 12 AB’s.� Pirates’ director of player development, Brian Graham, has called Bixler “the most improved player in the system”.� He continues to hit, though not with a lot of power.� His plate discipline has improved, as has his fielding.� He appears to be heading for Indianapolis to begin the 2007 season, where he should be expected to work on plate discipline and fielding, and continue to hit well and steal bases.�

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Stat Rat Answers

Could you remember those stats from last season?
For each of the Pirates’ minor league affiliates in 2006:
Which player�had the most home runs?
AAA Indianapolis Indians — Chris Richards, 17
AA Altoona Curve — Ray Sadler, 15
A Lynchburg Hillcats — Steven Pearce, 14
A Hickory Crawdads– Brad Corley, 16
A/SS Williamsport Crosscutters (last year’s affiliate) — Alexander Presley, Jared Keel, Kent Sakamoto, 3 each
R GCL Pirates– Justin Byler and Victor Igsema, 5 each
Which player�had the most RBI?
AAA Indianapolis Indians — Chris Richards, 67
AA Altoona Curve — Simon Pond, 78
A Lynchburg Hillcats — Michael Carlin, 74
A Hickory Crawdads — Brad Corley, 100
A/SS Williamsport Crosscutters — Alexander Presley and Kent Sakamoto, 23 each
R GCL Pirates — Justin Byler, 28
Which pitcher gave up the most home runs?
AAA Indianapolis Indians –� Sean Burnett, 13
AA Altoona Curve — Michael Connolly, 18
A Lynchburg Hillcats — Matt Guillory, 17
A Hickory Crawdads –Luis Valdez, 20
A/SS Williamsport Crosscutters — Henry Cabrera, 6
R GCL Pirates –Rafael Delossantos, 3
Brad Eldred is going to try playing in the outfield, something he hasn’t done since college.� It’s an attempt to give him more options, and so a better chance of being able to stay or move up quickly to the Pirates.� No guarantee that several appearances in the outfield over the next few weeks would secure him a spot on the 25-man Pirates’ roster for Opening Day, of course.� They might still send him to Indianapolis, with the directive to work on his outfield skills here.
Jim Tracy, quoted in�today’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette by Dejan Kovacevic:
“We haven’t ruled out the fact that Brad Eldred can be part of this club,” Tracy replied. “I’m certainly not sitting here saying no to that, but I’m also not saying yes. We like what we’ve seen of the player, the adjustments he’s made at the plate and the defensive improvements, too. Have you seen how much better his footwork is at first base this spring than it was last spring?”
�And yesterday in the Post-Gazette:
“He’s obviously seeing the ball much better,” Tracy said. “He’s gotten himself into better counts and is swinging at better pitches.”
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Stat Rat Trivia

More trivia questions, this time not just for the Indians.� No cheating!
For each of the Pirates’ minor league affiliates in 2006:
1. Which player had the most home runs?
2. Which player had the most RBI?
3. Which pitcher gave up the most home runs?
Answers later today, or maybe tomorrow.
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