Pirates Hope to Play Spoiler Role Against Mets

Last September, the Mets came into town with a chance to clinch a division title. The Pirates weren’t having any of it, sweeping New York in arguably the most exciting three-game set I’ve attended at PNC Park. Today’s series won’t have that same feel—I doubt thousands of Met fans will make the trip to Pittsburgh as they did last year—but the Pirates have an opportunity to play the spoiler role...

Read More

Games #115 and #116 vs. San Francisco

PNC Park | 5:05 | Maholm vs. Cain | Youman vs. Lowry | Box Game 1 | Box Game 2 Hard to argue with winning four of five. Paul Maholm tossed a complete game dandy in the first game. The Bucs got to Matt Cain with three runs in the first inning, courtesy of Nate McLouth and Jose Castillo. Maholm allowed just three hits and no walks. Josh Phelps was forced to catch the second game as Ronny Paulino caught the first and Ryan Doumit left the...

Read More

Few Gems in Pirates’ Minor-League Rotations

As I did for the Pirates

Read More

Steigerwald Exposes Bonds as the Scum He Is

After playing a three-game set in San Francisco over the weekend, the Pirates and Giants have flown cross-country to make up two rained out contests. The Pittsburgh Baseball Club will welcome Barry Bonds with open arms tonight, having planned a video tribute to the expatriated slugger to celebrate his breaking of the home-run record. But John Steigerwald says our fans should show Barry all the respect he deserves by booing his ass out...

Read More

Few Gems in Pirates’ Minor-League Rotations

As I did for the Pirates? catchers and infielders last Tuesday and outfielders on Thursday, I?m here to provide an update of sorts on the progression of our minor-league starting pitchers.
Beginning with Indianapolis and ending with State College, I?ll list each affiliate’s rotation and try to separate the legitimate talent from the veteran filler.
As I said last week, I?ve only included stats for interesting players; that is, if you?re 30 years old and still in Double-A, I didn?t bother looking up your numbers.


Indianapolis

IP

ERA

H

BB

K

W

L

Bryan Bullington

125.1

3.88

120

51

70

10

6

Marty McLeary

91.2

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sean Burnett

70.1

4.48

83

39

31

4

5

John Van Benschoten

85.2

2.21

73

38

59

9

4

Michael Tejera

103.2

3.65

100

34

56

7

2

Victor Zambrano

4.0

 

 

 

 

 

 

Indianapolis’ staff can be sorted into two categories: Decent pitchers trying to recover from surgery (Bullington, Burnett, Van Benschoten) and organizational soldiers filling out a staff (McLeary, Tejera, Zambrano). With the recent success the Pirates have had in promoting pitchers—Ian Snell, Tom Gorzelanny, Paul Maholm, Zach Duke, etc.—it’s no wonder that the Triple-A rotation is on the weak side.
Control is an issue throughout the organization, and that’s certainly the case here. The three rehabbing starters still have yet to regain their touch.
Bullington, Burnett and Van Benschoten might get another shot at the bigs, but their window is closing fast. Burnett has the most upside in my estimation, but he’s also produced the least results.


Altoona

IP

ERA

H

BB

K

W

L

Josh Shortslef

125.1

4.52

138

52

73

3

12

Yoslan Herrera

109.2

4.43

128

32

57

6

6

Luis Munoz

112.1

3.77

105

28

77

10

4

Dewon Brazelton

59.2

4.22

66

14

31

3

3

Wardell Starling

77.2

7.07

95

32

48

3

8

Todd Redmond

11.1

2.38

9

2

9

1

0

A motley crew is pitching for Altoona.
At 25, Josh Shortslef is a waste of a 40-man roster spot. After being selected in the sixth round of the 2000 draft, he failed to stay healthy—never throwing more than 125 innings in a season. It was recently mentioned that the player to be named later in the Matt Morris trade would be chosen from a list of pitchers on the 40-man. I wouldn’t shed a tear if Shortslef was headed to San Francisco.
Herrera and Redmond are the prospects at Double-A, though they come from very different backgrounds. Herrera is a Cuban defector pitching for the first time in America after taking two years off from professional baseball. He still needs a lot of polish, but he may have the raw skills to have an impact down the line. Redmond, on the other hand, is a 22-year-old with lots of polish but not as much “stuff.” He’s progressed nicely after being selected in the 39th round of the 2004 draft.
Munoz and Brazelton are old for the level and can’t be considered prospects. Starling was highly regarded after a solid 2006 season, but he’s struggled in 2007. He’ll need to log innings in a winter league to be thought of as anything more than filler going forward.


Lynchburg

IP

ERA

H

BB

K

W

L

Kyle Bloom

115.1

5.15

127

51

74

9

9

Derek Hankins

91.1

5.22

103

29

62

8

4

Clayton Hamilton

69.1

6.36

85

25

33

3

7

Serguey Linares

62.2

4.60

59

35

25

4

6

Jean Garavito

102.0

3.79

100

36

57

5

5

Blair Johnson

29.0

6.21

33

14

21

1

3

Those are some ugly stats. It’s clear Lynchburg’s rotation isn’t one of the Pirates’ strongest.
Linares and Garavito are interesting because of their backgrounds. Linares was signed this season, along with Herrera, as a Cuban defector. He was selected to the Futures Game despite mediocre numbers. It’s doubtful that he’ll pan out any time soon, but he did throw nearly 100 miles per hour before suffering from a rotator cuff problem.
Garavito is a 22-year-old out of Venezuela—meaning he may or may not be 25 or 30. His numbers were fantastic in May and June before being rocked in July and August. His ground ball percentage is at 57 percent this season, contributing to a somewhat low BABIP of .285. He might be worth keeping an eye on if he can raise his strikeout-to-walk ratio.


Hickory

IP

ERA

H

BB

K

W

L

Jared Hughes

121.1

4.38

135

46

84

7

7

Michael Crotta

123.2

4.22

144

25

67

9

5

Bradley Clapp

94.2

6.08

108

36

59

5

9

Henry Cabrera

69.2

5.30

80

22

67

4

5

Jeffrey Sues

31.1

7.18

37

19

26

3

2

Matt McSwain

39.1

4.81

35

16

36

2

0

Hughes, at 6’7″, 220 lbs., is a big, 22-year-old righty. He was selected in the fourth round of the 2006 draft. Like Garavito, he threw well in the middle months of the season but has tailed off as of late. He also keeps the ball on the ground and needs to improve his control.
Crotta hasn’t had an overwhelmingly successful year, but he has thrown quality starts in six of his last seven outings. After putting up a 2.78 ERA in July, he’s allowed just one run and six hits in 12 August innings.


State College

IP

ERA

H

BB

K

W

L

Anthony Watson

53.2

2.52

47

7

40

6

1

Moises Robles

54.2

3.46

58

8

28

3

7

Matthew Foust

39.2

3.63

30

28

36

2

4

Nicolas Suero

54.1

2.98

61

2

32

3

3

Duke Welker

29.2

2.43

28

10

26

2

2

Dionis Rodriguez

32.2

4.41

37

13

19

2

1

Welker (2nd round), Foust (6th) and Watson (9th) were all drafted this season. Robles, Suero and Rodriguez are all quasi-prospects trying to get established after pitching in the Dominican Summer League.
Watson’s success is encouraging, and he may represent the Pirates’ best pick from this year’s draft.
As WTM notes:

Watson was a rare instance of the Pirates drafting a player lower than he was expected to go instead of higher. Their usual practice is to overdraft in most of the top ten rounds, which makes the players easier to sign for slot money. Baseball America expected him to go much earlier than the 9th round, so with a year of eligibility left it seemed as though he might be hard to sign, but he did so a few days after the draft.

Read More

Van Benschoten Has a Strong Outing in Win

boxscore (photos by NancyZ)
John VanBenschoten  --photo by NancyZ
For the second day in a row, the Indianapolis Indians and the Toledo Mud Hens battled in a well-pitched game. This time, though, the Indians came out ahead, beating the Mud Hens by a score of 4-2 this afternoon at Victory Field. Indians’ starter John Van Benschoten (photo), in his 15th start for the Indians, gave up only one run in 6.2 innings, dropping his ERA to 2.21 in his winning effort. Mud Hens’ starter Anastacio Martinez pitched a complete game, though he took the loss.
In a post-game interview, Tribe LF Michael Ryan had praise for his teammate: “John [Van Benschoten] did a nice job of pounding the strike zone. He got the Toledo hitters out of their game plan. Any time your starter puts you in a position to win it?s nice to back him up with some runs. That?s what we did today.?
Steve Pearce -- photo by NancyZ
The only run Van Benschoten gave up came in the 3rd inning. Toledo 2B Henry Mateo led off the inning with a hit that bounced over Tribe 1B Steve Pearce’s (photo) shoulder and into right field for a single. CF Andres Torres’ triple deep into the left-centerfield alley brought Mateo home for the first run of the game. The Indians avoided further damage in the inning on two strong plays by Tribe 3B Jose Hernandez. SS Ramon Santiago came to the plate with Torres at third base, and he slapped a grounder to Hernandez at third. Hernandez looked Santiago back to the bag, and threw on to first base for the out. LF Timo Perez dropped a bunt toward third base, which Hernandez charged, scooped up, and fired to first base in time to get Perez and end the inning without another run scoring.
Matt Kata -- photo by NancyZ
The Indians answered with a run of their own in the bottom of the 3rd inning. With one out, RF Matt Kata (photo) doubled into right field. He remained at second base when SS Brian Bixler grounded to shortstop. Then 1B Steve Pearce hit a little dribbler just in from first base. Hens’ 1B Chris Shelton fielded the ball, and flipped it to pitcher Anastacio Martinez covering first base. But Martinez missed the catch, and the ball went into foul territory, back by the rolled up tarp. Pearce was safe at first, and Kata, who had been running from second to third, didn’t even slow down at third base but charged for home, and scored on the error to tie the game. ?It was a tough read off the bat,” said Kata in his post-game interview. “I heard [Manager] Trent [Jewett] yelling at me right away to go. It was just one of those balls that you have to take a chance on and we lucked out.?

Trent Jewett and Jose Hernandez  -- photo by NancyZ
The Indians took the lead in the next inning, when 3B Jose Hernandez (photo, with manager Trent Jewett) hit his 10th homer of the season. The fly ball seemed to move very slowly toward left field (picture a bird trying to fly against a very strong wind, flapping its wings furiously but not moving very fast). At first, the ball looked like it would barely make it to the outfield…. then it looked like an easy outfield catch…. then LF Timo Perez started moving back to make the catch at the base of the wall…. and then the ball fell, but not into Perez’s mitt but onto the grassy berm just beyond the top of the wall.
Brian Bixler and Steve Pearce  -- photo by NancyZ
(photo — Brian Bixler and Steve Pearce)
The top of the batting order came through with two insurance runs in the 5th inning. With one out, Matt Kata again doubled, this time into the gap in right-center field, with the ball hitting the wall on one bounce. SS Brian Bixler, who has struggled against the Mud Hens, singled on a grounder deep into the hole at shortstop. Hens’ SS Ramon Santiago kept the ball from going into left field with a diving stop, but when he scrambled to his feet, it was clear that any throw would not be in time. 1B Steve Pearce dropped a bloop single into short right center field, just out of reach of both the center fielder and the second baseman, and Kata easily scored on the hit. LF Michael Ryan followed with a fly ball to deep center field — not far enough to make it over the wall, but far enough for Bixler to score on the sacrifice fly, and make the score 4-1.
Anastacio Martinez pitched three perfect innings to finish the game. He threw 93 pitches, giving up 6 hits, and 3 of the 4 runs he allowed were earned. He walked only one (Michael Ryan, in the first inning), and struck out 4 Tribe batters.
Don Kelly -- photo by NancyZ
After the 3rd inning, John Van Benschoten settled in for the next three innings, giving up only one walk and one hit. The hit, a single by Ramon Santiago, was quickly erased by a slick 4-6-3 double play: 2B Brian Bixler to SS Don Kelly (photo) to 1B Steve Pearce. The Mud Hens threatened in the 7th inning. With one out, Hens’ DH Erick Almonte walked. RF Brent Clevlen grounded to Bixler, who flipped to Kelly, to start another double play. But Almonte slid hard (but clean) into second base as Kelly was about to throw, and he disrupted Kelly enough to make the throw go wide and past Pearce at first base. Luckily for the Indians, the wide throw bounced back toward the field, and Clevlen did not attempt to advance to second base. There was no error charged because Almonte was out at second base, and it can’t be assumed that a double play will always be made. Henry Mateo worked a full count from Van Benschoten, and then walked. That put Van Benschoten at an even 100 pitches, and manager Trent Jewett felt that he’d had enough. Josh Sharpless entered the game, and struck out C Andrew Graham on three pitches to end the inning.
Bret Prinz  -- photo by NancyZ
Sharpless pitched a scoreless 8th inning, giving up only one walk, and striking out two more batters, including the always-dangerous Hens’ 3B Mike Hessman. (Van Benschoten had also struck out Hessman twice.) Bret Prinz (photo) pitched the 9th inning, and gave up one run as the Mud Hens tried to catch up with the Indians. With one out, there was a little de ja vu: Erick Almonte walked again, and Brent Clevlen again grounded into a fielder’s choice. Almonte was again forced out at second base on the toss from Brian Bixler to Don Kelly. This time the relay throw to first base was on-target, but Clevlen just beat it out. Henry Mateo singled into right-center field, moving Clevlen to second base, and pinch-hitter David Espinosa hit an RBI single, scoring Clevlen. Andres Torres lifted a fly ball into left field, and the people in the crowd held their breath — until LF Michael Ryan appeared at just the right place to make the game-ending catch.
Indians win!  -- photo by NancyZ
Matt Kata and Steve Pearce each had two hits in the game, with both of Kata’s being doubles. Michael Ryan also had a single and Jose Hernandez homered.
Indians’ hitting gem of the game: Jose Hernandez’s 10th home run of the season, which was the tie-breaking run at the time.
Indians’ defensive gem of the game: Jose Hernandez can do it all. His two consecutive fielding plays in the top of the 3rd inning were excellent. He kept Andres Torres from scoring by looking him back to third base and then throwing to first base in time to make the out on Ramon Santiago, and then again kept Torres from scoring when he scooped a bunt and made the off-balance throw to first in time to get Timo Perez out. And he made it all look easy.
Rowdie on his Birthday-- photo by NancyZ
NOTES:
It was Indians’ mascot Rowdie’s birthday today. I can’t imagine wearing all that “fur” in 91+ degree heat.
Thanks to Scott McCauley for mentioning our site on the radio broadcast!
Go Tribe!

Read More