Pirates Notes

IMG_5296

What are fans to make of Jung-Ho Kang? Does anyone really know what his value will be in 2019? There are so many questions. The Pirates boosted his perceived value by promoting him for the final regular-season weekend in Cincinnati. When he singled to left field in his first game back, it was as if he’d hit another tape-measure home run. The instant Twitter feedback was unmistakable. Sign him! Pick up his $5.5 million option! The funny thing is that the incumbent third baseman, Colin Moran (who only platooned during the team’s second-half hot stretch), started hitting for extra-base power in September. But that’s another story.

For all of the past history and hype surrounding Kang, he’s never played nearly a full season. He seems to be injury-prone. He hit 15 homers in 126 games as a rookie in 2015 and 21 homers in 103 games in 2016. Those numbers, extrapolated, would look pretty good for a full year. But it’s not reasonable to expect a full season from Kang, now that he’ll be 32 on April 5.

He doesn’t gave the range to play shortstop — the team has already stated he won’t play there, further limiting his versatility. Second base is still possible, but it’s be asking a lot from a player whose seen plenty of welcomed and unwelcomed adjustments over the last few years.

But Kang’s still got what the Pirates most covet.

Power.

The Pirates totaled 157 home runs in 2018. By comparison, the Los Angeles Dodgers led the National League with 235 homers, followed by Milwaukee (218) and Colorado (210).

Only two NL teams hit fewer dingers, including Miami (128) and San Francisco (133). We won’t get into park effects, but it’s evident the Bucs need more Lumber in their Company.

Which brings us back to the thrice-DUI driven Kang.

Does it matter whether he can stay healthy for a full season? Does it matter that he’s had a more-than-checkered past?

For $5.5 million, he seems like an extremely reasonable gamble. Other organizations might view him strictly as a backup and a bat off the bench and pay him that much or more.

As far as his past indiscretions, that ship already sailed once the team promoted him back to the big leagues.

The Pirates are playing Russian Roulette by allowing him to become a free agent. All it takes is one organization to take a chance on the power-hitting third baseman. Ideally, he comes back to the only North American franchise he’s ever known on an incentive-laden deal, but this is last money grab. Don’t be surprised if he sheds the Black & Gold.

**

IMG_8715

So David Freese re-upped with the Dodgers. Good for him. But don’t forget that the Pirates pulled him off the scrap heap when nobody else wanted him during spring training of 2016. Let’s not make him out to be peak Brooks Robinson or Travis Fryman. Perhaps his availability in spring training was a little contrived by MLB ownership changing its M.O., but Freese wasn’t great shakes with the Angels in 2015 (or 2014, for that matter). From different reports, he turned his life around off the field. Good for him. But it wasn’t professional for him to rip the Pirates after the team traded him to the Dodgers when the only team willing to pay him in 2016 was Pittsburgh. Even if what he said was correct.

**

Say what you want about Neal Huntington, but I still think he has good instincts. The Pirates were reportedly very interested in Red Sox pitcher, Rick Porcello, when he threw for Detroit. This isn’t one of those cases where the Pirates are in on every player and don’t get him. I have a feeling they were actually close to acquiring Porcello.

**

P1530728

Drafting and developing players remains a weakness, however. Pirates postgame analyst (and former MLB GM, Jack Zdurencik) said that an organization’s scouting director was it’s second most important position. He noted that a team must have talent, something along the lines of the saying “you can’t make chicken salad out of chicken poop” or something like that.

**

1-P1540621

Corey Dickerson has as much chance of beating out Christian Yelich for the Gold Glove in left field as Richie Zisk. Dickerson exceeded expectations playing in PNC Park’s spacious left field, but Yelich is likely the NL’s Most Valuable Player.

It’s good to have a Pirates player making positive news on defense.

Incidentally, the last Pirate infielder to win a Gold Glove was shortstop Jay Bell in 1993. The same Jay Bell who made 59 errors as a minor leaguer for the Minnesota and Cleveland organizations as a 19-year-old in 1985.

**

The Pirates finished tied for 19th (with Washington), getting plunked by 59 pitches. What makes this interesting is that the team finished first or second in the major league HBPs ever season from 2013 to 2017. What changed?

**

The Bucs ranked second in the majors with 52 sacrifice fly balls. The Yankees led with 59. What are the Yankees doing hitting sac flies when they play in that band box? Colin Moran and Gregory Polanco each hit seven sacrifice flies to lead the team.

**

IMG_0615

Pittsburgh hurlers threw 16 shutouts, third-most in the majors. Unfortunately, the team was also shut out 17 times.

Pirates pitchers led MLB with 95 wild pitches, one more than the Chicago White Sox. The New York Mets threw the fewest number of wild pitches (26). Reliever Richard Rodriguez threw a team-high 11 wild pitches in 69.1 innings despite delivering a remarkable rookie season and respectable 1.07 WHIP & 88:19 K:BB. Remarkably, Jameson Taillon was tagged with just two wild pitches in 191 innings and Trevor Williams had only two in 170.2 innings.

**

Chad Kuhl tied Trevor Williams for the team lead in sacrifice hits (6) despite missing July, August and September.

**

Pittsburgh pitchers picked off two baserunners, the fewest of any MLB team.

**

Have a good day!
John

Standard

The 2010 Pittsburgh Pirates: “Non prospects” best prospects

IMG_9335

Looking over an Altoona Curve game-day program from 2010, it’s easy to see why WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) doesn’t always hold true in baseball.

According to Baseball America, the Pittsburgh Pirates top 10 prospects as of July 4, 2010 were (from No. 1 to No. 10):

1. Pedro Alvarez
2. Jose Tabata
3. Tony Sanchez
4. Brad Lincoln
5. Chase d’Arnaud
6. Starling Marte
7. Tim Alderson
8. Zack von Rosenberg
9. Rudy Owens
10. Gorkys Hernandez

Alvarez tied for a home run championship in 2013 but struggled mightily in 2014, Tabata has fallen off after his rookie season and was DFA’d Saturday, Sanchez has difficulty throwing the ball, Lincoln might’ve been better off as an everyday player with his hitting ability, d’Arnaud is a pinch-runner, Marte is the gem amongst the rubble, Alderson threw 86 mph in his first game with the Curve and went downhill from there, von Rosenberg has never sniffed Triple-A, Owens was useful as part of the Wandy Rodriguez deal and Hernandez was traded as part of the Gaby Sanchez swap.

Remember, these were the top 10 prospects in the entire organization, not just Double-A. The group turned out to be suspect, at best.

Turning the Curve program book to the player profile pages, there are more players helping Pittsburgh at the major league level than the one’s listed by Baseball America.

Josh Harrison: “Another fresh face in the Pirates system.”

Jared Hughes: Hughes was originally drafted out of high school by the “Tampa Rays” in 2003 but did not sign.

Jordy Mercer: Drove in 22 runs in his last 24 games for Lynchburg in 2009 to lead the Hillcats into the playoffs.

Bryan Morris: Morris saw more time in a Pirates uniform than most of the top 10 list.

Tony Watson: Watson started only five games in 2009 because of left elbow tendinitis. Explains why he flew under the radar.

Justin Wilson: Wilson was the winning pitcher in Fresno State’s College World Series-clinching win over Georgia in 2009.

The moral of the story?

Prospects lists aren’t the end-all, be-all they’re cracked up to be.

The Bucs found their starting third baseman, shortstop and four bullpen arms in 2014 from players not listed by Baseball America.

Pittsburgh’s 2010 draft class still looks somewhat promising – Jameson Taillon, Nick Kingham, Brandon Cumpton and Casey Sadler, but as we know, nothing is guaranteed.

*****

Treasure Life!
JT
@PiratesTalk

Standard

Let’s dance! Pittsburgh’s Polka with Gregory Polanco

Photos by John Toperzer Sr. and Jr.

IMG_4199Yes, the first shot I took of Gregory Polanco back in 2010 spring training. Let it rain! That saliva will be selling for $100 an ounce on eBay.

**

IMG_4202Polanco was a rail when he first signed

**

P1000890No. 82, head & shoulders above everybody else

**

P1120555I don’t think the Pirates will bat Polanco eighth in the bigs

**

P1220491
This is one tall dude

**

IMG_1999Take a bow, Gregory

**

IMG_2001
Doff the cap!

**

IMG_0493-001The white sunglasses are a thing with Polanco and others like Alen Hanson

**

IMG_0504Should I take $25 million?

**

IMG_0512Polanco’s like ‘Did you see that?’

**

IMG_0522-001The frame is filling out

**

P1440235-002Fan friendly

**

IMG_15651st spring training knock ever in 2013 (Sarasota)

**

IMG_1575And his first lead off of first base

**

IMG_1599Got in a little CF action in his 1st spring game

**

IMG_1145-001Polanco connecting in ’14

**

IMG_9689The guy’s ready to run as soon as he hits the ball

**

IMG_9691That’s why he beats out so many infield grounders

**

P1530095Polanco would be seven-foot tall if his torso matched the long legs

**

IMG_0064Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera chirped something to Polanco after a ground out

**

P1530282Pack your bags, Gregory, you’re coming to PNC Park

**

P1530728Super scout, Latin confidant, Rene Gayo. Thank you sir!

**

IMG_9178Time to join the big boys, Gregory

**********

Links ‘n At

Pirates call up prized prospect Polanco”, Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.

Prized rookie Polanco called up, Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.

The five tools of Gregory Polanco, by John Dreker of Pirates Prospects.

Pirates to promote Gregory Polanco, Charlie Wilmoth of Bucs Dugout reports.

Gregory Polanco’s statistics via Fan Graphs.

Gregory Polanco’s statistics via Baseball Reference.

Gregory Polanco baseball cards for sale on eBay. Got an extra $2299.00 for a Polanco card? Put your money where your mouth is! Click here.

**********

Treasure Life!
JT
@JohnToperzer
@PiratesTalk

Standard

Pirate Notes: Bucs beat Dodgers, 6-3, as Gerrit Cole leads the way

Real-time Pirates-Dodgers notes from Thursday’s 6-3 Pittsburgh win

**

Neil Walker tries stealing 2nd base with two outs and a 1-2 count on Ike Davis. Not even close.

Andre Ethier triples down the first base line.

Yasiel Puig drives in Ethier with the wimpiest, shortest double one will ever see, as RF Josh Harrison was playing deep and Walker was shifting toward shortstop on the sawed-off bloop to shallow right field.

Gerrit Cole can’t believe the ball wasn’t caught. Wonder if he’ll learn to channel his feelings as he matures? Don’t want to show any teammates up.

Former Dodgers catcher, Russell Martin, makes a great catch of a Cole curve thrown inside off the plate despite Martin setting up outside. Martin has the wherewithal to ask for a swing appeal on Adrian Gonzalez, but the third plate umpire says A-Gon did not go. Looks like he did.

Matt Kemp, the $21 million/year outfielder who has ridden the bench lately, grounds out to third. LA coach Don Mattingly recently said Kemp doesn’t have a burst on defense. Kemp even stated he needs to work more on his defense.

Pedro Alvarez looks confident in his at-bat then crushes towering homer down the right field line – first homer to that part of the park in 2014, according to Fan Graphs.

Clint Barmes singles just past pitcher Dan Haren’s glove and 2B Dee Gordon’s. Nice to see baserunner, Starling Marte, go from first to third on play. Even nicer to see him not slide into third when he doesn’t have to. Why risk aggravating back spasms, or injuring knee? Wish Alvarez wouldn’t slide into home plate when he scores on a no-throw, but he does.

Andrew McCutchen with nice diving attempt on Justin Turner single to shallow center. Not sure why he doesn’t get ball back in to the infield faster, however. He gathers ball and looks to see if runner’s going to second base. If he is, then it’s too late to get the guy.

Dodgers bunt runner to second with no outs and pitcher coming to the plate. ROOT’s John Wehner asks “What is going on?” almost as if he’s watching game by himself and not broadcasting to thousands of listeners on TV.

Announcers talking about Dee Gordon’s dad, pitcher Tom Gordon. He had the longest arms for a short guy. Huge curve ball.

Barmes over-dives (if that’s a word) on Gordon’s hard hit single up the middle on a full count. Ball goes under Barmes glove, McCutchen has no chance to throw runner out at home (not that he ever does) and LA takes 2-1 lead.

Gordon steals both second and third bases. Almost feels like AJ Burnett should be on the mound for this.

Cole whiffs Ethier swinging on a changeup, a pitch that Cole really needs to offset everything else hard that he throws. Changeup at 86 mph, just two miles per-hour slower than some of Bartolo Colon’s fastballs.

McCutchen beats a 2-1, 85-mph breaking ball into ground to shortstop Hanley Ramirez. He complained about not getting pitches to hits, opponents working around him, but that was a truly hittable pitch in a hittable count.

Cole pounding his glove, clapping after getting A-Gon to pop out to shallow center field. Barmes with a fine catch on a tougher-it-looked pop up.

What does one mph wind feel like? Yahoo! boxscore says that’s how hard the wind is blowing at Chavez Ravine.

Gordon makes leaping grab of Martin shot, throws to first base, doubling off Ike Davis. I remember in Australia against Arizona, Gordon’s defense looked questionable. Not so much now. Gordon is in the majors, 32 steals to his credit, and second base competitor, Alex Guerrero, is in the minors recovering from a bitten ear (courtesy of Miguel Olivo) on the DL.

Cole’s retired seven straight, has two quick innings. The question is whether the Bucs’ offense can take advantage.

Cole comes up at bat with a runner on first, lays down a perfect sac bunt with one out. Almost wish he would have swung away. He’s a threat at the plate. Best hitting Pirate pitchers – Ken Brett, Donny Robinson, Rick Rhoden, who am I missing?

Josh Harrison drives home Barmes with a hard single to right. Puig throws home, allowing Harrison to advance to second base.

Cole’s grandma is interviewed in fifth inning. “Very exciting” is her response to just about every question. What a sweet lady.

Cole sets Dodger Blue down in order for third straight inning. He’s thrown just 58 pitches through five frames, including 41 for strikes.

The more I hear about Ike Davis’s background, the more I want to root for him. Just wish he was faster than a snail.

Martin gives Bucs a 3-2 lead with a long homer to left field, halfway up bleacher seats. Hits dinger on 1-1 pitch, 81 mph fastball, Martin’s 28th homer at Dodger Stadium, according to Tim Neverett.

Puig flips bat of epic proportions on double off base of right-center field wall. Cole comes back with four straight fastballs – 98, 96, 98, 97 mph – after Puig double. Would’ve been nice to show Hanley Ramirez different speeds. These are major league hitters, can adjust to the same speed of hard stuff, as Ramirez does. He lines a game-tying RBI single to right.

Marte hits screamer to short, throw off-line by Ramirez. Marte almost gets thrown out after making turn toward second base but gets back to first safely. Then tries to steal second, initially called safe. LA manager Mattingly challenges play, Marte out – caught stealing for fourth time in 2014.

A Barmes single, Cole sacrifice, and Harrison single give Pittsburgh a 4-3 lead. Fundamentals. Walker singles and Harrison scores, 5-3.

Paul Maholm comes in to face Davis after the well-paid Brandon League walks Cutch on four pitches. This should be fun.

Gaby Sanchez knocks a single to left, runs scores, 6-3. Maholm issues intentional walk to Martin.

The 2005 season seems like so long ago, when Zach Duke and then Maholm made their big league debuts. GM Neal Huntington likes the hard throwing righties with the downward plane over crafty lefties and it’s hard to argue with the results – it’s just taken a while.

Tony Watson comes in to get Gordon to ground into double play, ending threat. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Watson has been the Bucs’ best bullpen arm in 2014. Lots of folks I talk to feel he should be the closer and I can’t say I disagree.

Puig runs into right field foul line, takes a beating but catches sno-cone up against the wall, robs Barmes of another shot at the plate. Barmes finishes 3-for-4.

Melancon comes in with a 6-3 lead, bottom of the eighth.

Food for thought on Cole: After throwing 41 of 58 pitches for strikes through five innings, he threw just 16 of 30 before getting taken out of the game thereafter.

Back to Melancon, first time he moves back into set-up role with Jason Grilli on tap for ninth (barring a Dodgers’ rally here).

Martin with a great play on an Andre Ethier nuber (is that how it’s spelled?) in front of the plate. Martin throws Ethier out for an all-important first out with Puig and company coming up next. Hate to say this, but catcher Tony Sanchez would’ve had a 50/50 shot at throwing the ball into the right field corner. Sanchez helped to seal Wandy Rodriguez’s fate when he failed to take charge on a ball in front of the plate with the bases loaded in Rodriguez’s last game for the Bucs. Sanchez yielded to Wandy, who threw the ball off-line and allowed a run to score. Martin would’ve thrown the runner out at first.

Melancon strikes out Puig with a 92-mph fastball up in the zone. Puig does not flip his bat, just shakes his head and grimaces. Melancon then whiffs Ramirez looking. Bucs up 6-3 heading into the ninth.

McCutchen just misses connecting for the 200th home run allowed by Dodgers pitcher, Jamey Wright. Wright was the Rockies’ 1st round pick way back in 1993. His career has been long but not distinguished. Then again, anybody who pitches in the majors for nearly 20 years, let alone one, is pretty impressive.

Grilli comes in for the ninth.

Matt Kemp doesn’t run to first base after strikeout. The Pirates cut Craig Monroe for the same thing.

Grilli gives up a double right down the right field line before getting Scott Van Slyke to fly out to right field for the final out of the game.

Grilli threw his slider between 82-84 mph and his fastball between 91-93 mph.

Pirates entered Thursday with an 11-38 record in Los Angeles since 1999. They haven’t won a series at Dodgers Stadium since June 15 to 17, 1999.

Raise the Jolly Roger!

**

Treasure Life!
JT
@JohnToperzer
@PiratesTalk

Standard

The Cloud Is Lifting On Barry Bonds

1-P1540621

I knew this day was bound to happen. I knew that someday it would be tough to hold a grudge against Barry Lamar Bonds (you always know the middle names of the great ones, don’t you).

There are so many reasons to dislike Bonds. I point to his three dismal postseason performances in Pittsburgh. Lots of Pirates played poorly in those playoff matchups, but there was only one regular-season MVP – and that was Bonds.

Pittsburgh likes its links to famous people, whether it’s Andy Warhola or Michael Keaton or Arnold Palmer. Bonds is one example, but at what price? It would be easier to dislike him if he still acted like the person who played for Pittsburgh from 1986 to 1992, but he had nothing but nice things to say about the city Opening Day. I kept waiting for a jab, a punch line.

“It’s great to come back where it all started,” Bonds told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “Great to be back with [former Pirates manager] Jim Leyland. I mean, it almost brings tears to my eyes. We were a last-place team, put it together, but we just didn’t get over the top though.”

And he even had some good things to say about the fans.

“We had some good times here,” Bonds said in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “I would expect a cheerful (response). We were baseball players here and tried to win championships. Unfortunately, we came up short. That’s all we did. We loved the fans here, and we loved playing here in this organization. We did the best we could and we hope they appreciate it.”

If you were a die-hard Pirates fan during Bonds’s playing tenure, it’s quite possible your eyes popped out of your head reading the above quote.

Not surprisingly, some in the media questioned Bonds’s intentions Monday, subtlety or otherwise.

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Columnist Dejan Kovacevic noted how Bonds didn’t stay for more than a couple innings of Monday’s game.

“Rewind to the pregame festivities and, as I’d expected all along, it wasn’t about Barry Bonds. None of this was, no matter how much he might have hoped for that as part of this sudden push to get back in baseball’s good graces. (Getting only 36.2 percent of the needed 75 percent for Hall of Fame induction will do that.) Some booed him. Others cheered. No big deal either way.

In the end, he bolted the ballpark — after a couple of innings at most, per people accompanying him — for a flight out of town a few hours after landing.

“I love the city,” came the explanation from Bonds’ visibly smaller head when asked why he returned. “It’s a great place, and it’s an honor to be back.”

Hey, thanks for stoppin.’

Having an opinion on Bonds is part of being a Pirates fan. I can’t say I talked to one person at the park Monday who didn’t have something to say – good or bad – about him.

A lot of people like being associated with history. Once it’s okay to be a fan of Bonds – and that day is coming — his popularity in Western Pennsylvania will grow.

Why is that likely to happen?

First, the people who saw him play (and act) are getting old. A new generation looks at both of his pre-and-post steroid numbers and just says “wow.”

Second, the people who attended Monday’s game seemed inclined to move on from booing Barry. A great majority of the fans I spoke with Opening Day said they’d cheer for Bonds, or at the very worst, stay silent when he was announced. During his announcement, the boo-birds got off to a strong start, but like Bonds in the playoffs, they faded (sorry, couldn’t resist the snipe) and he was fairly well received. Lesser players like Adam LaRoche have been booed more vociferously.

The intensity of holding a grudge against Bonds is dimming. The Pirates could easily have been baseball’s best team in the 1990s. I, for one, was readying myself for a trip or two to the World Series. If Bonds had played in the playoffs like he did in the regular season, who knows, there might be more than five World Series signs (1909, 1925, 1960, 1971, 1979) hanging underneath the Bucs’ broadcasting booth inside PNC Park.

But having a winning team on the field after two decades of losing changes one’s perspective.

A lot of Pirates fans are moving on from hating Barry Bonds and it feels like a steroids-sized Bonds head being lifted off one’s shoulders.

Of course, if Bonds comes out next week and says something bad about Pittsburgh – all bets are off.

**********

Treasure Life!
JT
@PiratesTalk
@JohnToperzer

I was fortunate enough to take in Bonds’s first major-league hit. My college roommate and I made the hour trip from Westminster College. Here’s the actual ticket.

IMG_5696

Standard

Pirate Notes: The Lambo Leap, McCutchen’s Protection, Didi’s Defense

P1530782Travis Ishikawa reflects on his future

Seeing Ty Wigginton’s name on the waiver wire Tuesday morning got me thinking: What if the Pirates think Wigginton is better than the team’s current options at first base?

The Bucs optioned Andrew Lambo to Triple-A on Tuesday and that’s a good thing. Unfortunately, the 25-year-old didn’t win the right to be on the 25-man roster, at least not out of camp. In past seasons, a Jeff Clement wouldn’t deserve to head north with Pittsburgh and yet there he would be, trying to learn a new position during the regular season at PNC Park.

Tuesday’s message shows that the Pirates are not willing to stand pat with a first baseman that doesn’t produce.

There’s a decent chance the club trades for Boston’s Mike Carp or plucks a Wigginton off the waiver wire.
For as good of a spring Travis Ishikawa has had, his track record suggests that it’s unlikely he fills the role of “Gaby Sanchez Platoon Partner” for more than a month or so.

While the Bucs are basically admitting they made a mistake by sending down a player they backed less than two weeks ago (click here, that willingness not to factor a decision based on public perception is invaluable going forward.

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle talked about the merits of Lambo earlier in March.

“As an organization, we need to look at Andrew’s power,” Hurdle said. “You can go spend $10 million, $15 million on a free agent with power, but you’re obviously better served to find your own internally.”

There will be plenty of first-base wannabees on the dashboard horizon. The names of players whose best years have already passed them by will crop up daily.

It’s not difficult to envision a revolving door at first base in 2014. It’s quite possible the guy who ends up there was just optioned to Triple-A. Once Lambo relaxes and finds his game, look for the Pirates to call him back up.

**********

IMG_9627

Andrew McCutchen having such a tremendous spring might actually work against him. Since the season ended, the Pirates let major-league sticks like Marlon Byrd and Justin Morneau walk. That loss of veteran depth in the lineup will allow opponents to once again pitch around the NL’s reigning MVP. Byrd and Morneau saw varying degrees of offensive success, but they both made pitchers think, putting pressure on opposing managers.

The Bucs’ replacements for since-departed free agents currently are Travis Snider and Ishikawa. That’s not to suggest either or both players can’t do well in 2014. Snider, in particular, has looked mobile and almost downright agile in Grapefruit League action after losing weight.

But there’s a difference between Byrd and Morneau as compared to Snider and Ishikawa.

McCutchen struggled after the All-Star Break in recent years as team’s pitched around him and he expanded the strike zone – swinging at the outside, out-of-the-strike zone slider with regularity. He batted .339 post All-Star Break, thanks to a better cast around him. In 2011 and 2012, McCutchen hit .216 and .289 following the All-Star game.

The Pirates could once again go out and bulk up the lineup as they did in 2013. But it might not be as easy to do at the deadline. Last year, there weren’t many major-market teams looking to improve at the deadline. The Yankees, for example, stood pat.

In 2014, there’s a good chance a guy like Byrd, who was available for weeks before coming to Pittsburgh, could sign with the Yankees or another big market team. Last year, everything broke the Bucs’ way at the deadline. Thinking that will happen again would be poor planning. Most likely, it won’t.

And unless the team acquires a first baseman before camp breaks, then whatever names are on the roster are the players who are most likely to serve at first base through June. Why? Most major league teams like to evaluate their talent and shy away from trading the first couple months of the season. Trade talk doesn’t pick up until June. That’s why Lambo will most likely get another chance by June.

**********

IMG_5302

The name of Didi Gregorius, one of Arizona’s shortstops, has been kicked around in trade talk the last week or so. The Diamondbacks paid a pretty price to get him a year ago, that might be the biggest stumbling block of moving him.

He looks and moves like a Praying Mantis on the field. He hasn’t shown he can hit in the majors and his speed hasn’t translated to stealing bases. But he can field, and that’s what a team reliant on a shifting defensive strategy needs up the middle of the field.

Gregorius would be a decent-enough acquisition, but like anything, what is the cost?

The Diamondbacks want a starting pitcher and the Pirates have a plethora of relievers. Since Pittsburgh doesn’t have a gaping hole at short, there’s little reason to overpay with a pitching prospect like Nick Kingham. What makes it difficult is that Brandon Cumpton would be a good match, but he’s better (IMO than Edinson Volquez) and the rotation is too important to mess with trading for a Didi Gregorius. The staff’s health can change the dynamics of the team in a day.

Bryan Morris for Gregorius might make sense from a talent perspective, but it would be a tough sell for Towers to say that that’s all he could get for a guy he traded Trevor Bauer away for.

Gregorius would be a great defensive replacement at shortstop, but the price might just be too high.

**********

Treasure Life!
JT
@JohnToperzer
@PiratesTalk

Standard

Pirates-Tigers Tuesday: Josh Harrison hustles, Chris McGuiness struggles

P1530183

Just to get you in that Florida frame of mind, 76 degrees and sunny.

P1530151

Taiwanese Yao-Hsun Yang has decent numbers — 1 run in 3 IP this spring — but he had trouble finding the plate between innings and during Tuesday’s tilt in Lakeland. I’m not convinced he has the control to succeed in the majors (albeit after watching a grand total of one-time ever).

P1530078P1530079P1530080

What a professional game by Josh Harrison. He successfully completed numerous chances at second base — isn’t that where he mostly played in Cubs’ system? — and as a batter he turned a single to the shortstop’s left into a double with hustle that never stopped out of the batter’s box (Cutch, take note). Harrison aggressively took third on an infield groundout and ran so fast from third to home that my father caught only a part of his leg on his scamper to the plate. Seriously, he set a good example for the younger players (and older ones, for that matter) in both dugouts Tuesday.

P1530024

The Trib’s Travis Sawchik noted Alvarez hitting the ball to the opposite field in batting practice Tuesday. He went so far as to mention a Chris-Davis like breakout possibility. I won’t go that far. I spoke to Joe Hultzen of the Bucs’ front office during BP and didn’t see Alvarez’s exhibition. I will say that after purposely making an effort to see him take BP at PNC Park regularly, he does spray the ball around, so Tuesday might have not been anything really new. We’ll see. It’s exciting to think about Pedro’s possibilities. Isn’t that what spring training is all about?

P1530095

My Aunt Helen once told me she said a doctor noted how she should be six-feet tall with the torso she has. Short legs, however, conspired to max her height out in the low five-foot range. Gregory Polanco looks to have the opposite build. His torso doesn’t appear to match up with those daddy-long legger legs. I think it will be interesting to see how he physically matures. Will he keep his quickness and his surprising speed? Or will he turn into a thicker slugger and have good speed for a “big man.” Pirates fans are lucky to have such a question posed, either way.

IMG_0052IMG_0055IMG_0064

Polanco beat out another infield single Tuesday, but it was his interplay with Detroit slugger, Miguel Cabrera, after a ground out that seemed more interesting. Cabrera had some playful words for Polanco on his way back to the dugout. I’d love to hear what they were.

IMG_9919

You don’t have to look hard to see photographic equipment in the corner of this photo. For the first five innings, a couple of photographers sat on the field and ruined picture-taking for anyone on the other side of the field.

IMG_9913

They seemed to be having a good time, anyhow.

IMG_9884

Brent Morel hit a couple hard drives to center, but both were caught.

IMG_9966IMG_9945IMG_9950

First baseman, Chris McGuiness, had been having a good spring prior to Tuesday. Against Detroit, the lefty was charged with an error in the field (pitcher Brandon Cumpton was scrambling to cover first base) here) and watched three pitches go past him for three straight called strikes. At least swing the bat once; it’s spring training.

P1530047

Jordy Mercer uses every inch of his six foot-plus frame to cover the plate and does a good job of it. He’s set to murder right-handed pitching again in 2014.

P1530131

Some of the Bradenton booster club made the trip to Lakeland. Everyone in the yellow jerseys volunteers at McKechnie Field, ushering or working elsewhere in the park. Someday that will be me, but as they say in the “Gladiator” — “not yet.”

P1520899

A caption contest would go well with this shot of prospective first baseman, Andrew Lambo, inspecting his bat alongside manager Clint Hurdle.

P1520939

Hurdle is originally from Michigan. He was seen here blowing kisses not to AJ Burnett, but to one of his many admirers in the crowd prior to the game.

P1530066

Mt. Lebanon native, Don Kelly, stroked a couple hits down the right field line, including a double, then flew out to the track in left.

P1530007

Starter Rick Porcello hit 96 mph in the first or second inning and I immediately turned to the Tigers fans to my right and asked him if the radar gun was accurate. I’m not sure I saw another 96 mph heater, but he was consistently throwing 93 or 94 mph.

IMG_0020

Joe Nathan looked solid for Detroit. I had read an article about how he was actually lucky in 2013 with the Rangers, but even if he regresses a bit this year he’ll put up plenty of saves for the Tigers.

IMG_9901

Cabrera moved well Tuesday and hit like he’s ready for another MVP-like season, grounding hard to second and flying deep to center.

IMG_9989IMG_9999

Austin Jackson went deep to left field for the Tigers. I remember scouting him and Jose Tabata in Altoona, back when both players were still with New York’s Double-A Trenton team. Lots of fantasy gamers are expecting a big year from Jackson. See if you can find Kate Upton, or at least Justin Verlander, in the dugout congratulating the outfielder after his dinger.

P1520887

I made sure to wear my “neutral” Penguins gear to the game Tuesday. Surprisingly, I didn’t get into many discussions with Red Wings fans, though the retired police officer I spoke with did note the Wings’ tough season thus far.

P1530157

Before dad and I left the officer snapped a shot in the shade. Jim Leyland watched the game from the box to the right of the section.

IMG_9866
IMG_9963-001

Almost forgot to mention that Charlie Morton pitched really well and made short work of the Tigers for three frames. He unveiled a new split-change that he intends to keep left-handed hitters honest. Brandon Cumpton, on the other hand, was rocked and even the outs he recorded were loud ones.

**********

Treasure Life!
JT
@JohnToperzer
@PiratesTalk

Standard

Pirate Notes: Taillon vs. Cole, Lambo vs. Jones, panic signings to come?

IMG_1041

Jameson Taillon is on track to become a great pitcher. Compared with Gerrit Cole, Taillon might have the higher long-term upside of the two – though that’s a tough statement to make after Cole’s brilliant 2013. The Pirates drafted Taillon out of high school in 2010; Cole in 2011, out of UCLA.

Taillon didn’t come equipped with the polished bells and whistles Cole did. He didn’t pitch in big collegiate contests against top hitters. The learning curve has had to be greater for Taillon at the pro game. The Pirates have worked with him extensively, insisting on fastball command and a changeup to go with an out-pitch curve.

Of course, Cole’s so-called weakest pitch is his mid-90s fastball. His 96.1 mph average heater led all major-league hurlers with at least 110 innings in 2013. How much Cole can improve remains to be seen. His game almost seems more about refining than improving.

Taillon, on the other hand, hasn’t yet clicked at any minor-league stop. Granted, the Pirates are more interested in developing the righty than checking his results. For that reason, it’s difficult to state definitively where Taillon’s game stands right now.

Listening to a prominent sports personality on 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh on Saturday, he was of the opinion Taillon has to break camp with the Pirates.

There are a number of reasons why that might not be a good idea and none include holding Taillon back a season for arbitration purposes.

Major league innings and minor league innings are not created equally. A pitcher can get away with mediocrity easier against Double-A or Triple-A batters than big leaguers. The stress level increases with each level, the “heart beat” as Pirates manager Clint Hurdle calls it. Obviously, it takes much more to succeed in the majors than anywhere else. There are no mulligans. Bringing up a pitcher because of his pedigree and dismissing shortcomings can be a trap, setting that pitcher back for a year or two or longer.

Taillon hasn’t put up great numbers at any minor league stop, nor does he have much experience. He has all of 127.1 innings for Double-A Altoona and 37 IP with Triple-A Indy. His combined 2013 numbers include a 3.73 ERA and 1.32 WHIP in 147.1 frames.

There’s something to be said for Taillon dominating at the World Baseball Classic for Team Canada prior to his 2012 spring training. That’s good news for the Bucs. It was an important step for the 22-year-old and had to give him a jolt of confidence. Seeing Cole come up last summer also had to get his competitive juices flowing.

But while the two pitchers might be right-handed, they come from different backgrounds and are on different courses.

It wasn’t hard to forecast success for Cole right off the bat, considering his career path. Taillon is a bit different.

He could struggle upon his initial recall, whenever that is. The Pirates would be wise to give him a chance to dominate at Indianapolis and force his way into the rotation after the Super 2 Arbitration period passes sometime in June.

A number of prospect rankings have dropped Taillon in the past year, with some calling him a potential No. 2 pitcher. It’s easy to see how these outlets might make that call, especially based upon his middling statistics.

But Taillon is not the finished, polished product Cole was and is. What you see is pretty much what you get with Cole – certainly there’s nothing wrong with that. He was a stud in September, when his pitch count was higher than perhaps it should’ve been.

But good things come to those who wait, and Taillon is worth the wait. Counting on him right off the bat might be a mistake, but in the end there’s still a chance he could be just as productive – if not more so – than his fellow Pirates first-round draft pick.

**

IMG_1915

When Garrett Jones came to the Pirates, he was 28 years of age and had 77 major-league at bats to his credit.

Last season, Jones struggled to his worst year, hitting .233 with a .708 OPS in 440 plate appearances (including 417 against righties – his perceived strength). Incidentally, it’s interesting that he played in 72 games at home and 72 on the road, hitting .233 at PNC Park and .234 away.

Here’s my point.

Andrew Lambo or whomever takes over as the left-handed platoon partner with Gaby Sanchez, will not be replacing Babe Ruth. There is pressure on Lambo, but he doesn’t have to do all that much to do better than Jones.

There’s a school of thought that Lambo is a failed prospect at age 25, but he’s actually three years younger than Jones when he made his Pittsburgh debut.

Yes, the Pirates should upgrade first base. Based on Jones’s 2013 production, it shouldn’t be hard to do.

**

Pittsburgh would forfeit its first round draft pick by signing Kendrys Morales, Ervin Santana or Stephen Drew. The longer they remain unsigned, it serves to reason that their asking prices drop. The Bucs could find room for any of these guys. For them to give up the 24th overall pick, here are the annual salary numbers the team should hold out for before inking any of the three: Morales — $6-7 million, Santana — $8-10 million, and Drew — $5-6 million.

Ideally, Morales would be best on a one-year deal to see how he handles first base, but giving up the pick makes a one-year contract tough to justify. Santana could flourish in the National League. He has a bit of a head-case reputation, but getting two years out of him would really help the Bucs. Drew is an injury risk any time he goes on the field. He’s still looking for $10 million-plus per year, so he’s likely out of the equation, anyhow.

What the Baltimore Orioles did made a lot of sense in the free agent market. After signing Ubaldo Jimenez and sacrificing a first-round pick, they inked Nelson Cruz. According to the rules, they didn’t have to give up another first rounder, but their next pick in the same draft after the first rounder they already gave up.

It will be interesting to see how low the prices go on Morales, Santana and Drew drop before they panic and sign on the cheap.

**

Treasure Life!
JT
@JohnToperzer
@PiratesTalk

Standard

Pirates Notes: Can Pedro Alvarez hit .250? Cutch reach 35 HR? Liriano back-to-back?

By John Toperzer

IMG_5246

I’m convinced Pedro Alvarez is going to hit .250 one of these seasons. Yes, it is wishful thinking. He needs to avoid those Death Valley slumps, where he goes 1-for-two weeks. His walk rate has also dipped, from 14.9 percent in his only Triple-A year to 7.8 percent in 2013 with Pittsburgh. He did compile a 9.7 BB rate in 2012 with the Bucs, so there’s legitimate room for improvement.

Alvarez hit .256 as a rookie in 2010 (386 plate appearances), so the slugger set a precedent in the past.

His swing rate has jumped from about 43 percent to 50 percent, which might lead one to believe he basically hacks at anything coming out of the pitcher’s hand. But what’s interesting is that the pitches he swung at were inside the strike zone 70 percent of the time – a career high.

Lots of folks have pigeon-holed Pedro Alvarez as a Dave Kingman, Pete Incaviglia, all-or-nothing type and I happen to think there’s more to him than that.

**********

IMG_4811

I was listening to SiriusXM radio Monday and the host discussed the pro’s and con’s of drafting Andrew McCutchen third overall in fantasy baseball. The argument was made that McCutchen might only hit 15 or 16 homers as a floor and that makes him a risk (as the No. 3 pick). Speaking from a fantasy perspective, the host said he might prefer to take another batter who has the potential to either dominate in homers or steals, that there’s no way he could see McCutchen hitting 35 dingers.

I think the tough part for McCutchen is how he reacts to being named NL MVP. Do pitchers work around him more than ever? Is there a bit of a letdown by Cutch? I don’t see that being the case, but they’re reasonable questions.

I see McCutchen belting 35 homers before he steals 35 bags. Don’t get me wrong, he could swipe 35 or more bags if he sets his mind to it, but steals don’t come naturally for McCutchen. Sometimes he goes a month or more without even an attempt. Frankly, stealing bases isn’t one of his go-to skills. McCutchen has a strong but small frame. The extra sprinting seems to take a toll on him, especially when one considers how he hustles down the first-base line on routine grounders.

I think the power game still has room to grow with McCutchen. He’s in his age 27 season and Alvarez is beginning to provide better support behind him in the lineup.

Cutch hit 31 home runs in 2012, when he actually had a better season than his MVP campaign. If I had to make a bet, I’d say his homers increase before his stolen bases.

**********

IMG_2494

There’s a belief Francisco Liriano will regress from his 2013 numbers because he’s never put up strong back-to-back numbers in his eight major-league seasons. Looking over his numbers, he’s really had only three decent or better campaigns. In his last two American Leagues seasons, Liriano registered earned run averages of 5.09 and 5.34, respectively.

I think people are discounting the fact the National League is much more forgiving than the AL. The 2014 will only be his second season in the senior circuit (though he originally signed with the Giants in 2000).

If anything, the 30-year-old lefty is more of an injury risk than a performance risk. Sliders take a toll on arms and he’s got one of the best in baseball. Here’s a list of Liriano’s ailments and injuries, courtesy of RotoWire.

2006 – DUI, root canal, food poisoning, elbow/forearm, Tommy John surgery
2007 – Recovery from Tommy John
2008 –
2009 – Late to spring training, forearm, arm fatigue
2010 – Dead arm, illness (Sept.)
2011 – Shoulder, illness/sore throat, shoulder
2012 – Quad, non-pitching arm (Christmas injury)
2013 – Non-pitching arm

Liriano is much better from the windup than the stretch. If he can pitch with some control – his 3.5 BB/9 IP last year was his best mark since 2010, then he could put together another strong season.

Liriano compiled an 8-1 record, 1.47 ERA and 0.96 WHIP at PNC Park. Pitching coach Ray Searage, who worked with the lefthander and his mechanics/release point, is also back for another season.

I see the downside similar to his post All-Star break numbers – 7-5 record, 3.95 ERA and 1.26 WHIP.

Click here for Francisco Liriano’s career statistics.

**********

Treasure Life!
JT
@PiratesTalk
@JohnToperzer

Standard

Pirates Notes: The Inventive Career of Edinson Volquez

by John Toperzer

At first glance, it’s easy to dismiss Edinson Volquez’s chances of succeeding with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He’s had but one good season in the major leagues, back in 2008 when he made the NL All-Star team and finished high in the rookie of the year voting as a member of the Cincinnati Reds.

His 2013 campaign may have proved to the low point of his career. Volquez saw his average fastball velocity drop from 93.6 mph to 92.5 mph. Opposing hitters made contact at a 79.5 percent clip, the highest of Volquez’s nine-year career.

But the funny thing is, even after the San Diego Padres thought so little of him by designating him for assignment in August, the NL West champion Dodgers scooped him up. The Philadelphia Phillies and the Pirates were also among teams pursuing his services.

What makes the 30-year-old righthander so desirable? Why has he started Game 1 of a playoff series, made consecutive Opening Day starts for San Diego, and replaced Chris Capuano on the playoff roster for a Los Angeles team for which he pitched little more than a month?

The guy has more lives than Morris the Cat.

Pure and simple: teams are looking to catch lightning in a bottle. In six National League seasons, the Dominican Republic native never allowed more hits than innings pitched until 2013. Even after giving up 182 hits in 160 IP with the Padres, Volquez rebounded with a strong showing for the Dodgers. He allowed 25 hits in 28 innings for Los Angeles and his 26:8 K:BB ratio gave hope that he might extend his career.

Volquez is a lot like a little league pitcher. In 2013, He either struck batters out or walked them more than 30 percent of the time.

Fans attending his starts might want to set their sun dials. The righty threw more pitches per inning (17.7) than any other major-league starter last summer. Career marks including an 8.42 K/9 and 4.75 BB/9 reflect his high pitch counts.

**

Volquez has overslept bullpen sessions, criticized the offense behind him and turned down lucrative multi-year deals, but the interesting thing about him is that every pitching coach thinks they can change him, get him to throw strikes.

Surprisingly, Petco Park wasn’t a match for him. Not even his manager, Bud Black, could coax a better performance out of him. Black is known throughout the baseball industry as one of the better pitching coaches around.

That said, Volquez has always seen his best success in his first season with a new organization. This is where Pirates fans need to make a leap in faith.

Volquez put together his lone all-star season in his first season with Cincinnati. His 2011 numbers with San Diego were decent. When the Padres DFA’d him last summer, he excelled with Los Angeles.

You may or may not question the signing of Volquez, but the length of the deal – one season – was astute.

His personal history reveals he does his best work early on with a new organization. Pittsburgh doesn’t need him for more than a year or perhaps even half a year. The team would likely be happy if he throws well for a two- or three-month stretch.

**********

P1110750

Control wasn’t always an issue with Volquez. In June of 2005, he fashioned a 77:12 K:BB ratio in 66.2 innings for High-A Bakersfield.

He advanced from High-A to the major leagues later that summer, compiling a 14.21 ERA and 2.76 WHIP in 12.2 innings.

Volquez spent much of 2006 in Triple-A. Again, he wasn’t good when he reached the majors — 7.29 ERA, 2.07 WHIP in 33 innings.

It’s fair to say he was overmatched. He certainly wasn’t helping himself out with a combined 26:27 K:BB ratio in his first two foray’s into the major leagues.

In early August of 2006, Volquez was recalled from Triple-A to replace injured starter, Kip Wells. Pirates fans will recall the Kip Wells years as a hard-throwing hurler with little command or control — kind of like Volquez. Who can forget the joys of watching a five-inning, 99-pitch outing by Wells in the heat and humidity of a toasty Sunday afternoon game in July — but I bitterly digress.

Texas pitching coach, Mark Connor, said a new slider should help Volquez.

“I just don’t know if he’s ever going to command the curveball enough,” Connor said. “With his arm strength, I think he could have a really nasty slider.”

Herein lies the first tangible evidence of a pitching coach attempting to help Volquez.

The 2007 season rolled around and Volquez was set to start in Triple-A before his Connor decided it would be best to completely start over with Volquez in High-A ball.

“We’re putting him in the best position to succeed,” general manager Jon Daniels said. “He’s still got youth on his side. He’s a good kid and a good talent, and we’re going to take him back to where he dominated the league. He’s been more than receptive about this; he’s enthusiastic about it. He wants to do it. He wants to do what he needs to do to get back to the majors.”

Volquez’s numbers were terrible at Single-A, allowing 20 walks and 27 hits in 35.1 innings. So, of course, the Rangers promoted him to Double-A.

He responded surprisingly well, going 6-0 with a 3.57 ERA and 38 strikeouts in 40.1 innings before landing on the DL with a blister.

Promoted to Triple-A in July, Volquez compiled a 3-5 record, 4.19 ERA, 139:54 K:BB over 124.2 IP, a .196 BAA and a 1.14 WHIP split between three levels before the Rangers recalled him in August.

Remember, we’re still in 2007. Volquez has spent more time traveling than captain James T. Kirk.

Texas pushed back his anticipated start because overslept and missed a side session in Triple-A. He ended up making six starts for the Rangers, registering a 4.50 ERA and 1.44 WHIP in 34 innings.

That winter, he was traded with Daniel Herrera to the Cincinnati Reds for another player who’d failed to live up to expectations, Josh Hamilton.

The 2008 season brought a change of scenery and Volquez took advantage of his new environs. He crushed it at spring training.

After the game, manager Dusty Baker raved about Volquez’s stuff. “He (home plate umpire Brian O’Nora) said Volquez showed a very live arm, which makes his changeup better,” Baker said after one Grapefruit League appearance. “He has that dynamite fastball. Those umpires are seeing the ball moving. They’re seeing the hitters’ reaction to it, and a lot of times if I don’t know how a guy is throwing, I’ll go ask the umpire. They’ll tell you.”

Volquez (17-6) put up career bests across the board: Innings pitched (196), ERA (3.21), WHIP (1.327), strikeouts (206), K/BB (2.22) and interestingly, HBP (14). He made the NL All-Star squad and finished fourth in rookie of the year balloting behind Geovany Soto, Joey Votto and Jair Jurrjens.

Even in his breakout season, the righty registered a 4.60 ERA and 1.37 WHIP after the All-Star break.

Volquez’s good times unfortunately came to a screeching halt in 2009. He started only nine games, going 4-2 with a 4.35 ERA and 1.329 WHIP. Injuries plagued his season.

He was placed on the 15-day DL with back spasms in May. After a short return from the disabled list, Volquez felt tingling in his fingers. He went back on the DL with what was thought to be elbow tendinitis. He then rehabbed in June and July, only to undergo Tommy John surgery in early August.

In 2010, major-league baseball suspended Volquez for 50 games after he violated the league’s PED rules. He didn’t miss any game time, because he was on the 60-day DL rehabbing from Tommy John.

Volquez eventually returned, making 12 starts after the All-Star break. The Reds actually sent him back to Triple-A for a short stint in August as he struggled with his control. A strong September earned him Game 1 starting pitching honors. He got lit up by the Phillies (1.2 IP, 4 ER), thus ending his season.

Cincinnati offered him a four-year, $27 million deal in the offseason, similar to the one Johnny Cueto accepted. Volquez had different ideas, however.

“They were offering me a four-year contract, the same as Johnny Cueto, but I felt it wasn’t right for me,” Volquez told the Dominican publication El Caribe. “I talked to the lawyer and the general manager of the team and we all agreed on only one season.”

As of February of 2014, Volquez’s career earnings have totaled less than $11 million.

The righthander missed much of 2011 spring training because of visa issues in the Dominican Republic. Nevertheless, the Reds showed their confidence in him by starting him in the season opener. The Brewers bombed him with back-to-back home runs, starting Volquez’s disturbing trend of difficult first innings.

He allowed four first-inning runs to the Pirates in his second start and walked six batters. By May, Volquez walked 33 batters in 42.1 innings.

The righty then called out his team’s offense in late May, earning a demotion to Triple-A.

“I think everybody has to step up and start getting some runs,” Volquez said. “The last five games, we’ve scored how many runs? Thirteen in five games? (Actually 12). It’s not the way we were playing last year. We’re better than that.”

The Red recalled him in June, only to send him back to Triple-A July.

Volquez finished an injury-shortened season with a 5-7 record, 5.71 ERA and 1.57 WHIP. His peripheral numbers — such as a 20.9% HR/FB — suggest that bad luck as at least partially responsible for his struggles. His velocity was still intact, but his lack of control continues to plague him.

San Diego traded Mat Latos for Volquez and three other players in December of 2011. Padres pitching coach, Darren Balsley, said he would make it a priority for Volquez to throw more strikes.

The Padres made him their Opening Day starter in 2012. Volquez promptly walked four batters in his debut. He recovered nicely, however, and compiled a 3.51 ERA in 22 starts through July. Once again, Volquez showed how he pitches well in his first season with a new organization.

He slumped the rest of the way, fashioning a 6.26 ERA in his final 10 starts and 50.1 innings.

Pitching coach Balsley was encouraged by Volquez’s 2012 campaign.

“If Volkie hadn’t had that blister problem, I think he would have topped 200 innings and probably had a couple more wins,” Balsley said. “I know he walks a lot of hitters, but he’s also one of the toughest pitchers in the league to hit.”

He started Opening Day 2013 for San Diego. After going 11-11 with a 4.14 ERA and 1.45 WHIP at Petco Park, entered the final season of arbitration by signing a one-year, $5.725 million deal.

The Padres designated Volquez for assignment in August, primarily because of his inability to throw strikes. He compiled a 6.01 ERA and 1.67 WHIP in 142.1 frames, walking 69 batters while striking out 116.

The Dodgers snapped him up in the heat of a pennant race and used Volquez out of the bullpen. Volquez responded well with a new organization — as he always has — with a 26:8 K:BB ratio in 28 innings. His 4.18 ERA and 1.18 WHIP show he still has potential.

Amazingly, after making one relief appearance, Los Angeles inserted him into the rotation for Chris Capuano and Volquez kept the spot. In fact, he bumped Capuano off the NLCS roster for the playoffs.

**

Injuries

2005
Strained oblique

2006
Triceps tendinitis
Blister

2007
Blister
Blister second time

2008
Sore knee

2009
Back spasms
Elbow tendinitis
Tommy John surgery

2010
Tommy John surgery

2011
Toe
Neck

2012
Blister

**

Links

Edinson Volquez Fangraphs page.

Edinson Volquez Baseball Reference page.

Edinson Volquez Yahoo! page.

Edinson Volquez Rotowire page.

Special thanks to Rotowire for the in-season information!

**

Treasure Life!
JT
@PiratesTalk
@JohnToperzer

Standard