Monday, June 07, 2010

An Eventful Week Ahead

Today, the Pirates are 10 games under .500 in a weak NL Central. Amazingly, they are ahead of two teams in the division, Milwaukee and Houston, and "only" 9.5 games behind first-place Cincinnati. Too bad the Pirates couldn't pull out a win yesterday vs. the Giants. Several key plays turned the game in the Giants' favor.
  • Lastings Milledge made a diving attempt at a shallow hit to left but couldn't catch it. Despite his wonderful catch on Saturday night, he just isn't very good in the field. He seems to break late on most balls hit his way, and he doesn't always take the most direct route to the ball. He seems to flail around out there a lot, and he also seems to come up just short all too often. His whiff yesterday led to a run for the Giants. Too bad.
  • Octavio Dotel struggled (sort of) for the second game in a row. Might this turn into a pattern? Let's hope not.
  • After surrendering a double to the Gianmts' Andres Torres, Dotel threw a wild pitch that advanced Torres to third, from where he scored the winning run on Freddy Sanchez's sacrifice fly.
  • Relief pitcher Javier Lopez dropped a soft toss at first for an error, which led to two unearned runs.
  • The Giants stole five bases, which didn't help.
  • Finally, poor Jeff Clement was just awful at the plate, again, and I am actually starting to feel bad for him. He went 0-5 and left five runners in scoring position, including the potentially game-tying and game-winning runs at second and third to end the game. Too bad for him, really. His oh-fer yesterday may solidify the Pirates' next move with him, which would (should) be a return to the minors when Steve Pearce returns from the disabled list. Clement has an option left that would allow him to go to Indianapolis without having to go through waivers. The Post-Gazette reports that Clement has been working probably harder than anybody else, both on his fielding (which has been okay, actually) and his hitting (which has been non-existent). Evidently, he needs to relax and get his game together with some regular playing time in the minors.
We have an eventful week this week:
  • The Bucs play an afternoon make-up game vs. the Cubs today at PNC Park, with Dana Eveland making his Bucs' debut.
  • The MLB draft is this evening, with the Bucs picking second and likely to take high school shortstop Manny Machado, by most indications, although Huntington mysteriously alluded to "a college arm." His repeated reference to "a college arm" seemed strange because he openly acknowledged that he Pirates' short list of potential draftees includes Bryce Harper (whom the Nationals will select ahead of the Pirates), Machado and Jameson Taillon, the hard-throwing high school pitcher. The mysterious "college arm" might be Drew Pomeranz, but it could be somebody else, too. Since the Pirates have the second pick and everyone knows Washington will draft Harper -- and, unlike the NFL, MLB teams cannot trade their draft picks -- it seems kind of pointless for Huntington to be coy about identifying the "college arm," but there it is.
  • Washington's Steven Strasburg makes his MLB debut tomorrow night vs. the Bucs on national television. Should be interesting. Jeff Karstens goes for us.
  • Brad Lincoln appears likely to start on Wednesday evening in Washington. It's about time.
More roster moves soon?
  • Neal Huntington on his radio show yesterday didn't come out and say it, but it sure sounds as if Aki Iwamura isn't long for this team. Nothing definite -- maybe they'll put him on the disabled list for a while -- that's kind of the vague impression I got from listening to Huntington.
  • Pedro Alvarez has been hitting well of late, but not at all against lefties. Jose Tabata, too. Perhaps neither player will come up to Pittsburgh before the All-Star Break, but it's possible we will see them both in Pirates' uniforms before the end of June.
The Draft

Some people wonder why some other people (like me) take an interest in the draft (NFL and MLB alike). Well, frankly, I don't have much of a life, but really it's all about ...

Hope. That's why. The draft signifies hope. The drama and side stories are interesting, too, but it boils down to hope for better days ahead, sooner or later.'s Albert Chen has a terrific article on the MLB draft and how franchises like the Pirates now view it as a means to equalize talent efficiently. Chen cites Mike Leake, Cincinnati's terrific rookie pitcher, as an example of how teams are more willing now to give younger players a chance sooner than later. Good for the Reds.

Chen also quotes Neal Huntington, Pirates general manager, extensively. Give the Pirates credit for finally -- finally
, 10 years after signing Derek Bell [but that's another story] -- getting it. Putting their limited resources into the draft, scouting, player development, training facilities, the minor leagues and Latin America: That's the way for them to build long-term. That's the only way for the Bucs to build a sustained winning operation. They can't do it with broken-down free agents -- which is what they've been trying to do for all too long, and we all know the names.

Let's hope the Pirates choose well this draft.