Saturday, August 31, 2013

No Major Surprises Among Final Cuts

The big names on the list of Steelers' cuts today are running back Jonathan Dwyer and nose tackle Alameda Ta'amu.  Neither will be missed.  Dwyer fumbled away his last chance in the final exhibition game, and Ta'amu was on the team for longer than was merited.

Veteran punter Brian Moorman failed to seize the opportunity to out-kick Drew Butler, so it's no surprise Moorman is gone.

Some of this year's draft picks, namely Terry Hawthorne and Justin Brown, simply didn't pass the eye test. Hawthorne couldn't get healthy and Brown looked average, at best.

We're a bit disappointed some of the undrafted free agents didn't make the final roster, which, it should be pointed out, is subject to change between now and the season opener on Sept. 8th.  We were pulling for defensive lineman Brian Arnfelt, linebacker Alan Baxter, safety Ross Ventrone and some of the young offensive linemen.  There's a chance some of these guys go to the practice squad.

The other notable name to get cut was corner Josh Victorian, whose tackling was suspect.  His departure saves the job, for the time being, of Curtis Brown, who needs to step up his game at corner and continue to make his mark on special teams, if he is to stick around for long.

Also spared the axe today were offensive linemen Guy Whimper and John Malecki,  tight ends Matt Spaeth and Michael Palmer, receiver Derrick Moye, linebackers Chris Carter and Kion Wilson, safety DaMon Cromartie-Smith, corner Isiah Green and nose tackle Hebron Fangupo.

A few of those names will provoke heated discussion among Steelers fans. No surprise there, either.

Justin Morneau: From the Twin Cities to the Three Rivers

The Clemente Wall beckons.

First-baseman Justin Morneau has the perfect swing for launching pitches over PNC Park's 21-foot-high Clemente Wall and into the Allegheny River.

With today's trade, Morneau immediately becomes the Pirates' regular first baseman against right-handed pitching. Moreneu, a longtime fixture and fan favorite in the Minnesota, will be a welcome addition to the Pirates' lineup.

Morneau will take at-bats away from Garrett Jones, whose opportunity for a shot at the majors, ironically, was blocked by Morneau while both were in the Minnesota organization.  Until Friday night, Jones had been in a prolonged, serious slump.  Jones broke out of that slump last night, but his home-run, four RBIs and 3-for-4 performance came too late.  The Pirates had to bolster the lineup.

General Manager Neil Huntington went for it aggressively, not only with Morneau, but also with the acquisition of veterans Marlon Byrd and John Buck earlier in the week. Give Huntington credit.

Jones is a fan favorite in Pittsburgh, and his slump has been distressing to watch. Today's edition of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that Byrd offered Jones some sage batting advice, which may have helped last night and, hopefully, will continue to help. After being benched for three straight games, Michael Sanserino reports, "Jones spent his time down watching video, taking swings in the cage and talking to coaches and teammates about all topics baseball and otherwise."

"Marlon Byrd, when he first got up here, he came up to me and said, 'You could be a guy that could hit 30, 40 home runs,' " Jones said. "We started talking about hitting, and just a few things he said to me made a lot of sense."

"Specifically, Jones said Byrd gave him a couple pointers about getting extension on his swing."

Any Pirates' fan would be all for that, and Jones may see playing time in right field against right-handers. Byrd could get some time in left field until Starling Marte returns from the disabled list.

Going to the Twins in exchange for Morneau is outfielder Alex Presley and either cash or a player to be named later -- not likely to be a top-tier prospect. Let's hope that "player to be named later" is not first baseman Nick Kingham or pitcher Tyler Glasnow. 

That's a topic for another day. For now, it's exciting the Pirates have made moves designed to improve the team.

On this, the last day of August, the Pittsburgh Pirates are legitimate contenders in a pennant race. And we haven't been to say that for a very long time.