Saturday, March 19, 2005

Wigginton homers off Pavano

Third homer of the spring.

It drives me crazy when the Pirates hit home runs off "the best that money can buy," i.e., guys like Kevin Brown and Carl Pavano. I have learned that money buys and means everything in baseball. So I know that Brown and Pavano must have been having a little fun. I bet if we study the tape we'll see a big wink right before the "pitch" was lobbed in there. Or maybe the Yankees catcher standing up and whispering in Ty's ear.

. . . hey, I was right. There's Pavano laughing his ass off at the good joke. I wish they wouldn't toy with us like that.

How many pitches?

This from a story about the Phillies:

The Phillies are pushing their starting pitchers harder this spring in an effort to avoid another slow start.

Under new pitching coach Rich Dubee, the starters already are hitting 70-to-75 pitches. They’re scheduled to hit 100 before spring training ends.

In previous seasons, the starters usually topped out in the 80s under former pitching coach Joe Kerrigan.

“If we get to 100 pitches, that means in the start of the season we can run ’em six and seven innings,” Manuel said.

A year ago, the Phillies’ five starters pitched into the seventh inning five times in a 10-11 April.

“There’s no sense taxing our bullpen early,” pitcher Brett Myers said. “We have to get ready for 100 pitches at some point. Sooner than later is better.”

That's Randy Miller's prose for the Bucks County Courier Times.

What are the Pirates doing under the great Spin? I don't have a clue. I don't see any pitch counts in my USA Today boxscores.

Duke, Duke, Duke

Two great articles out there about Zach Duke's performance against the Phillies. Paul Meyer writes one for the PG and Joe Rutter for the Tribune-Review.

Meyer talked to Brian Graham:

"He's done everything we expected him to do," minor-league director Brian Graham said. "He could absolutely pitch in the big leagues right now. From a development standpoint, it would be better for him to pitch in Class AAA to gain experience, to learn how to command the baseball a little better.

"But, at the same time, he throws the curveball for a strike, the changeup for a strike and he commands his fastball to a certain degree where he will be successful in the big leagues. If he gets more experience, he'll be more successful in the big leagues."

Curveball, changeup, fastball, everything in the zone.

Meyer also works in the obligatory nod to Zach's parents.

Both writers had the presence of mind to listen to Bobby Abreu. Here is Rutter:

The game was a rematch from last Sunday when Duke pitched three innings of relief against the Phillies and gave up one run and four hits. Bobby Abreu hit a solo homer off Duke in that game, but Duke got the upper hand last night when he struck out the All-Star right fielder twice.

"Revenge is always nice," Duke said. "I was able to execute my pitches a little bit better."

Abreu took notice.

"I can say he's going to be good," Abreu said. "He has a nice arm and nice command."

Duke's other strikeout victims were Jim Thome, Placido Polanco and Jimmy Rollins, the first time the Phillies shortstop had struck out all spring.

"I don't know how he is mentally, but he's got really good stuff," Polanco said.

Right now, if I'm management, I keep my mouth shut, make no promises, and be skeptical. Kinda like this:

Did the start raise Duke's stock?

"It didn't lower it," manager Lloyd McClendon said.

In the end, you go with results. Even if it's plain to see that he could improve here or there, if he's getting results, I ride into Pittsburgh with him in the rotation. If all goes well, he won't need to make more than two starts in the first month. And almost anything could happen in those starts without forever destroying his poise.

He'll get a month to soak up the big leagues. He can get working on his Excel spreadsheet with notes about the NL Central hitters. Josa Mesa can teach him the mysteries of long toss. He's sure to be in the rotation at some point this season, so if he's getting results, let him stay.

The hidden cost of this is finding something to do with Ryan Vogelsong. I'd make him a swingman and let him pitch mop-up. Albie Lopez is on a minor-league contract so he can start at AAA and come up when needed. I believe Dave Williams has an option left. I'd send him down there to and let him take regular turns. That way if the Bucs lose a starter in April, they can promote Williams or Lopez or someone throwing regularly into the number four spot.

If, that is, they aren't big on the idea of seeing Duke again. I'm not a fan of moving young guys back and forth mid-season. Whenever he comes up, he should come up and stay up, regardless of the results in the first handful of starts.

Mackowiak and Redman

Great article by Joe Rutter out right now. Mackowiak defers to Tike as the team's only natural centerfielder. McClendon says Redman's defense has improved across the board.

Mackowiak's been improving his swing in hopes of making more contact.

After striking out almost once every four at-bats last year, Mackowiak resolved to shorten his stride so he would have better pitch recognition and not swing at so many pitches in the dirt.

The early results have been favorable. Mackowiak has struck out just twice in 26 at-bats.

"It has been paying off so far," he said. "It will be interesting to see what happens when we play the Cubs or Cardinals, teams that have a better scouting report on me."

That's the truth. Down the stretch, when the games mattered most for those teams, they pretty much did what they pleased with the Pirates.

Mackowiak understands he'll get his playing time one way or another:

"I go into every spring without a position, and it seems like I get my 300-400 at-bats during the year, so it's not something that is going to get me stressed out or worried," he said. "Things have a way of working themselves out."

I think he'll see more like 500 at-bats, but no one really knows. He's at least an average hitter against right-handers and he can play everywhere.

Finally, and I don't think we've discussed this much, yet another quote like this from the GM:

"Mackowiak is a viable option," general manager Dave Littlefield said. "It's a combination of what we get offensively from those two guys along with what fits defensively. Nothing is set in stone. We realize we need to score more runs. We also have to figure out what we think is a reasonable tradeoff comparing offense versus defense."

The Bucs were criticized a year or two ago for trying to build around pitching and defense, as though defense mattered much. One thing we can say about this team - it's not built around defense.

Friday, March 18, 2005

mid-March playing time guesses

I’m guessing the Bucs do not acquire anyone. No Juan Encarnacion, no Eric Byrnes, no Alex Sanchez, no Bobby Abreu. The Bucs should finish 2005 with roughly 5750 plate appearances. They had 5743 last year. I’ll guess 700 at first and left field, 675 everywhere else, and make up the difference (300) with a miscellaneous category. FWIW, 100 plate appearances roughly equals one full month of starting.

Jack Wilson: 600 ss
Craig Wilson: 600 ttl (225 1b, 350 rf, 25 lf)
Jose Castillo: 550 2b
Ty Wigginton: 550 ttl (475 3b, 75 misc)
Jason Bay: 525 ttl (400 lf, 125 cf)
Rob Mackowiak: 500 ttl (75 rf, 25 lf, 200 3b, 100 cf, 100 misc)
Matt Lawton: 450 ttl (250 rf, 200 lf)
Tike Redman: 425 cf
Daryle Ward: 400 1b
Benito Santiago: 350 c
Humberto Cota: 250 c
Bobby Hill: 200 ttl (100 2b, 100 misc)
Freddy Sanchez: 100 ttl (25 2b, 75 ss)
Brad Eldred: 75 1b
Ryan Doumit: 75 c
Ben Grieve: 50 lf, 25 misc
Chris Duffy: 25 cf

In my spreadsheet, that adds up to 37.5323 wins. The pitchers add up to 43.4576, for a total of 80.9899 wins.

Doumit on deck

Paul Meyer looks at the guy who backs up the backup catcher.

Rubber arm

Joe Rutter wrote about Salomon Torres on Wednesday. Do most pitchers approach their pregame warmups with some kind of fear? Meadows' comments about the Mesa-Torres long toss puzzle me.

Duke v. Abreu

One night only. I'd like to see it.

Duffy getting on base

Joe Rutter highlights this in his notebook.

The Pirates have used Redman's injury to take an extended look at Chris Duffy in center field. Duffy, ticketed for Class AAA Indianapolis, is batting .385 in his first major-league camp. He has one homer and seven RBI, but the most impressive number might be his .448 on-base percentage.

"We talked to him about the profile of a leadoff hitter, showing more patience, working the count better, getting to better hitter counts," general manager Dave Littlefield said. "His performance has been impressive."

They still ship him out with the next cut, I predict.


Joe Rutter catches up with the Tattoo Man.

Redman a student of the outfield

John Perrotto profiles Tike.

Redman has logged many hours this spring with special spring training instructor Bill Virdon, the maestro of teaching outfield defense. Redman feels he has improved greatly.

"I have the speed to run down a lot of balls," Redman said. "My biggest problem has been the routes I take to balls. I've put in a lot of work this spring and I feel like I'm getting a better jump when the ball comes off the bat."

What does Bill Virdon think?

For the record, I'm rooting for Tike. If he can hit .315, steal a whole bunch of bases and not get caught, and play great defense in centerfield, we can probably live with whatever OBP comes with that. That's not a prediction but best wishes.

BMAT exam

Three days young, but worth your time if you missed it:

The biggest battle in Brandenton is for a roster spot that might best be simply described as “OF/1B”. The way this works out reads like a question out of the BMAT (Baseball Management Aptitude Test):

Team A must fill four lineup spots each receiving approximately 700 plate appearances for the 2005 season, while using no more than seven roster spaces. Craig Wilson, Matt Lawton, and Jason Bay must start, because Lawton and Wilson are earning a lot of money, and Bay is the reigning Rookie of the Year. All three players can play either outfield corner, Lawton and Bay have each had limited experience in center field in the past, and Wilson can play first base.

Graham Koonce, Brad Eldred, and Daryle Ward can play first base, but not particularly well. Ward and Ben Grieve can both play the outfield corners—badly. Grieve and Koonce were “take and rake” players who now take more than rake. Eldred is a prospect who hasn’t learned to take, but sure can rake. Ward neither takes nor rakes terribly well.

Tike Redman, Rob Mackowiak, and Chris Duffy can all play center field, and none of them are expected to post much more than a .320 OBP in the majors. Redman and Duffy have reputations as good fielders, while Mackowiak is not a good centerfielder. Mackowiak can play many positions, and must be placed on the major league roster because of his salary.

Lawton, Koonce, Ward, Grieve, Redman, Mackowiak, and Duffy are all lefthanded hitters. Wilson, Bay, and Eldred are all righthanded hitters. Question: which of these players make the major league roster, and how do you distribute 2,800 plate appearances among those players?

Nice work from Derek Jacques at Baseball Prospectus.

I don't know about Redman, but me, I think a .330 OBP is a more reasonable expectation from Mack-a-whack. As some fans noticed right around baby bracelet time last year, he put up almost a good chunk - was it almost a full season? - of 900 OPS hitting between the end of 2003 and the start of 2004.

Jason Bay gets hits

I'm not sure what's the point of this study by Tom Meagher at the Hardball Times. But, I like it. Jason Bay looks pretty talented. Or is it luck? I'll go with talent for now and cross that disappointment bridge later, if we ever get to it. Talent it is.

Mike Emigh Pirates Preview

If you missed it, here it is. Mike pours out his soul with this one, as usual.

I agree with just about everything there, especially the Rocky and Bullwinkle quote, but don't agree that all this necessarily adds up to 70-75 wins, only 70-75 wins, or certainly 70-75 wins. Sometimes, the more we study a team in the offseason, the more specific our expectations will be. The more specific our expectations, the more certain they'll thoroughly fail.

A year ago we were all sure that Oliver Perez would be better off starting at AAA. Josh Fogg looked godawful too. Jason Bay had a bum shoulder and the CW said that Littlefield got fleeced in the Giles trade.

Remember that only two out of three players will perform at a level that is close to what's expected. This cuts both ways. Oliver Perez could be the next Balor Moore. Yes. We can prepare for something like that. On the other hand, Ty Wigginton could be the next Brook Jacoby. Craig Wilson could keep up the Jim Thome impersonation all year. If we are going to prepare for the worst-case scenario, we could also prepare for some best-case scenario. Odds are we'll get equal measures but it's not that uncommon for a team to get a big heap of disappointment or a big heap of pleasant surprise. Nothing is as certain as it seems to be.

Thursday, March 17, 2005


Alan Robinson of the AP sums it all up. Interesting quote about the "Wards, Mackowiaks, and Redmans" in there.

Dayun Q & A

Came out yesterday, and I missed it then, so I'll post it now. That's one of your greatest resources as a fan. Send the man questions. He put a call out for the "females."

Try "ladies," Dejan, and see if you don't get a better response. How many ladies prefer to be called "females"?

I'm full of the unsolicited advice. He's on the right track with understanding his mail, or, shall I say, his read of the writing of his readers. Permit me the liberty of providing further counsel. Not only is the negativity exaggerated because most amateur writers (and face it, we are all amateur writers) mistake exaggeration for forcefulness. Not only is the negativity sharper because most amateur writers mistake sarcasm for persuasiveness. Wherever there is loss, there will be bitterness. The Pirates have done a lot of losing so naturally we are bitter. Bitterness too easily becomes sarcasm. Since there is a lot of sarcasm on the radio and on the TV - at least on the bobblehead shows - it should be no surprise that Dejan gets a lot of sarcastic mail. I think this reflects more on the way we write than on the way we are. At least that's how I read the hyperbolic and sarcastic comments that I often encounter when I surf the internet to see what people are saying about the team. Brush it off - it's mainly just the distortion inherent to the medium right now.

But Dejan clarifies his objection to this stuff in the above link. He now wants "rational" writing. Good luck with that, Dejan. Sports is a place where rational people go to be irrational. Perhaps because the average Pirate fan is older, wiser, etc., perhaps because there is more than a small hint of truth and markmanship in the sarcastic barbs that flood his inbox, perhaps that's why he thinks there could be a day when Pirate fans will be mainly rational. My point is, even if we are mainly rational, that's not something we necessarily bring with us to the ballpark. Checking your rationality at the door can be, for some people, one of the main attractions of sporting events.

Let knuckleheads be knuckleheads. The very low standard for rationality in sports debate is something that makes sports levelling, and that's a big part, I'd guess, of the enduring appeal of all rooting interests.

Duke will start Friday

That and other news in this Ed Eagle report.

Spin slow with Albie

Another John Perrotto report for the Beaver County Times and Allegheny Times, this one on Albie Lopez.

"When someone has a leg injury like that, you're really putting him at risk to hurt his arm," Williams said. "Once you start changing your delivery to compensate for a leg injury, you're asking for trouble."

Get him all healthy and start him in Indianapolis. Remember the Bucs may be able to do without a fifth starter until May, so I guess there's no great urgency to even have a fifth starter. The urgency is to determine which of the fifth starter candidates can get major-leaguers out on a regular basis.

All hail Spin

From John Perrotto's report on Vogelsong's strong effort yesterday:

"I thought Vogelsong threw well and the most important thing is that he threw strikes," Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon said. "Whenever he throws strikes, his stuff is as good as anybody in the league."

In an effort to throw more strikes, Vogelsong made some mechanical adjustments with pitching coach Spin Williams in recent days that kept him from throwing across his body.

"I was cutting myself off in my delivery and not giving myself a chance (to throw strikes)," Vogelsong said. "The first inning, I got caught in between because I was trying out new stuff with my mechanics but still getting into bad habits with my old mechanics. After the first inning, though, I felt very comfortable."

Vogelsong, who has been guilty of outthinking himself in the past, then stopped and smiled.

"My motto for this season is: Just get them out," he said. "It doesn't matter how, just get them out."

This is how Ollie's emergence began--with some kind of Spring Training delivery adjustment. Maybe this is nothing, but it is a bit of evidence that his good day was more than just luck.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Pirates destroying Yankees

Sure is embarrassing. Sucks for us when Matt Lawton and Rob Mackowiak homer off Kevin Brown. If I say "hopeless" and stamp my foot hard enough, a whole wall of bobbleheads nod up and down in agreement.

Don't worry, kind readers, I won't get any crazy ideas in my head. Such as, the Bucs can hold their own with the likes of New York.

There's four more innngs to play. The Bucs will give back those runs, of course.

Baseball Toaster Pirates Preview

Derek Smart, formerly of, now writes Cub stuff for the new Baseball Toaster. He has a little fun with his Pirates preview. Link here. He may relish our misfortune a bit. Who can blame him?

He talked to some yahoo about the Bucs and obviously got a bunch of misinformation.

Feel free to wander over and tell him how much you agree with his take. Or maybe you have something cute to say about Mark Prior's elbow. Have fun with it.


The Bradenton Herald profiles him and his Spring this morning. Maybe he could hit left-handed pitching if he was given more chances to practice. Last December I was thinking Rob would win at least half the third-base job. Now I'm thinking he'll win at least half the centerfield job.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Korean Choi Hoon Cartoon

Here it is. Let the translating guesses begin. Thanks to shayborg for the link.

High expectations for Ty Wigginton

When Wigginton came up with the Mets, I was intrigued by all the Brook Jacoby comparisons and what Jay Bell had to say about him that Spring Training. I was also intrigued by the gap between the stories I'd read about Wigginton and the stuff I'd read from statheads like the folks at Baseball Prospectus.

This year Mac and Littlefield are touting Ty Wigginton as a breakout candidate. And he is - definitely - a candidate for a breakout season. (The link is to Ed Eagle's report for

But I wonder, why the high expectations? The norm around here is usually the reverse, that is, not making promises or saying anything to get anyone's hopes up.

Come Hungry

We'll see how it wears, but the 2005 ad campaign makes a good first impression. Humor: good. Acknowledging our desire to win: good.

There must be some good joke potential with this. If we come hungry, how do we leave?

I'll be full of beer and Manny's win or lose ...

Rumor mill

Clay calls my attention to this Sportsline page citing John Perrotto rumormongering about Ryan Vogelsong and Termel Sledge. I dunno how I missed it the first time it came out. Must have been five in the morning or something.

Also on this page: news that Aramis Ramirez, a first baseman who bumbles OK at third, wants Adrian Beltre money.

New Board

WTAE-TV has a picture. Didn't hold up well in bad weather?

Perrotto on

Classic John Perrotto for this Ides of March.

The only tinny note in that screed is the part about the Bucs having no chance of competing this season. It's bitter hyperbole. Of course they have a chance. It's not wildly improbable that the Bucs surprise, win 89 games, the NL Central, and contend in a series or two. If this kind of thing never happened. sports would not be sports.

I'm trying to speak precisely here. You can say "no chance" as a shorthand for "longer odds than most," and that may be rhetorically effective, especially if, like Perrotto, you are trying to put them blame for twelve years of losing where it belongs. But it's still illiberal hyperbole. Even if a team has extremely slim odds - say four times worse than your 2005 Colorado Rockies - what's the point of shouting that from the rooftops? You might as well get a bullhorn and announce to the neighborhood that little Cindy's lemonade stand has no chance of recouping the start-up costs Dad invested in lumber, sugar, and lemons.

P.S. Whoa is Blogger jammed. If this post appears like a dozen times, that's because I'm re-sending the post every few minutes until it shows up. The gravy days of free Blogger may be behind us. The number of new blogs has grown exponentially over the last few months and they appear to have all they can handle.

Sickels on the prospects

For his new Scoop blog, John Sickels grades out the Pirates prospects. Not much in the way of surprise or originality there. Sickels appears to agree with the frequent assessment of the system as chock-full of C and B prospects.

Wilbur, Mike, and other regulars on the internets were all over it in the comments.

Don't be stunned if one of the C or B prospects goes and has a breakout year. That happens. Ollie was a C prospect for Sickels. That said, don't ask me to predict which player will do this. I see Duke getting 15-20 starts for the Pirates this year with results something like what Sean Burnett (without the injury) turned in last year. Decent but not Greg Maddux, fully-formed and invincible. There will be bigger worries.

Zach Duke

This is from yesterday, but with Todd Ritchie's retirement, you might want to read again John Perrotto's report on Zach Duke.

Rick White

John Perrotto reports on Rick White.

Harts and Duffy

Joe Rutter reports that Jeremy Harts has a great arm. And Chris Duffy is making good with his chance to play more while Tike Redman nurses a bum wing.

Tike is another guy who won't finish the year with as much playing time as he saw in 2004. Or so I'm guessing and anticipating.

Ticket sales up

Karen Price reports for the Tribune-Review. Seriously though, they remain disappointing. More winning, more sellouts, more money for Jason Bay and Oliver Perez.

Dave Williams

It was a tale of two cities for Joe Rutter, who reported on Dave this way on Monday and this way on Tuesday.

Todd Ritchie's retirement leaves the Pirates with three available candidates for the fifth starter job. But Albie Lopez has been hobbled by a right calf injury and is not expected to take his turn on the mound Wednesday.

That would seem to leave Ryan Vogelsong and Zach Duke as Williams' competition. Even with a strong start Wednesday, it may be too late for Vogelsong to get back in the hunt. That leaves Duke, who may no longer be a wild-card in the process. Although Duke has made only nine starts at the Double-A option, he has continued to open some eyes in camp.

Ritchie's retirement clarifies the situation somewhat. I'll stick to my prophecy that we find time for all those guys provided they prove they can pitch well enough to keep the Bucs in the game.


Brian O'Neill on Jose Mesa and wobbly field goals.

Bobby Hill

Paul Meyer reports on our pinch-hitter.

As much as I love Bobby Hill for those pinch hits, my crystal ball says he sees less playing time in 2005 than he saw in 2004. The bench will be better and deeper this year.

Justin Reid

Paul Meyer profiles him for the PG.

Primarily a starter throughout the first four years of his minor-league career, Reid made quiet, steady progress through the system, reaching Nashville by the 2003 season.

He had a 3.02 ERA with Class A Hickory in 2000. He had a 2.25 ERA with Class A Lynchburg and a 2.54 ERA with Altoona in 2001. And he was 11-8 for Altoona in 2002.

His control was impeccable -- 14 walks in 110 innings with Altoona in 2001, for example.

And yet he was barely mentioned as a prospect because he was tagged as a soft thrower.

Which was interesting to Reid.

He came out of California-Davis in 1999 as the school's all-time leader in strikeouts per nine innings (11.09). And he struck out 176 in 170 innings with Hickory in 2000.

"It's like saying a guy's not a home run hitter and he hits 30 home runs every year," Reid said.

Reid, 6 feet 5 and 225 pounds, perhaps finally broke through as a prospect last season with Nashville.

In 32 appearances, split equally between starting and relieving, he was 5-3 with two saves and a 3.96 ERA. In 122 2/3 innings, he allowed 112 hits, which includes 18 home runs, and 35 walks and struck out 121. He ranked second in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League in strikeouts per nine innings (8.9).

If Reid can hit 30 home runs for us, that would be sweet.

Ritchie retires

Story here at So long.

Monday, March 14, 2005


Several posts "disappeared" today. Blogger is a great service and one I highly recommend. But in the middle of the day, especially on Monday, it seems, when many people return to the internets after a few days off, it jams up. Used to be that anything I "posted" would find its way to my blog eventually - often it would appear in my list of posts but not on the site. That is, Blogger would receive the post but not republish the blog. Lately as posts have timed out - I click "publish post" and nothing happens for sixty seconds - I'm losing them altogether.

The solution is to be more patient and to post more in the off-peak hours. The service remains a great value. I mention all this not to complain about blogger but to explain about there being none of the posts here that I thought I blogged.

To make up for lost time, here's a shorter version of the lost posts:

No surprises with the recent cuts.

Duke should be trade bait for a guy like Kearns. But but we need starters so the timing is real bad for dealing him. I will enjoy keeping him around and seeing how his thread of our story turns out.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Big Country

For the Tribune-Review, Joe Rutter reports on Brad Eldred, who, like Ryan Howard of Philadelphia, shows impressive power when he can make contact.

When you have that much power, I wonder why you try to flaunt it at the plate. I'm not a hitting coach but training Eldred to double off the wall strikes me as the right idea. The man is going to hit home runs without trying. So why try? What he needs to do is make more contact. I'd guess that he'd gather a lot more singles than he expects. With that kind of power, the ball will get through the infield in a hurry.

Not hard, not straight

John Perrotto describes Mark Redman's changeup as well as his makeup for the Beaver County Times.

In fact, his changeup is his best pitch and his sinking fastball rarely reaches 90 mph. Redman learned his changeup at The Master's from coach Geoff Zahn, who pitched in the major leagues for 13 seasons from 1973-85.

"The changeup is what really makes the difference for Redman," Marlins manager Jack McKeon said. "Hitters know it's coming and they still can't hit it, that's how good it is. He'll drive you to drink at times because he'll throw a lot of changeups off the plate for balls because he's trying to get hitters to chase.

"He'll run a lot of 3-2 counts but he'll also find a way to get guys out."

That is because Redman rarely leaves a pitch over the middle of the plate and has walked only 2.8 batters per nine innings during his career that has seen him go 48-51 with a 4.37 ERA in 139 games, 127 starts.

"I don't throw hard but I also don't throw many pitches straight," Redman said.

Redman strikes me as one of Littlefield's better acquisitions, but the only that can be shown or proven is on the field. My biggest concern with him actually concerns our defense. We don't want our guys going to sleep out there as Redman nibbles. They appear to be plenty challenged, defensively - with notable exceptions.

Albie Lopez

According to Ed Eagle, he is competing for a rotation spot. Albie reminds me of Wilson Alvarez. I'm not sure it's a fair comparison but whatever.

Bubble news

Paul Meyer summarizes how the 25-man roster would look if Spring Training ended today.

If the Bucs won't make room for Vogelsong as a mop-up swingman, then they will have to trade or release him. He's out of options. I doubt he could clear waivers. And many teams are so hurt for starting pitching, I think they'd be happy to take a flyer on a guy who throws as hard as RV.

Ty Wigginton

Paul Meyer has this report for the PG.

McClatchy vs. Congress

It's not in the nature of most Pirate fans to respect or admire the owner, but I pretty much agree heartily with McClatchy's take on Congress's dog-and-pony-on-steroids show.

You don't have to be for or against the war to see that politicians today will do just about anything to keep our mind off the war in Iraq. And does anyone believe that the Republicans, one of the savviest political organizations in American history, honestly thought they could end Social Security as we know it? They don't call it the third rail of American politics without good reason.

This shouldn't be a controversial observation. If you are for the war, you should be thankful for whatever news displaces news of the grim reality of war. Everyone knows that American resolve for such things never lasts long. If you are against the war, you are probably bitter that people are so easily distracted from unpleasant but necessary chores such as following the news of our war in a faraway place. Congress, in their support for the war, and doing their best to look busy with other Important Issues.

Anyway, one cheer for McClatchy for openly questioning our nation's need to worry about something as trivial - in the grand scheme of things - as the place of steroids in American baseball.