The Pirates begin the season on Monday. Your predicted number of victories is:
90 and above (0%)
69 and under (33%)
serega: Hi Jerry, did you hear anything about Kris Letang headed back to injured reserve after the Canadiens game?
Jerry Micco: Haven't heard anything definitive yet, but then the Penguins practice is just starting. Though they, and other NHL teams, are notoriously vague about injuries. As soon as we get any info on Letang or Fleury, our Shelly Anderson will report it.
James_Pittsburgh: Jerry, are you still predicting a winning season even with Johnathan Sanchez and Jeff Locke in the rotation?
Jerry Micco: I think I can be safe with that prediction, because neither will be there come June. Though Sanchez has had some good moments this spring. The top of the rotation, if McDonald is the early 2012 McDonald, is better than last year's top 3 because of the addition of Rodriguez. And I'm intrigued to see if Liriano and Morton can help out by June, too.
The Chief: The penguins were not going to win The Cup with Bennet as a 2nd line forward and and Depresse as a blue liner. What effect on them do the additions have?
Jerry Micco: Well, Morrow, to me is well past his prime as a scorer and could fit just as well on the third line. But what he brings are grit, toughness and leadership. He's a very good pickup who could fit on the second or third line, just as Beau Bennett could, though I think Bennett is a nice offensive player. Murray is a huge defenseman who adds that physical presence in front of the net. Hal Gill like. Each brings something to the party, but toughness is probably the common thread here.
Jeff: Any truth to the rumor of Shell bolting from Pitt?
Jerry Micco: Well, we can confirm that he's looking to leave. Now he was to meet this morning with Paul Chryst and maybe they communicate enough that he stays. I hope he does. Local kid going to Pitt who looks like the real deal at running back. With Pitt going into the tougher ACC, Shell would be a really nice piece of any offense. But we're monitoring with our Sam Werner and as of right now, we cannot say he's leaving Pitt.
James_Pittsburgh: Jerry, I am predicting a comeback for Johnathan Sanchez and a rotation of Burnett, Rodriguez, McDonald, Sanchez, and Cole.
Jerry Micco: Cole should be here in June if he shows what we think he can show in AAA. I'd not count out Liriano or Morton, either. When they get healthy, along with Karstens, the Pirates all of a sudden have some depth at starter. Or some trade bait.
The Chief: Do you see the Pirates making a run at Chris Young, belive he is a local guy, who was cut by the pitching rich Nationals yesterday?
Jerry Micco: I just don't see where he fits right now. The Pirates have a glut of guys who can start and by June 1 they'll have about 8 guys who can start that they have to make some decisions about. I think they'll probably pass on Young at this point.
mike: Any chance the Steelers bring back Harrison?
Jerry Micco: Ed Bouchette's story today says no way. But you never say never, and the Steelers seem to like bringing back their own players. William Gay, Larry Foote, Matt Spaeth all had stints here, left, and now are back. But they aren't going to cost several millions of dollars and are on the downside of their careers. Harrison fits both of the aforementioned categories.
James_Pittsburgh: I think that Jeff Karsten may have missed his last opportunity to be a starter in Pittsburgh. I think he is headed to the bullpen when he recovers.
Jerry Micco: That probably makes sense. Too bad because before he broke down last year, he was a pretty effective starter. But if he can't stay healthy, which has always been the knock on him, then he may not even have a home in the pen.
mike: Do you think Dwight Freeney has anything left in the tank? Could the Steelers afford him?
Jerry Micco: Last year, Freeney was forced into a 3-4 and he was pretty ineffective. And I don't think at his pricetag, he'd be worth the investment. Guy I was intrigued with was the Cowboys Victor Butler, who the Steelers talked to earlier this month. But he left without an offer and three other teams have passed on him, so maybe there's something they don't like about him. Looks like Worilds will get his shot to play this year.
James_Pittsburgh: I am a little concerned that the Pirates won't have any left handed bats on the bench when Garrett Jones and Travis Snider start.
Jerry Micco: They are a bit thin there, but that's the least of their worries. I want to see what Snider can do in the OF. I think Tabata could be ready to play and play well, but I said that last year. And he was terrible. I wonder if Snider will have a long leash if he's not hitting. I think some positions are still in flux even though the starters have pretty much been named.
Tiger Paul: Why lock up Jamie Dixon for so long? Wouldn't Pitt have a chance at Sean Miller who I'd take in a minute over Dixon.
Jerry Micco: I don't know that Sean Miller wants to leave a great school like Arizona with the climate they have, to come back to Pittsburgh. Not everyone wants to come home. I guess I see the fans' frustration with Dixon, but he has won a lot here and is consistently a winner. Sometimes it takes years to get into a final four or a title game. And it's kind of a moot point now. He's got a long-term deal.
Jeff: Odds of Tiger winning The Masters? He sure looks good these days
Jerry Micco: A couple or three chats ago, I said I thought Tiger could win at least 1 major this year and maybe 2. Those tournament, I said, would be the Masters and the British Open. I'd put him on the top line to win the Masters. And I think he could dominate it. If his putting stays as good as it is, he could win by a lot. I'm seeing a lot of the old Tiger these days, and that's going to make it tough for the other guys on the Tour.
Will: Latest example of the Steelers thinking their locker room was poisoned or at least had no chemistry? Playing hardball with Harrison, adding that to not trying to keep Keenan Lewis and not putting a third round tender on Sanders.
Jerry Micco: Maybe they are trying to clean house, but I still think the Harrison deal is a financial one. They simply aren't going to pay $6.75 million for an aging LB with recent injury issues. Wallace was overpaid, and the Steelers would never go there. Lewis was a surprise to me, but they also like Cortez Allen, so he's next man up. As for Sanders, it looks like no one is willing to sign him and give up a 3rd-round pick. I think he'll return.
The Chief: Is Joe Morrow the next Marcus Nasliund??
Jerry Micco: I was surprised at the rapid demise of Morrow in the eyes of Pens management. Last preseason, fans were up in arms about him not making the team saying he was the best all-around D they had. This year, you heard that he was regressing and wasn't doing as well as he should in the AHL. So poorly that he's traded. I think he could be a pretty good player. Another Naslund? I won't go there.
Doug Froebel: Pie and Pressley BOTH sent down? Who's your 4th OF?
Jerry Micco: Tabata is the fourth OF. Jones and Josh Harrison can play out there, too. Bit of an adventure when the latter pair play out there, but they can do it.
Guest: More impressive, the Pens streak, Miami Heat's streak or Florida Gulf Coast's run in the NCAA?
Jerry Micco: Miami's streak because the NBA, outside of the Heat, has some good balance. FGCU is a nice Cinderella story. Probably ends when they play Florida, but a lot of teams can catch lightning in a bottle in the NCAAs. As for the Pens, the Blackhawks did what, 20 games this year? Pens have been impressive, and look to be the class of the NHL, but they need to get past 20 to take out the Blackhawks for best streak this season.
The Chief: Would love to get your take and your friend Ron from Baltimore on the Orioles refusal to let the Ravens open at home on Thursday night?
Jerry Micco: Imagine the Pirates doing that to the Steelers. The latter's fans might take matters into their own hands. I think the Orioles are being petty about this. I understand the issue, but for goodness sakes, your fellow pro team has won the Super Bowl. Give them their moment in the sun.
yinzer in va: Jerry, Next time you bump into Brandon Inge, let him know that you lived in Lynchburg for a few years. He's somewhat of a local celebrity because he played for Brookville High. By the way, Brookeville just won its 2nd straight state football championship in the fall.
Jerry Micco: I can remember a kid from Brookville who was an all-state LB and wound up going to Notre Dame to play. Never panned out, but it was a big deal when I was in Lynchburg. I think his last name was Morrison.
James_Pittsburgh: Jerry, if Sanchez pitches poorly then there will be no questions about what direction to move with Liriano and Cole taking the 4th and 5th spots in the rotation. However if Sanchez does well, it could pose a problem. The reason I say that is because Liriano will need to pitch well to have any value on the trade market.
Jerry Micco: I agree. And for a while in April, they'll only need 4 starters, so Locke may not pitch a whole lot in that role.
James_Pittsburgh: I don't see where Dwight Freeney fits with the Steelers scheme? He didn't do well as an outside linebacker last year.
Jerry Micco: As I pointed out above, I think Freeney is more comfortable as a 4-3 end. And he's not what he used to be, either.
James_Pittsburgh: I really hope that the Steelers find a way to sign Ahmad Bradshaw. I know he is injury prove, but the Steelers can't fill all their holes in the draft. My feeling is that they should sign Bradshaw and draft an OLB to compete with Worilds. Then they need to draft a receiver in the second or third round. That would be my game plan if I was the Steelers GM.
Jerry Micco: I've been saying draft an OLB so you have that guy of the future ready in a year or so. And while an ILB wouldn't be a bad choice, there's not a deep pool there, and drafting Minter of LSU who is a very good ILB, would be OK. But not at 17. If they could trade down several spots, that's an excellent pick. My mind is now drifting to cornerback. For some reason, I'm feeling a CB is on their list rather early. And WR could come in rounds 3, 4 or 5.
Bill L: Walker, McCutcheon, Jones, Alvarez, Marte....not like prior years. Best linep in years? Imagine if Tabata could hit .280
Jerry Micco: I think that's why I believe they can have a winning season. I don't think they are a playoff team, but that core is very good. The Pirates are going to have to rely on pitching to keep them in games. But if that happens, there's enough offense there to do some damage.
yinzer in va: Speaking of Lynchburg, were Sid Bream and Randy Tomlin playing for Liberty when you were here? They just renovated their field, and it's a nice upgrade.
Jerry Micco: I know Bream was there because I covered a few of his then-Liberty Baptist games. I cannot recall if Tomlin was there, though.
Peter Piper: Why is it taking so long for Francisco Liriano to come back from an injury to his NON-THROWING arm? Breaks heal in (approximately) 6 weeks, so he should have been back by the beginning of March!
Jerry Micco: My guess is that once it healed, he needed to just throw to stretch his arm out. I'm not sure how much he's pitched off of a mound yet. He's going to need April to get ready, and the Pirates didn't need to rush him. It would be crazy good for the Pirates if Liriano and Sanchez found some lightning in a bottle. If the top half of the rotation holds up and those guys come through, Huntington will be a crowned a genius.
Jeff: A real PIttsburgher question..when will the streak end? You know we can't enjoy the moment..
Jerry Micco: Hey, just keep enjoying it, even as Pittsburghers, we can enjoy it. But you're right, our sports fans are just waiting for the other shoe to drop. But seeing how good this team is and how they are just rolling other Eastern Conference teams, this could take a while.
James_Pittsburgh: Hats off to Andy Enfield who is a Shippensburg native.
Jerry Micco: Married well, too. And probably now is on everyone's short list at mid-majors.
Phil: Wonder why Harrison isn't getting any interest? Do you think his perceived dirty image is hurting him? Now that we can put things in historical perspective, it was a witchhunt by Goodell. Youtube his 20K hit on Brees--ridiculous. I would think a team like the Eagles could use him in their wars with NYG and Dallas.
Jerry Micco: I think more than anything, it's age, injuries and a big cap number. All three are conspiring against him. He'll always have that reputation, and at times it's warranted. But not as much as many made it out to be.
Jeff: Do you see the NFL releasing the schedule on MLB opening day as a little payback for the Ravens fiasco? I'm sure the NFL wouldn't mind taking main stage on baseballs big day
Jerry Micco: I guess they could to be just as petty as the Orioles have been, but I don't think they'll do that.
The Chief: I see where Matt Capps was cut, any chance the Pirates sign him hoping for a comeback in cse the Grill experiment does not work out?
Jerry Micco: I'm not sure how much Capps has left. I think if Grilli didn't work out, Jared Hughes would get a look. But if Grilli doesn't work out, that's going to be a huge problem for the Pittsburgh Nine.
James_Pittsburgh: Jerry, depending who it is, I might just throw the OLB out there to play early. The 2013 Steelers probably won't be a Super Bowl contender. That is why I think bringing back James Harrison is a bad idea. Let Worilds and whoever the Steelers draft play. Then the team will be better off in 2014.
Jerry Micco: I agree. But I think you have to see if Worilds can cut it as a starter. And then there's Carter, the kid they drafted a couple years ago from Fresno State. Didn't look good last year in 3 starts for Harrison, then was injured. But if they can coach him up, he was a great pass rusher in college. Sometimes you have to work with what you have and draft for depth. Steelers usually do exactly that.
Phil: Ever check out NFL AM on the NFL Network? It's really, really bad. They even forced one the hosts--I think his name is Steve Wyche-- to get rid of his grey, and his hair like the show is ridiculous. Park Avenue can't be happy with this production.
Jerry Micco: They just want product out there. I don't think the NFL cares. I hardly watch NFL Network. Just doesn't have that much to interest me, and I love the NFL. They are OK on wrap-around shows and when the league's in season, but through the week, they aren't a destination stop for me. Except when they re-air games and cut them to 2 hours. Pretty cool to watch some of those.
James_Pittsburgh: I wanted to be clearer about my previous comments. If Johnathan Sanchez performs well and the Pirates bring up Cole, how does Francisco Liriano get any starts to demonstrate he has trade value. It is a good problem to have. However Sanchez or James McDonald may struggle and make this a mute point.
Jerry Micco: I understood the point. But we're assuming -- we both are -- that Cole's here in June. We'll see if that happens, or if all of those starters are still there in June. Never know what's going to happen, but I understand the point that if Liriano doesn't get a chance to start, he's not worth much in trade.
The Chief: The streak has been great, especially winning nine time by one goal. Any thoughts as to why the penguins decided to commit to playing Defense on a nightly basis?
Jerry Micco: The first game of the streak was that wild 7-6 game in Montreal, which Sutter won in overtime. I think the coaches, key players and probably Shero had to talk about changing how the team did business. Defense first and the offense will come. And you see what has happened. they are a juggernaut once they get to cycling in their own zone. They just changed some things up. Bob Errey, who is great as an analyst, pointed out last night that the Pens no longer put both D in a corner to retrieve a puck. A center now is the 2nd guy and the D is in front of the net. A tweak, but a big change that has worked. Errey did a great job pointing that out.
The Chief: The line up you mentioned with Walker, Alvarez,Cutch, Marte is all home grown talent; will most of them be around when thehome grown pitching finally shows up?
Jerry Micco: Some are locked up long term like Cutch. Marte is a Pirate for at least 5 or 6 more years. Walker and Alvarez, and I think paticularly Alvarez, are important keys. And signing both may not be as easy as one would think. I believe Alvarez is going to get some big offers if he puts together a couple more 30-plus HR seasons.
The Chief: Jerry, do you think that 2013 NFL season will be the biggest challenge Mike Tomlin has had as Head coach?
Jerry Micco: Absolutely. And it may not be better than 2012, frankly. But it's how they approach the season and their games. I think they lost to bad teams last year, or let bad teams hang around (see: Kansas City). That's the players, but it's also the coaching. Mike Tomlin is a very good coach. But he and his staff have their work cut out for them this season.
Will: Think Root will tone down the "what a fantastic ballpark", "you can even get cotton candy here" propaganda and crowd shots this year?
Jerry Micco: I'm not sure what their internal policies are, but I can't imagine it'll change much. They did it last year when the team was lights-out good for 2 entire months.
Happy gilmore: I'm on record to say Tiger will not win a Major this year. Who do you want in the Masters Tiger or the Field?
Jerry Micco: Tiger. Right now he looks unbeatable. Having said that, the field has gotten much stronger the past few years. McIlroy, Mickelson is always good at Augusta, Schwartzel, Dustin Johnson, McDowell, Westwood. That's only a few. All are very good and capable of winning. But Tiger at Augusta and putting the way he's been putting lately, pretty tough to beat.
The Chief: Ok, Opening Day is less than a week away. Biggest Pirate surprise this year and biggest Pirate disappointment!
Jerry Micco: Hmmm...surprise could be Gabby Sanchez actually finds his form from two years ago and plays more at first as time goes on. Disappointment could be Starling Marte. Really good young player, but still has some holes in his swing. It's tough for 2nd-year guys usually, and I think he may need a bit more seasoning. But eventually, he'll be a very good player on this team.
The Gunner: Who's throwing out the first pitch opening day?
Jerry Micco: I'm not sure.
Guest: Regarding the NFL draft, why is it that there seems to be such consensus regarding the top players, with the draft so closely following the various mock drafts?
Jerry Micco: Because most drafts have a few elite players in them. This year, there are about 5 or 6. This draft has some depth, but I don't find it rich in great players. But of the top 5 or 6, there is pretty much unanimity.
WLU Alum: Did you know that the Pittsburgh area has an NCAA #1 ranked mens basketball program nearing it's 100th victory in 3 years? West Liberty University, just over in the WV panhandle above Wheeling, has been cleaning house in DII... just a grad shout out! A blip of coverage is warranted, I ask.
Jerry Micco: We've done some stuff on them in the past. We'll make sure to get results into the paper. I believe last year we had a stringer file game stories on their final 8 or final 4 appearances. If my memory serves me we did.
Bill L: Where do you think MLB stands these days? I don't think kids and teenagers have any interest. But the tv deals are good. Do you sense any passion for the league? Here, it's a night out and something to talk about but not much more, so is that the way it is elsewhere?
Jerry Micco: I think MLB for the price is the best fan bargain out there. Many places, New York, St. Louis, Chicago (Cubs), Los Angeles (both teams), San Francisco and Boston all play before full houses. I think MLB continues to do well, and young fans are attending, too.
James_Pittsburgh: How much playing time should the Pirates give Starling Marte if he struggles? Could we see Garrett Jones in left and Gaby Sanchez at first with Marte being send to the minors. Then Tabata and Jones could platoon in left.
Jerry Micco: Maybe Tabata and Jones in right, and move Snider to LF. He can play there, too. I think you need to give Marte a month. But I'd not be afraid to rest him and keep him fresh.
Jerry Micco: OK folks I need to head off to do a few other things. Thanks again for a great discussion and taking time to talk with me today. A ton of good questions. I'll be back next Wednesday at noon and we can do it all over again. Until then, have a terrific week everybody! Follow me on Twitter: @PG_JerryMicco