Opening day is here.
It is real.
Before the first pitch is thrown, though, I want to throw five shout-outs related to spring training ...
To the Web folk who publish this page and all others related to the Pirates, particularly Melissa Tkach, Liz Gray, Matt Kennedy and Dan Gigler. Dan, by the way, is the one digging up all those goofy links that have been added to the Pittsburgh stuff. I have enjoyed them as much as the readers have indicated they have.
To PG photographer Pete Diana, who sprinted across McKechnie Field when I called his cell to tell him Brad Eldred was shagging fly balls for the first time, and for all kinds of other quick reactions.
To Adam LaRoche and his family for their hospitality -- and honesty -- in the month that was invested in that profile that ran Sunday. You will like this person.
Finally, to the Pirates' media relations staff, Jim Trdinich and Dan Hart, who work diligently and daily over 6 1/2 weeks without -- unlike me -- a word of complaint. This despite the unprecedented crush that accompanied Masumi Kuwata. (And still is accompanying the poor guy in Bradenton, no doubt, now that he is on crutches and unable to escape.)
Q: Placing Freddy Sanchez on the disabled list didn't finalize the roster. It just gave a few guys an extended audition period. Ditto John Grabow.
So, who is the odd man out on the bench and in the bullpen when each return?
Could there be a trade brewing?
Paul Kimble of South Fayette
KOVACEVIC: I have been asking myself the same question about the bench and bullpen since about Friday night, Paul, on both counts. And I believe there is no clear answer - in the Pirates' minds - on either count right now, which is why the coming week will be very important to some players.
With the bench, the easy thing to do is point to the two backup catchers, if only because, well, there are two backup catchers. It is possible Humberto Cota could be traded. But, if he is not, it is possible Ryan Doumit could go to Class AAA Indianapolis and be - as the Pirates seem intent on keeping him - a catcher.
Or Nate McLouth's subpar spring could extend into the season.
Or Brad Eldred could lose the patience he showed.
We will see.
As for the bullpen, there again is an easy target in John Wasdin, a guy whose career has been built on going back and forth between the majors and minors. But Juan Perez will have to show that he can keep getting guys out to keep three lefties in the pen.
Q: Just finished reading the article on Adam. I've got goosebumps. (I'd love to tell you it's because of the brilliance of your writing, but it's because of the attitude of the player that I find expressed by those words. Sorry, dude.)
Dare I hope? Do I dare let that tiny blossom of hope poke its head out from under the 14 years of manure? Could it be that there really is a light at the end of the tunnel?
Jay Phillippi of Mayville, N.Y.
KOVACEVIC: The highest praise you can give to any piece I write is that you could not care less how it was written. That means you focused on the subject at hand, which always is the intent.
Hope? That is up to you.
I remain steadfast in my pessimism that 82 wins can be achieved because of variables in the starting pitching and a clear lack of position-player depth.
Thing No. 23 that makes Pittsburgh great: The weather.
For those people who have more than one mood, it seems somewhat symmetrical that the environment functions in the same way. Give me a sunny day, and I will bike the trails. Give me a rainy day, and I will crack open a window to listen while kicking back to read. Give me snow, and I will take in its unparalleled peace.
But give me Groundhog Day, and I will gradually go insane.
Our paper had another fine piece about our number of sunny days on the Sunday Next Page that I would be remiss in not sharing.
Until tomorrow, when we can discuss an actual game ...