Pirates Q&A with Dejan Kovacevic

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By the time I left for the ballpark yesterday afternoon, I had received exactly 143 e-mails on the day.

The number of readers who wrote in either describing the precise nature or speaking up in favor of this much-discussed June 30 protest: 0

The number of readers who wrote in ridiculing the idea: 3

Based on this gauge -- the one I use for all subject matter in this open forum -- seems to me it is not much of an issue in either direction.

Time to move on ...

Q: Another game, another right-hander, another start for Ronny Paulino. Jack Wilson gets punished for lackadaisical play, and Paulino does not? I just cannot understand what Ryan Doumit has done, or better yet what Paulino has done to deserve to play.

Sam Strohm of Carnegie

KOVACEVIC: Now this was the hot topic.

First, Sam, to clear this up, Wilson is not being punished, nor is his benching the result of lackadaisical play. No need to be dramatic. He had a bad game Saturday, Jose Castillo came in and had a terrific game Sunday, and the manager decided Castillo was a better option.

Yes, Wilson is being benched. But it is because the manager wants Castillo to play, and he sees no reason to sit Freddy Sanchez or Jose Bautista, as one might imagine.

Anyway, regarding Paulino, it is all very simple: Tracy is very much aware of Paulino's shortcomings at the plate and behind it this season, but it cannot be overstated how much he prioritizes game-calling. And, until he feels he has a more attractive option in that regard, this is how he will go.

Tracy has offered some praise for Doumit's game-calling as being improved over last season, but the pitchers' ERA is 6.75 when Doumit catches, 4.10 when Paulino catches. The Pirates are 2-12 when Doumit starts behind the plate, 25-22 when Paulino does.

Argue the merits of that thinking as you wish, but that is it.

Q: Hi, Dejan. Do you think the added enthusiasm being shown by Castillo is fueled at least a little bit by the fact that his playing time is coming at the expense of the guy that called him out during PirateFest?

James Murtha of Coraopolis

KOVACEVIC: It might be, but no one is going to know about it. Castillo addressed that subject on the first day he arrived at spring training, then made quite clear he would not touch it again.

Same with Wilson.

Q: Dejan, I think we all have been a bit shocked at the level of play and intensity of Jose Castillo over the past week. Considering we have Brian Bixler at Indy playing extremely well, Wilson seems to be more than expendable.

Without jumping to conclusions, are there teams out there that would take his salary in a trade for a quality prospect?

David Chottiner of Fox Chapel

KOVACEVIC: The Pirates have not shopped Wilson for a trade his season, to the best of my knowledge, though that obviously could change.

If it does, if you are asking if there is a market for the shortstop with the fifth-best fielding percentage in the National League despite also being one of the busiest, the answer is yes.

As for what the Pirates get out of the transaction, that depends upon how well they play the situation, as well as the accuracy of evaluating the talent coming in return.

Recent returns in these types of deals have included Jonah Bayliss (Mark Redman), Jesse Chavez (Kip Wells), Brian Rogers (Sean Casey) and the like, so hopes should be set accordingly.

Q: Hey, Dejan, I've been noticing lately that Steve Pearce is doing his best Brad Eldred impression at Altoona, if not better. Obviously, Adam LaRoche stands in their way currently, but what are the chances that Eldred's name fades away as Pearce continues his impressive rise?

Mike Olasin of North Huntingdon

KOVACEVIC: Too much angst gets expressed over prospects being potentially blocked in the Pirates' system. A reminder: This team is in its 15th consecutive losing season, and it has a minor-league system with no more than a handful of legitimate position-player prospects. Room can be found. And, in the case of Eldred, he could go to the outfield.

As for Pearce, here are his statistics, and here is a feature Paul Meyer wrote the day Pearce was promoted to the Curve.

Put those together, and you have a pretty good picture.

Meyer will cover the White Sox series that begins tonight, and I will be back for the Monday chat and Tuesday Q&A on the way to a very special road trip.


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