Pirates Q&A with Dejan Kovacevic

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While Paul Meyer covers the team in Florida, we still take Qs from the home office ...

Q: Hi, Dejan. What is the situation looking like with Ronny Paulino? After the failed experiment of opening his stance for more power, has the new management decided to close his stance back up?

Also, how many at bats do you anticipate Ryan Doumit taking from Paulino if he continues to struggle both at the plate and behind it?

Chris Hodgen of Beaver

KOVACEVIC: What failed experiment, Chris?

Are we referring to spring statistics as meaningful again? If so, let me remind that Paulino hit a metahuman .481 last spring with five doubles, four home runs and 17 RBIs, only to completely disintegrate once the games became meaningful?

There are things that matter in the spring. Seldom can those things, good or bad, be seen solely in the statistics.

Beyond that, I genuinely cannot tell what you are referencing.

I can say that Paulino's stance was closed -- albeit not that much, as per my own eyes -- at the start of spring training, and it was done so with an emphasis on getting him to follow his natural power to the opposite field. When he tries to pull, he can ... well, he can look his strongest, but he also falls into bad habits as far as outside pitches. And you can see for yourself that he gets a fairly steady diet of outside pitches -- regardless -- from right-handers.

There are two ways to solve this:

1. Get better against right-handers. Paulino batted .407 against left-handers last year. Only Ryan Braun and Magglio Ordonez were better in the majors. But Paulino also batted just .218 against righties. Never mind the defense or even the effort. This simply will not get it done for everyday duty.

2. Platoon with Doumit. Doumit, a switch-hitter, is most effective from the left side of the plate. They can share duty until one or the other steps up, offensively and defensively.

Q: Hey, Dejan, if Luis Rivas, Doug Mientkiewicz and Sean Burnett make the final 25-man roster, who would be your three choices to be removed from the 40-man?

Aaron Strang of Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

KOVACEVIC: Without coming close to advocating, I can point out players I think are most likely to come off that roster.

But first, you would need to fill out your 25-man, Aaron. Let us assume Franquelis Osoria, Phil Dumatrait and Byung-Hyun Kim join Burnett in the bullpen. Also, add Nyjer Morgan or Kevin Thompson as the backup center fielder.

Jonah Bayliss and Josh Wilson are out of options, so that would give you two candidates to come off, though not necessarily locks. Evan Meek is a Rule 5 guy, so he would have to be offered back to Tampa Bay if he does not make it. That is three right there.

If Meek makes it, Dumatrait or Burnett might not. Dumatrait is out of options, so he could go the way of Bayliss or Wilson. And no action would have to be taken if Burnett fails to make it because he is not on the 40-man currently.

In short, the 40-man really has no burning issues. This is a 68-win team with negligible depth.

Q: Dejan, I was down at the stadium last week and went searching for a few of the blocks that my family purchased before the opening of PNC Park. I was a little upset to see that some of the blocks were very hard to recognize because they were fading. I was wondering if the Pirates were going to do anything to update the blocks.

Paul McGrath of Shaler

KOVACEVIC: My wife and I noticed a little while that some of those bricks were being replaced, so I ran your Q past Brian Warecki, the Pirates' senior director of communications, and got the following detailed response:

"Beginning last offseason, we began to systematically replace all of the original bricks with a more durable brick that will stand up to the wear of fan foot traffic. Each original brick is being replaced with a new brick with the same text and in virtually the same location. We began last offseason with the bricks on Federal Street, near the Willie Stargell statue. This season, we are replacing all the bricks near the Honus Wagner statue. The reason is to ensure the product is maintained over the years. I cannot stress enough the point that as an organization we feel it is our responsibility to ensure that our city remains home to the best ballpark in America. This is a small example."

Q: Dejan, not a Q about the PBC. Rather, I wanted to pass something on to you that you might enjoy. You may have read it before or recently gotten it in your in box. This is a piece written by Howard Fineman, following the Steelers' loss in the AFC championship in 2005 to the hated Patriots. I think he captures the city and the region, warts and all, beautifully and simply.

Let the Q&A Finemancrush begin.

Joshua Banks of Raleigh, N.C.

KOVACEVIC: Indeed. Had not seen that one before. Much appreciated.

Until tomorrow ...


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