Pirates manager John Russell looks on from the dugout during a 3-1 loss to the San Diego Padres yesterday at PNC Park.
By Dejan Kovacevic Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Pirates still are targeting the entire top 10 of their June draft class, even though half of that group -- including No. 1 pick Pedro Alvarez -- remain unsigned.
Besides Alvarez, that means No. 2 pitcher Tanner Scheppers, No. 5 pitcher Justin Wilson, No. 6 outfielder Robbie Grossman and No. 10 pitcher Andrew Gagnon. There also are two or three others, described by management as "high-end types," with whom discussions are ongoing.
Scheppers originally was to come to Pittsburgh this weekend to throw for the Pirates, offering a chance to check the injured right shoulder that caused him to miss the final two months of Fresno State's season. That has been pushed back to shortly before the Aug. 15 signing deadline, general manager Neal Huntington said yesterday, but it still will afford enough time to get a deal done.
INDIANAPOLIS (51-58) lost to Syracuse, 4-3. RHP Daniel McCutchen (4-7, 3.77), in his first game since being acquired from the New York Yankees, allowed four runs and seven hits -- one home run -- in six innings. He struck out three, walked two and threw 69 of 93 pitches for strikes. RHP Marino Salas (3.76) pitched three scoreless innings of relief. 3B Neil Walker (.239) went 1 for 4 with his team-leading 62nd RBI. CF Andrew McCutchen (.276) went 0 for 4.
ALTOONA (49-59) won at Harrisburg, 5-3, in 11 innings. RHP Derek Hankins (1-7, 4.15) allowed two runs and seven hits in six innings. LHP Dave Davidson (3.29), in his final game before joining the Canadian Olympic team, pitched three scoreless innings of relief. 2B Shelby Ford (.279) went 2 for 5, including the decisive two-run single.
LYNCHBURG (46-60) lost at Salem, 11-3. LHP Danny Moskos (7-7, 6.30) allowed three runs and four hits in four innings. He struck out one, walked three and hit a batter. SS Jose De Los Santos (.240) went 2 for 4.
HICKORY (43-63) won at Charleston, 6-1. RHP Duke Welker (3-8, 4.34) pitched six scoreless innings and allowed two hits. He struck out six, walked three. SS Jordy Mercer (.202) went 3 for 4 with an RBI.
STATE COLLEGE (9-27) lost to Batavia, 6-5. RHP Maurice Bankston (0-4, 5.93) allowed two unearned runs and two hits in five innings. LF Quincy Latimore (.230) hit his first home run, a two-run shot, and went 3 for 5 with a steal.
BRADENTON (17-13) lost to the Orioles, 4-3. RHP Zach Foster (1-0, 3.26) allowed one run and two hits in five innings. CF Victor Sanchez (.306) went 3 for 3 with an RBI and a steal.
With Wilson, Fresno State's winning pitcher in the clinching game of the College World Series in June, the Pirates recently adopted a hard line, but the sides could be getting closer.
Grossman, a California high school player considered to have potential above his sixth-round position, said during a brief visit to PNC Park Saturday that he considered himself "50-50" between signing with the Pirates and honoring his commitment to the University of Texas. A team official gave much the same chances of signing him.
On the international front, the Pirates have until the end of August to sign 16-year-olds, and they nearly are done with their targeted class.
The four signed are outfielder Exicardo Cayones of Mexico, shortstop Jonathan Barrios of Colombia, and shortstop Jodanelli Carvajal and left-handed pitcher Joldi Sierra of the Dominican Republic. The team is in negotiations with one other prospect it considers to be in the high-profile category, as well as two others.
Cayones was signed to a $400,000 bonus that was the highest in franchise history for a Latin American amateur. He is a 5-foot-11, 175-pound left-handed batter with enough speed to play center, enough power to project a move to a corner.
Van Benschoten to pen
John Van Benschoten was optioned back to Class AAA Indianapolis yesterday morning, hours after his latest debacle, and will be placed in the bullpen there.
"We want to give him a chance to show what he can do in short bursts," Huntington said.
Starter Jason Davis had his contract purchased to take Van Benschoten's place. To clear space on the 40-man roster for Davis, Class AA Altoona starter Luis Munoz was designated for assignment. He will be placed on waivers.
Davis, 28, has made 122 major league appearances, including 15 starts, but none since last year with Seattle. He has career marks of 20-22 with a 4.79 ERA. For Indianapolis this season, he was 6-9 with a 4.41 ERA, and is fresh off four consecutive starts of two earned runs or less.
He will pitch in long relief, but he also could take Yoslan Herrera's spot in the rotation.
Trade pieces in place
Jeff Karstens, one of the four prospects acquired from the New York Yankees, will join the Pirates today and take Van Benschoten's place in the rotation, pitching Friday or Saturday in Chicago.
Daniel McCutchen started for Indianapolis yesterday-- four runs, seven hits in six innings in a 4-3 loss to visiting Syracuse -- and Ross Ohlendorf will do likewise tomorrow.
Outfielder Jose Tabata will report to Class AA Altoona once healthy, which should take a week.
• Cross Detroit off the list of potential suitors for shortstop Jack Wilson. Three sources yesterday confirmed the Tigers have not asked about Wilson since last winter. The Los Angeles Dodgers remain chief among the interested.
• Injured starter Phil Dumatrait still is not throwing in Bradenton, Fla., and there is no timetable to do so.
• Reliever Dave Davidson, the only player in the Pirates' system competing in the Olympics, will leave Altoona today for Canada's training camp in Toronto.
• Huntington, on why he did not hold out longer to trade for an elite prospect: "To me, when you're told a player is untouchable again and again, that player is untouchable. We didn't think those scenarios would change."