TAMPA, Fla. -- Only outfielder Jose Tabata made the trip back to the spring-training workplace formerly known as Legends Field. The rest of those four New York Yankees refugees stayed behind last night, the Pirates giving St. Patrick's Day off to pitchers Ross Ohlendorf and Jeff Karstens and giving pitcher Daniel McCutchen a return trip to Pirate City for minor-league reassignment a day earlier.
So it wasn't much of a reunion. Not like expatriate Pirates outfielder Xavier Nady hugging manager John Russell and throwing an arm around Nate McLouth amid batting practice before the game last night.
"I didn't really understand the whole financial aspect," Nady was saying from the $200 million-plus Yankees clubhouse, referring to the trade-deadline deal that whisked him from the PNC Park on-deck circle the next day along with reliever Damaso Marte to Fenway Park in Boston to catch up with the Yankees. "But they went out and got some younger talent."
Nady was speaking from the clubhouse stall next to utilityman Shelley Duncan and just down the row from Phil Coke, the pitcher who thought for a few hours he was part of that trade.
Those are the folks who played with Tabata and McCutchen in minor-league Charleston, Tampa and Trenton. Those are the folks who have a history with Ohlendorf and Karstens in Tampa, Trenton and the Bronx big time. They know.
They predict good things for their four ex-mates, especially Tabata the lone position player of the bunch.
"Those guys are probably going to end up being pretty good production guys for that organization," Coke said.
"I tell you what," Duncan concluded, "I miss having all of them around. Pittsburgh's lucky to have all four."
Some comments from a couple of the former Yankees former teammates:
Duncan, son of coach Dave Duncan and brother to utilityman Chris of the St. Louis Cardinals: "In my mind, Tabata's going to be a great player. His only rough year [early 2008] was the first time he ever had to deal with adversity ... something he had to overcome and [learn] how to deal with it mentally. That's when his stock dropped. McCutchen, he's going to be good some day. The guy has some serious [chops]. He's an unbelievable person in the locker room and a great guy to have on the mound in those clutch situations. Ohlendorf, he's constantly learning. Great work ethic, great stuff. If he continues to do what he's doing, he's going to make himself into a really good pitcher. He's got a great moustache, too. Karstens, he might hate me for saying this: He doesn't have the best stuff. But he knows how to get you out. He's a solid, solid pitcher. Once again, he's a good guy to have around, too. No ego with him. Every one of those guys."
Coke: "Karstens, he showed he's a battler on the mound [in his second start]He went 82/3 before he gave up a hit, at Arizona. McCutchen, he's a gamer. Ohlendorf, he can flat pitch, too. He's a big, strong dude who can throw hard. And Tabata, he's got a great stick. He's young, but he's learning quickly."
Starting pitcher Phil Hughes, who saw Ohlendorf throw four no-hit innings Saturday against a Yankees split-squad at McKechnie Field: "He looked good. He's always been a really good pitcher. Power arm. Sinker-slider guy. Going to mix in his changeup when he needs to. I mean, he's going to be that typical ground-ball guy. [Karstens], he's a guy I've known for a long time. I think it's a good fit for him. Had some success last year. He's another guy who really knows how to pitch."
Catcher Jorge Posada: Ohlendorf, "he's got a really heavy ball. It seems like he's working on his off-speed stuff. He's got a great arm. Got a good sinker. And he competes. He competes, and he cares, and he shows it. I love that about him. What I remember about Karstens is, he got better as he went along. The first two innings or so, he would struggle. But then he would find his groove. I talked to him [Saturday] ... and he said they're changing his arm slot a little bit. I think that should be good for him, trying to get the ball to the other side of the plate -- like in to lefties and away to righties."
Catch more on the Pirates and join the discussion at the PBC Blog . First Published March 18, 2009 4:00 AM