Q: DK, what is the status of Shawn Chacon as the Pirates' No. 5 starter? Why are we even thinking of this fellow when we have three No. 1 draft picks -- Bryan Bullington, John Van Benschoten and Sean Burnett -- waiting in the wings?
James Day of Findlay Township
KOVACEVIC: Because, James, no one can be sure of the status of those three players.
In Bullington's case, he still is not pitching off a mound. When he does resume that, according to ample precedent, he could need as long as a year to resume pitching effectively in games. Van Benschoten is capable of pitching, and he did so quite well in the minors near the end of last season. But he was shut down again and still has not shown the durability necessary to be counted upon for the rotation ... even if he has a great spring. Burnett? He is the closest of the group, having gone through a whole season without missing a start. He did not perform up to his previous standard, but that tends to be expected. If he can perform this spring, yes, he can give Chacon or Brian Lawrence or whomever a run for the job. But that remains an if.
As it is, though, Chacon is as close as the Pirates come to stability in that slot.
Q: Hey, Dejan, two questions about your Jody Gerut story Wednesday:
1: I know you're not a doctor, but doesn't Gerut's recovery time seem a little behind for the surgery he had? Rod Woodson tore his ACL and was able to cover Deion Sanders in the Super Bowl five months later. And Gerut is still jogging?
2: When the Pirates tendered Gerut a contract, do you think they were admitting that they erred on the rehab recommendation and were trying to establish some good will with a potential power lefty?
John Sisteck of Crafton
KOVACEVIC: Good will? No. The Pirates clearly are of the mind that Gerut's ability -- when healthy -- makes him worth the risk. Why else tender a contract immediately after getting nothing to show for the $875,000 spent on him last season?
As for the recovery time, no, I am not a doctor, and, yes, it does seem slow. But it should be pointed out that Gerut's surgery has nothing in common with Woodson's or, for that matter, most knee surgeries in sports. Woodson's was a torn ligament that was repaired. In many cases -- the Penguins' Darius Kasparaitis was one, a few years back -- those ligaments actually can be stronger than the originals. In Gerut's case, as mentioned in the story, his patella tendon was reconnected to a different place to try to stem some lingering discomfort. If there is any precedent for this type of recovery in sports, I am not aware of it.
Regardless, the mere fact that Gerut is not able to run at this late stage of the offseason does not bode well. If he is unable to compete full-throttle from the outset of spring training, I have a hard time imagining him doing enough to make the team.
Q: Enough about Adam LaRoche and possible trades. I want to know what Dave Littlefield and the Pirates' organization have done to improve on getting Latin America talent.
Jim DiFlorio of Allentown, Pa.
KOVACEVIC: Preaching to the choir, my brother ...
It is a subject I plan to continue documenting and, in the meantime, here is a link to a piece written in April: Lagging in Latin America a costly mistake
In closing, one thing I failed to anticipate when making this feature daily was that all that mail I used to get on Friday now comes in every single day and, to be honest, it has been overwhelming in volume. I find myself spending a lot more time on this feature -- and in answering emails personally -- than I had previously, and that is not something I am going to be able to keep up when the balls start flying.
My answer for this is to make the Q&A a Monday-Friday feature, as opposed to seven days. This will give me weekends to manage the inbox more efficiently and to take a little break from the feature itself.
Admit it: You only read the thing when you should be working, anyway, so spare me the complaints.
Until Monday, angry citizens ...