Hot Stove: Pitching coach will stress turnarounds


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For all the mechanical minutiae Jeff Andrews surely will address as the Pirates' new pitching coach, it is a mental trait that he plans to stress when minicamp begins Tuesday in Bradenton, Fla.

And that trait will be defined, as he discloses without apology, by losing.

"After we lose a game, we need to have our starters -- all of them -- approach the next one with a sense of urgency," Andrews said. "If you take any of our starters and look at the top 10 percent of their starts, they match up with anyone in the league. Well, that's the level you need to find when your team needs it the most. You can't go long stretches of losing, and the only people who can stop those are the starting pitchers."

In other words, he wants all his starters to be stoppers. But the numbers from 2007 will show that will be quite the challenge.

Consider that the Pirates' five starters for next season -- Tom Gorzelanny, Ian Snell, Paul Maholm, Matt Morris and Zach Duke -- went a combined 19-25 when pitching after a team loss last season.

Individually ...

• Gorzelanny, in 16 such starts, went 7-5 with a 2.94 ERA.

• Snell, in 16 such starts, went 5-4 with a 3.14 ERA

• Maholm, in 16 such starts, went 5-8 with a 5.83 ERA.

• Morris, in six such starts after the Pirates acquired him, went 1-2 with a 7.14 ERA.

• Duke, in 11 such starts, went 1-6 with a 5.74 ERA.

Only Gorzelanny and Snell had a better ERA in these situations than their overall ERAs and, by no coincidence, when those two shared their only poor stretches of the season in July, the team went into a 2-13 tailspin.

Which would appear to reinforce Andrews' point.

"I know it may sound a touch negative, to say to a pitcher, 'I want your job to be to stop losing streaks,' but that's what I'm going to do," Andrews said. "I want to look at your starts after we've lost the previous night, and I want you to have a winning record."

To that end, Andrews plans to emphasize pitching's simplest statistic.

"We need starters to get wins. There has to be an urgency from the team standpoint. Look, there was a time in their careers where it was OK to pitch a few good innings. Not now. The ballparks aren't new. The opposing lineups aren't new. It's time to win. You signed up for this. Let's go. Get out there and win."

Buried treasure

• General manager Neal Huntington would like to see Damaso Marte become more than a left-handed one-out specialist, and Marte is getting a head start in that regard. All three of his relief appearances since joining Licey of the Dominican Winter League have covered a full inning or more. He has given up no runs and two hits while fanning three.

Jose Bautista, still searching for his stride on that same team, has a .219 average, two home runs and eight RBIs in 41 at-bats.

• Three newlyweds in the Pirates' fold this offseason: Zach and Kristin Duke, Tom and Lindsey Gorzelanny, and Chris and Kristin Duffy. The Dukes and Gorzelannys were married two weeks apart in early November. "We went right from our honeymoon to Gorz's wedding," Duke said. Each couple also moved into new homes in the North Hills.

• Morris and his wife, Heather, had a daughter, Harper, Oct. 30.

• One reason free-agent catcher Johnny Estrada is interested in signing with the Pirates is a deep respect for new bench coach Gary Varsho, whom he credits for molding him while coming up through the Philadelphia system. Estrada is seeking a one-year, incentive-based deal.

• More proof of how it pays to be a starter: The contract the Colorado Rockies recently gave Kip Wells, fresh off losing 17 games in St. Louis, calls for $3.1 million guaranteed plus $1.5 million if he achieves 210 innings.

• Only 39 days until pitchers and catchers report for spring training.


Dejan Kovacevic can be reached at dkovacevic@post-gazette.com . First Published January 6, 2008 5:00 AM


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