Dejan Kovacevic's Pirates chat transcript: 8.17.2010

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Greg: Ultimately, do you see Duke and Maholm on the roster next season?

Dejan Kovacevic: I do. Definitely in Maholm's case, as he already is signed. And I could see the Pirates pushing hard to keep Duke's final-arbitration-year salary down as opposed to something more drastic like a non-tender. It will be Duke's final year before free agency, and -- just for fun -- one thing I recall Craig Patrick telling me when he was GM of the Penguins is that he loved to have guys on his roster in their final years before free agency because performance would spike.

GiardiaSurvivor: Dejan, I too once caught a bug in Mexico. we appreciate you risking your digestive system to provide amazing beat coverage. Any word on whether the Pirates have any interest in either of the 2 big name guys who had their contracts voided? (Wagner Mateo was the no 2 international last year but failed an eye exam given to him by the cardinals and his bonus was voided. Barret Loux was the Dback first pick this year and was just granted free agency) I believe both are still available

Dejan Kovacevic: The trip was a blast, the food episode aside, and I look forward to presenting that in Sunday's paper. Lots of fun stuff, beyond even the athlete himself.

I know that the Pirates had minimal interest in Mateo even before his eyesight issue, and that surely was not heightened afterward. There is another shortstop the Pirates are eyeing, but I still do not have a name. At any rate, I would not expect anything more along the lines of a Heredia type out of the international market.

As for the draft, Chuck Finder has been on that for us. The international stuff is mine.

Mr_Xiaoqi: Dejan - Can you give us a realistic timetable as to when HS pitchers (like Taillon & Allie) might get to the Majors (best case scenario) and how much time they would have with the likes of Tabata, Walker & Alvarez?

Dejan Kovacevic: Again, Chuck is going to handle the draft stuff better, but I can share that one scout told me yesterday he thought it would take four years for both to reach the majors. That actually sounds pretty reasonable given that both are right out of high school. It is quite the leap, and it wouldn't be fair to compare to, say, Pedro Alvarez, coming out of college. These kids are teenagers.

PirateApologist: Once formal offers can be made for Heredia, any idea as to how long it will take for him to sign with someone?

Dejan Kovacevic: No one can know that until it happens, but I don't get the impression it would have to take long at all. Any agreement is one phone call away.

Atty Edgar Snyder: Have you been injured in an accident and it's not your fault? Let me get money for you

Dejan Kovacevic: Just a little, Edgar. Knee and shoulder. I'll live.

And put that finger down.

Jeremy: Can you explain to us Luis Heredia's full repotoire of pitches?

Dejan Kovacevic: Sure. When I saw him last Thursday in Mazatlan, his fastball sat consistently at 92, a few times reaching 93, and this with an effortless delivery. (More impressive than anything.) He also has a sinker and another variation of his fastball that tails in on righties, which he insisted happens at command. There is a change, a curve -- not a very good one at all when I saw him -- and a slider in progress.

Dave C: If Neal Huntington keeps making trades like Dotel for Macdonald and Lambo he won't have to worry about job security.

Dejan Kovacevic: We are -- and I'm no exception -- often looking at trades in too short-sighted a mode. These take time, for better or worse. There is no question there have been some bad trades, even some really bad trades, just as there was the Xavier Nady trade that we can see in hindsight with the benefit of plenty of time looks pretty good. (Even if all that comes of it is Jose Tabata.

Patience is the only way to judge these things.

Ask yourself, just for example, how you viewed Lastings Milledge a month ago and how you view him now. Or Ronny Cedeno from week to week.

Mr_Xiaoqi: Do you feel you might have "jumped the gun" on your story about the Pirates turning the corner? I originally felt the piece was a bit over the top in optimism, and then the Pirates proceeded to reel off six straight losses featured by a horrendous offense.

Dejan Kovacevic: If I had written something like what you describe, yes, that would have been jumping the gun, and it would have been ridiculous. But I wrote no such thing.

The story, written in analysis form, posed a broad question about whether or not the Pirates had bottomed out. I never once even asked the question as to whether they had turned the corner. There is a huge difference there. Moreover, the piece describes the awful state of the pitching as being a "conversation-killer" and details how the current set of position players "had better be the group" because there is almost nothing behind them.

That's not exactly bubbling over with optimism.

It posed a broad question, and it addressed some issues. As always, with any piece in that mold, different readers read it differently.

Matt: Why are the Bucs considered the favorite for Heredia?

Dejan Kovacevic: Breaking my heart, Matt. It is detailed in today's Notebook lede.

Ryan: DK, reading comprehension is really down, you proposed a hypothesis, you didn't make a statement with your Pirates hit bottom story.

Dejan Kovacevic: If any statements were made, it was that the top five in the order -- particularly from the youth standpoint -- looked as encouraging as any in recent years. That seems hard to debate, especially in context. And the other was that the pitching was awful. And the only quick fixes for awful pitching is rampant free-agent signings, which seem extremely unlikely.

Dave C: How is Ross Ohlendorf holding up mentally? He should have 7-8 wins.

Dejan Kovacevic: One of the many positives about the more advanced metrics available in baseball these days is that things like wins and losses -- which often mean very, very little as an indicator of performance -- are more easily dismissed.

Ohlendorf is obviously a bright guy, and he has shown to me on more than one occasion that, while he'd like for the Pirates to win when he pitches -- I saw the guy smiling ear to ear the night he barely lasted two innings and the Pirates rallied -- he has to work within what he can control.

That said, the recent spate of good starts should not erase that he mostly was ineffective in the first half.

Matt: Sorry, Dejan. I read the paper 9 p.m. west coast time, the notebook must have gone up later due to all the draft stuff.

Dejan Kovacevic: No problem. Should have given you the link with the initial response.

There also is much, much more about Heredia on the blog this morning, including questions and answers for readers in the comments section.

Jeremy: So... Heredia has 6 pitches. He's got to find atleast 3 good ones out of that, or so I would think.

Dejan Kovacevic: Yes, exactly, and that was discussed. But remember how you were at age 16, and how you thought you could do everything. He does appear to have three, possibly four good pitches already. And again, I stress the fastball: He's already throwing harder than three-fifths of the Pirates' current rotation, while still having lots of room to add strength.

Fox: Dejan -- big fan of the PBC blog. Do you see the Chris Snyder acquisition as a bridge to Tony Sanchez? Do you think he will make an impact at the major league level?

Dejan Kovacevic: That sounds reasonable. Sanchez obviously was set back a little this year, but the Pirates plan to put him through a full Instructional League schedule this October to make up for time lost, and he still might return for Bradenton, final week or so.

Everything I saw about Sanchez in spring training -- and that was limited because of my late arrival from the Olympics -- was very impressive.

Neil: Did u meet Heredia's mom who is now claiming the ties to Veracruz are not valid?

Dejan Kovacevic: I did, and there were no such issues expressed. The whole family, mother included, wants to sign with the Pirates.

Spencer: Do the pirates see Ledezma, Resop and Gallagher as long term bullpen options or are they just holding spots until the offseason?

Dejan Kovacevic: I know that they like what they have seen of Ledezma throwing 95 from the left side, and I know that they have been very surprised by Resop getting this many swings and misses. Gallagher had the one strong long-relief outing but otherwise has done little.

Hard to imagine anyone getting discounted from the bullpen picture, given its current state.

Matt A: Those details about Heredia..not sure I see how that translates to the most sought after pitcher in Latin America and a multi-million dollar signing bonus..does he have a really solid downward plane as well?

Dejan Kovacevic: Matt, I'm describing to you one outing, and I'm doing that from an untrained eye. I never pretend to play baseball scout, and I'm sharing only the impressions I saw.

I also saw a dozen scouts at the game, most of whom made special flights from the U.S. just to see that start. Those are the trained eyes.

And I'll say it again: Kid just turned 16. He's three years younger than the two guys the Pirates took at the top of the draft, and that's the age -- for better or worse -- where teams have to line up to get their international players. They have to project at that age going forward.

There also was more to the outing that I'll save for the Sunday piece.

scott: DK - Love your work. Does Bob Nutting get some slack for spending wisely in the draft?

Dejan Kovacevic: That's up to you, not me. One more today, as we're a little over ...

Dormont Dave: why are the Bucs trying so hard to find a place for Dourmit who has not hit for looong time?

Dejan Kovacevic: Because a large part of their thinking is that Doumit might hit more consistently and with more power if he is in a less stressful defensive position, mentally and physically. He still is doing some catching, obviously, but he was just about the only player getting extra-base hits on the otherwise absymal offensive road trip, so maybe that is a glimpse.

The concussions are a big variable, too.

More ball tonight at the yard, Q&A tomorrow in the blog ...



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