Pirates' Travis Ishikawa puts a tag on the Chicago Cubs' Emilio Bonifacio in March.
James_Pittsburgh: I am rooting for Travis Ishikawa to keep the first base job, but I suspect he won't remain with the Pirates for the entire season.
Jerry Micco: Well, he's hitting like he wants to keep the job, but he's also getting all the playing time because the Pirates are facing a lot of righthanders. I'm sure Sanchez will get starts against lefties. And Clint Hurdle said last night that he liked what he saw of Ishikawa in Florida and wanted to keep that momentum going, which has turned out to be a wise move. Now I don't think he's going to hit .300 and knock in 80 runs, but so far, so good.
James_Pittsburgh: The Pirates are looking good. When does Polanco arrive?
Who would you like to see the Penguins play in the first round of the NHL playoffs?
Red Wings (8.3%)
Blue Jackets (83.3%)
Jerry Micco: Pirates can't complain about a 5-2 start that's for sure. Polanco needs some time and ABs at Indy before coming up to play RF. He seems to have all the tools to play at the big league level, but he's going to have to prove it in at least a half season in AAA.
Guest: Watching what UConn did coming off probation winning the Tournament as a high seed why is it so much to ask that Dixon gets Pitt to an Elite 8 game or a Final Four? It obviously can be done.
Jerry Micco: When people think of great college basketball programs, the names rattled off are Indiana, Kansas, North Carolina, Duke. Better start including UConn in that mix. Four national titles now for the Huskies. That many titles gets you elite players. Pitt gets very good players, but not always elite players. It's not too much to ask of Dixon and Pitt to make Elite 8s and to finally make a Final Four. Dixon would tell you the goal is to win it all. But that hasn't happened as much as he'd, or the fans, would have liked.
James_Pittsburgh: The Pirates have a strong team for the next few years. It will be interesting how the pitching staff shakes out with only Cole and Charlie Morton under contract next year. Especially, now that Tallion won't pitch this year.
Jerry Micco: They will have to see if they can keep a guy like Liriano around, or if they think guys like Cumpton and Pimentel are able to move into the starting rotation. Jeff Locke, too, is a guy worth keeping in mind. They do have some minor league depth, but losing Taillon is not going to help. Also, you have other free agents out there that might be worth signing much like Liriano was two years ago.
Vernon Law: I see Travis Snider batting 2nd last night Walker batting 6th. I know they won the game but why is Travis Snider getting so many at bats?
Jerry Micco: The Pirates want to see what they have in Snider because they've really only got a small snapshot of him. He was injured most of last season and as a former first-round pick, they are intrigued about how he might be able to perform. For now, and until Polanco can play, Snider will be getting ABs against righties.
Russ in Memphis: How long before Wandy finds his groove and can shut down opposing line ups again? Do you see him as 100% healthy yet?
Jerry Micco: While he wasn't great against the Cubs in his first start, three runs over six innings, that's considered a quality start. He's healthy, but he's got some rust, I'm sure. I think he's going to be OK and as he pitches more he'll get to the point where he'll be pretty effective. I think the Pirates are going to rely more on Liriano, Morton and Cole as their big three and hope Wandy and Volquez give them some back-end quality starts.
Russ in Memphis: I think Ishikawa looks a lot physically like Garrett Jones, I was SHOCKED when I saw the 1st game with him, confused as to how he got the Japanese name though...help?
Jerry Micco: Ishikawa's father is third-generation Japanese and his great-grandfather emigrated from Japan to California to work on the railroads according to the Pirates media guide.
Russ in Memphis: Steelers draft a WR 1st, CB 2nd, LB 3rd...smells like a Super Bowl season to me. LOVE the additions of Blount, Moore and Hayward-Bey! Perfect fits for our offense!
Jerry Micco: I think Blount and Moore will be contributors right away. I think Heyward-Bey will have to work hard to earn a roster spot, and likely will be a fourth WR is he does. Maybe a fifth WR if a highly drafted rookie shows he can play. Bey has never shown he can play at the NFL level as more than a pedestrian player. Maybe a light bulb goes on here, but that's not a guarantee. I think the Steelers go WR/CB in 2 of their first 3 picks.
James_Trenton: Tallion's career may be over. I think we could have had Machado that draft. Pitchers are so fragile. Are you in favor of the theory of drafting starting Pitching with high 1st round picks?
Jerry Micco: I'd hardly say his career is over. The success of TJ surgery is extremely high. Stephen Stasburg's career is hardly over, nor is Charlie Morton's. Or many other MLB pitchers. If you can get a stud pitcher high, you take him, Pitching wins you championships. Gerrit Cole was coveted by a lot of teams, but the Pirates took him. Not saying Machado isn't a terrific player, but you still need pitching to win titles. And you need a lot of it.
Chunkles: Jerry, is it important that the Pens resign Brooks Orpik after this season?
Jerry Micco: It is probably more important from a leadership standpoint. They are very deep in defensemen in the system. He's lost a half-step, but he's still a very physical guy. What is going to hurt them is that four-year albatross of a contract they gave Rob Scuderi.
Willie: I'm a Pittburgh Steelers fan and don't understand why all of our draft picks don't turn out to be superstars and we don't win the Super Bowl every year. Should be fire all the coaches and GM's and get rid of all the old players until this starts to happen?
Jerry Micco: Yes, you are a Steelers fan.
Guest: with all the young outfield prospects i.e. bell,meadows etc. do you see the pirates shifting one of them to first base
Jerry Micco: There are few first base prospects in the system, so that is a possibility. I have heard that Josh Bell is the player most likely to do that.
James_Pittsburgh: Jerry, I see a rotation of Cole, Morton, and Vance Worley, and Jeff Locke in 2015. It would be nice to see a veteran starter to go with the group.
Jerry Micco: I would agree with that. Perhaps is Volquez shows he can pitch well enough this year, they re-sign him, or they go out and find someone who can fill a role like Liriano did for them. There are always veteran starters out there than can do that.
Wild Bill: The players projected in the first round get hyped as superstars before they even play a down. Gilbert is a solid athlete but very inconsistent corner and Dennard is physical but stuggles in zone and holds often. Are either of these two corners really worth first round picks or is Kyle Fuller the best CB right now?
Jerry Micco: Every player drafted has flaws. None is perfect. It's up to coaches to help work out those flaws, and even then it takes playing experience in the NFL to get better. That's why coaches hate to play rookies. Kyle Fuller is a very good CB, but I'd still rate Gilbert and Dennard ahead of him.
Willie: Why are people watching the Pirates? Don't they know tht the NFL draft is only a month away?
Jerry Micco: I've been trying to tell them Willie, but they just aren't listening to me.
James_Augusta: Prediction for The Masters? Is this the week Rory blows away the field?
Jerry Micco: I can see Rory McIlroy being a top contender, but not blowing away the field. Should be a very good tournament with a lot of possible winners. You always like the guys who have won before because of their experience.
Frank The Tank: LB2 in the Steelers backfield. Is it possible both backs have 1000 yard seasons ala Franco and Rocky?
Jerry Micco: No because no team in the NFL runs the ball that much. The Steelers run the ball less than 40 percent of the time. I can see Bell as a 1,000-yard rusher, but Blount would be more a complementary guy. I like picking him up and think he'll be a very nice component in goal line as well as a guy who will get 10 carries a game to pound the other team's defense.
Matt from LA: Pitt will make the Final Four the day that it has guards like Napier and Boatright, people who can drive, create and make their own shots as opposed to JR and Cameron who can do none of the above! Bottom line: Dixon needs to recruit better players, not average players that he can make better!
Jerry Micco: Shabazz Napier was a terrific player for several years for UConn. And Boatright, I'd actually forgotten this, was the kid Tim Floyd offered a scholarship to in 8th grade when Floyd coached at Southern Cal. Yes, he was that good. But when you win titles, you get guys like that to come to your school. Winning championships means a lot to young athletes. UConn's recruiting will only get better.
Russ in Memphis: I have noticed a distinct lack of power in McCutchen that started near the end of last season and seems to have carried over to early this year. Have you noticed less pop in his bat or am i imagining it?
Jerry Micco: I never really think of McCutchen as a power hitter. I always see him as a 20-25 HR guy and maybe 80-85 RBI. Great glove, steal 30-35 bags and 35 doubles. Gap hitter. All-around player who can do a lot for your team, which is how he won the MVP. I think he'll get his share of HRs, but if you're looking for 30 HRs a year out of him, you won't ever see that.
geography minor: Jerry, sure seem to have a lot of PSU coverage this spring. You do realize PSU is 3 hours from Pittsburgh, correct? Why not cover the Cleveland Indians, they are closer to Pittsburgh than State College
Jerry Micco: You get an A for your geography and an F for beating that dead horse for the 1000th time. We do about twice as much on Pitt spring football, covering every one of their practices, blogging as well as putting stories in the paper, than PSU. And are the Indians the state school of Pennsylvania of which Pittsburgh is a part of? I thought so? Sorry, you just flunked logic class.
Russ in Memphis: Did I mention that I LOVE the Blount signing? Fantastic addition not only for depth but the guy is an absolute beast, this will be fun to watch...
Jerry Micco: He will certainly help in the backfield. Again, I see him being big in short-yardage and being the kind of guy for 10 plays or so who can do some damage.
Mel Jr: I just completed a mock draft online and I have the Steelers trading down and selecting Taylor Lewan OT Michigan
Jerry Micco: Lewan might be there at 15, so why trade down? Then again, why take a tackle when you already have two on your roster that were second-round picks and one of them isn't going to start? Plus, Lewan has some off-field issues that will have to be watched. I'm not sure I'd want Lewan, but his talent will trump any off-field concerns.
James_Pittsburgh: The Pirates don't have a history of resigning free agents. I would just love to see a solid veteran added to a 2015 rotation with a lot of question marks. (Cole, Morton, and Vance Worley, Jeff Locke).
Jerry Micco: I think that's what they'd do. And you might think about Pimentel for your list instead of either Worley or Locke. Guy has tremendous upside and the Pirates really like what he's shown so far.
Guest: Hi Jerry Why can't we seem to get the Ike Davis trade done? We seem to have many young pieces we could move?
Jerry Micco: My understanding is the Mets are asking for a lot and the Pirates don't see a need to make a deal now. It's not like Ike Davis is going to be a guy who is going to be a consistent hitter, either. He's a guy who could provide power, but not much average. Right now, I don't think the Pirates want to give up a lot when they see first base being, so far, on solid ground.
NaplesDave: Hi JM, Classic Morton last night? A 200 inning eater that gives up 300 runs? He needs to be more dependable. Thoughts
Jerry Micco: I think Morton can be more dependable. He's had one good outing and one bad outing this year. I said in an earlier chat that he could win 14-15 games this year, and I think he can still do that. He looked great in his first outing, but couldn't get the sinker going last night. They'll need his consistency to be much better because they'll need him to pitch well to be successful.
James_Naples: NH is a genius. He lets AJ walk and he gets pounded in his 1st start and Vosquez outpitches Wainwright.
Jerry Micco: Well, so far that looks like a sweet move by the Pirates. But it's a long season. Let's see how that pans out over time. You always have to temper things in baseball because it's over six months. The bell curve on both pitchers says it likely won't stay that way all season. But the Pirates sure would be pleased if they can get starts like that from Volquez even 50 percent of the time.
Matt from LA: So, in regards to college basketball and UConn, what comes first, the horse or the cart? Is there no hope for Pitt's recruiting or do we just have to hope and pray that one year we get lucky?
Jerry Micco: Pitt has recruited very well this past year and has some good players coming in, as I understand it. Paul Zeise, who covers Pitt basketball for us, would be a better judge than me. But playing in the ACC and being more than competitive there certainly is a plus for recruits. And the fact that Pitt is a regular in the NCAA tournament is also a plus. But it would help to make Sweet 16s more often and the occasional Elite 8.
Matt: Letang coming back tonight. Did you see this coming?
Jerry Micco: I really thought he'd be shut down for the entire season, but we'd been reporting that he'd been skating and working out. I hope that he's fine and that all goes well the rest of the way. I'm sure doctors, Letang and the Penguins took every precaution before he was cleared. He's a terrific player, and I hope he has a very long and healthy NHL career, followed by a long and fruitful life.
Guest: I'm a huge Pgh sports fan but can you tell me why I really couldn't care less about the Penguins this year? The playoff season is so long and the Pens seem to underachieve every year.
Jerry Micco: I got the sense that many fans felt that way about the Penguins this year. It might have been from the rush of the lockout shortened season, where every game seemed important. Then it was the wipeout at the hands of Boston. I think fans are at the point of the regular season doesn't matter, show us what you can do in the playoffs. Especially in a division that was really no contest for them. They are going to have to make a deep run because I sense that fans might be casting a bit more of a critical eye.
James_Pittsburgh: Jerry, I like Vance Worley to resurrect his career and be the Pirates 5th starter next year. He may even get a chance this year if a starter goes down.
Jerry Micco: I know the Pirates would like to see him regain is former form. He's another one of those guys, Like Liriano and Volquez, who the Pirates think can recapture some magic and really help them. I guess we'll see how he does in AAA.
James_Pittsburgh: Will the Penguins undergo a major rebuilding project this off-season? They need to play tougher defense? The Penguins will get knocked out in the second round of the playoffs.
Jerry Micco: I don't think they'll rebuild because they have a core that won't be replaced (Crosby, Malkin, Letang, Neal, Kunitz, Fleury,). Now, might there be a shakeup in the coaching ranks or the front office if there's an early exit? Maybe. We'll see. Hockey is the sport where you see those types of changes. Of course, the Penguins are also good enough to win the East, too.
Willie: Doesn't it just feel good to have the Pirates playing some good ball? Just to know that it's not a fluke good start and that they should be competitive for the next FIVE months is such a breath of fresh air.
Jerry Micco: Last year the Pirates captured the city's sports imagination. It was great to see for the fans because they had endured 20 years of losing. Now, it looks so far like the team will compete again. Will they enjoy the same success as they did in 2013? I don't know, but for now, they show every reason that they will. I just hope fans enjoy it for what it is, good, hard, competitive baseball. Should be another great summer in the 'Burgh.
Ralph The Plumber: Will the PG ever erect a statue outside the offices of Bob Smizik?
Jerry Micco: Well, Bob's "offices" would be his South Hills home, and I don't know what he's got outside his abode. As for our offices at 34 Boulevard of the Allies, we're still trying to find the right spot to erect a statue to someone. It's in the discussion stage.
Guest: I got Jason Day winning this week in augusta. Back to Back Aussies. Who's your pick? Phil?
Jerry Micco: Anyone who knows me knows that Phil is always my favorite golfer and that I love to watch him anytime. Usually, he breaks my heart in the majors, but not in the Masters, where he has won 3 green jackets. Do I like him this week? I do, but not to win. He'll contend, though. I usually like guys who have won before, but how about a new champion: Jason Day.
Jerry Micco: OK folks, time to get back to some other stuff. Thanks so much for spending the hour with me and for all the great questions. Really appreciate it. Have a terrific week, and I hope to see you here next Wednesday at noon. Follow me on Twitter: @PG_JerryMicco.
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