Bill Brink's Pirates baseball chat transcript: 5.2.14

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Poll Question: Who has had the most frustrating start? Answer #1: Starling Marte (43%) Answer #2: Pedro Alvarez (26%) Answer #3: Jordy Mercer (31%)

Bill Brink: Here we go guys ...

Sean: will the pirates bring up Lambo any time within the nest week?

Bill Brink: I don't know about the next week but they have to start thinking about it soon because their offense needs something. He won't be the answer to all their struggles but he could help. He seems to have recovered from his terrible spring, but didn't do much in the majors in limited playing time last year.

Sean: WOW!!! Snider and tabata were 0 for 6 yesterday. Any ideas to imorove?

Bill Brink: For Snider, not taking called strike three would help. Easier said than done, but better protection in two-strike counts would have helped yesterday.

Tabata needs more solid contact. He rolls too many grounders to the left side of the infield. Keeping his bat in the zone longer might help.

Angry: 97 total wins in their first playoff season since 1992. Then they do NOTHING in the offseason, and refuse to bring up guys from AAA (Polanco, Lambo) that can help. Does this front office even care?

Bill Brink: The lack of offseason moves criticism is valid. They had a team that made the playoffs on the strength of their pitching and did nothing to improve the offense. Ike Davis could help, but we have to remember he has dealt with injuries, hits for a low average and lost a position battle to Lucas Duda.

Even if they brought up Polanco or Lambo, that wouldn't make Pedro Alvarez or Jordy Mercer hit any better or turn Starling Marte into a good leadoff hitter. This is a bad offensive team right now, and one or two minor leaguers won't change that.

marty34156: What are the odds, assuming they're out of it, of the Bucs moving Pedro at the deadline? I love Pedro, but he'll be gone before 2016 as is. Why not try and flip him now and, hopefully, get someone who can fill the long term holes at SS or 3B.

Bill Brink: I tend to agree, though because Alvarez has such power, which is so hard to find today, they might keep him through arbitration and saddle him with a qualifying offer when he reaches free agency. It's not ideal, but it's tough to move someone who can hit 40 home runs.

Buck: During last night's DH, it seemed as if the Pirates hitters were having trouble hitting 90-92 mph fastballs that were up in the zone. These fastballs appeared to be flat with little movement. My question is: does this go beyond a slump, or do we just not have very good hitters?

Bill Brink: The team has some good hitters, but save for McCutchen, the good ones aren't hitting right now and the bad ones are really struggling. This is a team-wide slump.

Craig: If the parents are out of contention in mid July, do you expect them to be sellers and trade anyone? If yes, who?

Bill Brink: If they are out of contention, I expect them to move Liriano if he is pitching well enough to warrant interest.

Craig: Does the fact that in almost everyone of the Pirates losses, they have had the tying run at bad in the 7th inning or later, Give any hope they can turn things around?

Bill Brink: Yes, to a point. They're getting men on base, which is positive, and if it plays out during the course of an entire season the runs will come. Their batting average on balls in play was last in the NL (last I checked) and that will correct somewhat as well.

Nathan: Where's Vance Worley pitching and how's he doing?

Bill Brink: He has not appeared in an affiliated game this season and is in extended spring training.

marty34156: Any chance of the Bucs pursuing Stephen Drew? Jordy Mercer is not very good, at all. Or even kicking the tires on Gregorious again?

Bill Brink: The Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales markets should heat up again after the draft, at which point teams no longer need to surrender a draft pick if they sign one of them. They'll have to look. Mercer isn't hitting. I don't know whether the Diamondbacks, who are well out of it as of now, would be thrilled about moving a young shortstop, but if they got a good pitcher in return they might.

Derek: Should the Buccos bring up Lambo? I'm not sure where he would play.

Bill Brink: He could play right field, but then the question becomes, are you really getting different production than from Tabata or Snider?

Derek: Do you believe there is any chance we go after a big name for the rotation next year? If Liriano leaves...that leaves us with Cole & Morton. Both have struggled this year. The rest are unknowns.

Bill Brink: I agree that the rotation for next year is shaky at best, especially because of Jameson Taillon's setback, and adding a pitcher would make sense. But I don't see the Pirates adding a big-name pitcher because their track record indicates they will not. Spending $80 million over five years is not something they will do, unless their front office has a massive paradigm shift.

Doc: I hate to bail on this season but…… IF the Pirates are 20 out of the Wildcard by AS break, who goes first: Pedro, Martin, Liriano??

Bill Brink: Any or all could be available, with Liriano the most likely and Alvarez the least likely.

Jake: How do you think Tony Sanchez has handled himself in some extended playing time this season and how does that translate to his potential future as the Pirates' starting catcher?

Bill Brink: He has hit well. That bodes well. He said often that confidence at the plate took some time to regain, and he did so last year. Defense needs improvement, specifically throwing. His experience and exposure should help him in 2015.

Michael: it's interesting that Marte was moved out of leadoff position to take the pressure off, but then found himself at the plate with runners in scoring position.. isn't that even more pressure?

Bill Brink: Marte will hit with runners in scoring position from any spot in the order. Batting him seventh, in Hurdle's eyes, takes the immediate pressure off of starting the game.

DevilInLaw: How difficult is it to get the Pirates to admit that Super 2, not fielding balls hit off the Right Field Wall, is the reason why Polanco is not in the Majors today? Regardless of his impact on Pirates, it's clear Polanco is ready to be challenged at a higher level (especially when you factor in what he did in Dominican League).

Bill Brink: Every team factors Super 2 status into when to call up prospects, not just the Pirates, though in the grand scheme of things it might only cost them a few million dollars and the impact could add a few wins. Look at the Mets and Ike Davis. They called him up in April 2010, he was Super 2 eligible and earned slightly more than $3 million in his first year after that, about $2.5 million more than what he would have made if not for Super 2 status. Is that a big deal? Not really.

But while no team will ever admit to it, it is tacitly acknowledged that Super 2 is a consideration.

marty34156: Are my fears that, no matter who the two pitch, Brandon Cumpton is going to be sent to AAA after Wandy makes another rehab start or two justifiable?

Bill Brink: Justifiable, even in the face of evidence suggesting they don't do that.

RetireNutting: This bad start is going to lead to soooo much ugly reaction -- especially in light of Hurdle and Huntington's recent extensions. What, if anything, can be done to get folks to put away their pitchforks besides going on a 20 game winning streak?

Bill Brink: I can't speak for Pirates fans because I am not one, but nothing but winning would help. Even if they started hitting and the staff ERA plummeted, but they still lost, fans would be upset. Winning and only winning.

Doc: When will Austin Meadows play again? I have heard of long layoffs for a hamstring, but this seems REALLY long?

Bill Brink: The Pirates are keeping him in extended spring training where it's warm rather than sending him to West Virginia where it's cold, at least until the weather warms up a bit.

Nez: Did Stolmy give up that walk-off on purpose because he didn't want to play anymore? Because I didn't want to watch them play anymore, so I didn't mind it.

Bill Brink: Maybe he was sending his teammates a message.

Michael: Should we learn something from the Orioles? They seemed very quick to change pitchers when we heated up. Do the Pirates tend to leave them in too long?

Bill Brink: No, that's a case-by-case thing. Every once in a while Hurdle leaves a guy in too long, but no more than most managers do.

Wayward Eeer: Another thing that seems to be problematic is the middle relief corps that was so solid last year has not been quite the same. Gomez in particular seems way off.

Bill Brink: Gomez has not been as good, but the middle relief is traditionally the weakest part of any pitching staff. He's getting exposed as the NL gets more looks at him.

Wayward Eeer: There are obviously a lot of negatives so far, what do you view the positives/surprises to be?

Bill Brink: Edinson Volquez. I wasn't sure he would last through April based on his performance in the past few years, but he has been great.

Michael: Is this season's dissappointing start a surprise, or was it expected by those "in the know".

Bill Brink: The lack of runs isn't a surprise. They had a below-average offense last season, lost Byrd and Morneau and until adding Davis they did nothing to address it. The pitching struggles have been a surprise to me, at least.

John: How committed are they to keeping Pedro at cleanup? He obviously struggles there, but his game seems to improve if he is moved down.

Bill Brink: Hurdle has said the best place for Alvarez in the lineup is cleanup, so I think they are going to try to make it work.

Doc: Why on earth is Chris Stewart on this team? His defense has been atrocious. Why not keep Sanchez up getting 40% of the starts???

Bill Brink: It's going to be a topic of discussion when Martin comes back. How long can you ride the veteran guy while the young guy "polishes his game" in the minors?

Eric Scot: I've suggested the Pirates bring up Lambo to play Right Field in the hopes of giving him a little over a month experience of regular playing time. If he can do in the big leagues as he can do in the minors, the team could move him to 1st when Polanco does get the call. You've solved both 1st and RF, BOOM, just like that. HOWEVER, going with that, it's just as likely he is a bust and never above a AAAA player. Right?

Bill Brink: I don't think Lambo is a bust. We won't know if he is better than a quad-A player until he plays, but they're not going to put Lambo at first after trading for Davis.

Jon: I'm awfully disappointed in the start this team is off to, especially considering the lackluster off-season (although the Davis trade was a bit of a help there), but even if the team is out of contention at the ASB and continuing to play poorly, would they really consider moving Alvarez? Just because the 2014 team is struggling doesn't mean the 2015-2016 teams will.

Bill Brink: They'll have to consider it because of who his agent is and the fact that they'll lose him in free agency, but I don't think they do because the offer would have to overwhelm them.

Joe from FL: Bill a question about the Pirates and maybe in particular, Clint Hurdle's ability to teach hitting. From a pitching perspective, there are many cases of players coming to the Pirates (minors, free agents or trades) and improving considerably. I would think most people attribute that to Searage and the assistant. However, there is not a single case of a batter improving. I guess you could say McCutchen but that seems like a stretch. Thoughts?

Bill Brink: The inconsistency with hitting coaches (Gregg Ritchie, Jay Bell, Jeff Branson) hasn't helped. Hurdle is a former hitting coach, but while he supervises, he has other demands on his time now. They have developed guys who can hit, but the addition of hitters from outside the organization can't tell us much. Barmes wasn't much of a hitter to start with. Davis has been here two weeks. Martin had a similar offensive season in 2013 as he did the year before.

Concerned Pirates Fan: My suggested line-up when Polanco arrives? Looks good or no? 1. Marte - RF 2. McCutchen - LF 3. Polanco - CF 4. Alvarez - 3B 5. Walker - 2B 6. Davis/G. Sanchez/Lambo 7. Martin/T. Sanchez/Stewart 8. Mercer/Barmes -- Granted I know that McCutchen isn't leaving CF and Marte isn't leaving LF.

Bill Brink: Batting McCutchen second would make a lot of sense but I don't know if Hurdle will ever do it.

marty34156: Any idea why Locke was lifted after just 2 innings last night when he clearly wasn't injured? Coming to Pittsburgh to pitch Monday perhaps?

Bill Brink: That was my first thought when I saw he was pulled early.

Matt: Pimentel's velocity is down. Do you think he needs rest or DL stint?

Bill Brink: His velo in the 94 mph range came in such a small sample size last year, and it's been so cold this season, that I'd give him some time before worrying about injury. He could be hurt, but we haven't noticed anything that would indicate that.

marty34156: When Polanco gets here do you bat him lead off?

Bill Brink: Not right away, but he's a candidate. Speed, a little power, can put a bat on a ball.

Doc: How long is Ike Davis's leash. He looks pretty lost. I know the Pirates don't have the equivalent of Ray Searage for the hitters, but man,but he needs fixing. I hope the price wasn't too much for him

Bill Brink: Davis has a long leash. The Pirates have liked him for a while and dealt what is likely a high draft pick from 2013 to get him. He's healthy, which he hasn't been for three seasons, and out of New York.

khackimer: Which will happen first: Marte learning to bunt or Hurdle learning to not bunt Marte?

Bill Brink: Hopefully the latter, for the sake of run production.

Hunter: I, like most other Pirates fans, have been frustrated with the start of the season. I understand that the playoffs are a huge stretch, but do you feel that they have the ability to finish above .500? I don't want us to drop into the cellar like the previous seasons that all of us Pirates fans have become used to.

Bill Brink: They certainly can, but they need a turnaround pretty quickly here to do so.

Kevin from NC: Is there anyway the front office brings any pitching in to help us? I know we will probably lose Liriano. Cole is going to be fine. Morton is inconsistent and shouldn't be a number 2 or 3 starter, better suited as a 4 or 5. I am afraid Wandy is toast. And Volquez has been surprisingly good. With Tallion's setback, we need some pitching! Thoughts?

Bill Brink: Agree. They need some pitching for 2015. Off the top of my head, the '15 free agent market is stacked with top-end pitchers, but I don't know who is available in the range of people the Pirates will target.

Michael: When Wandy and Grilli were put on Dl.. is it your opinion they were really hurt? or was it more a case of them needing time to regroup?

Bill Brink: Rodriguez had fluid drained from his knee, so I can only imagine there was something wrong there, even if it was just inflammation. No way to tell with Grilli. His velocity wasn't down, he was still hitting 94, which is odd for someone with an oblique strain. Could be he just needed a break.

PhillyJake: Is it the front office's fault that Marte isn't hitting, Pedro isn't hitting, Mercer isn't hitting, Lirano isn't pitching well, Grilli is blowing saves, etc etc etc

Bill Brink: Not the first spot I would place blame.

Bill Brink: Lightning round. Go.

Richy: any word on the pool of players in "to be named later" pool in the Davis trade?

Bill Brink: I've heard it will be a member of the 2013 draft class. Not sure who. Don't think McGuire.

Joe from FL: Is there a rule about the definition of "later" in a player to be named later?

Bill Brink: I believe it is six months after the trade.

Jon: Date Polanco is called up?

Bill Brink: May 29

Thomas: Any chance the Pirates lock up Pedro and keep him around for years?

Bill Brink: Not unless they throw Jordan Belfort money at him, and I don't think they will.

Jon: More of a concern going forward: hitting or pitching?

Bill Brink: Pitching because that was expected to be a strength.

Jon: True or false: Even out of contention, Pirates better off keeping Martin and Liriano through the season and offering QO (as opposed to trading)?

Bill Brink: Yes on Martin. No on Liriano -- depending on how well he does.

Doc: Is it likely one of the players to go for Davis will be Meadows ( you are hopefully correct it isn't mcguire)

Bill Brink: Possible, but I don't think so.

Bill Brink: That's it for today, thanks for all the great questions! The transcript will be posted online later if you missed any of it.

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