Poll Question: Once Gerrit Cole is healthy, should the Pirates go to a 6-man starting rotation? Answer #1: Yes, you only need 6 in the bullpen (13%) Answer #2: No, time to move a starter to the pen (87%)
James_Pittsburgh: Nice play by Edinson Volquez in the first inning last night. I like his post game comments when he said the ball found his glove.
Jerry Micco: I think he was being honest. It was a terrific play, but it looked like he threw his glove up there and viola, the ball went in it. Give him credit, though. He had the presence of mind to throw it home and get the guy coming in from third. Saved a possible big inning.
Guest: Would you classify NH as a genius? The fact that this team is beating the Tigers and their 400 million dollar payroll and is in the hunt of the playoff race is remarkable
Jerry Micco: I can remember when people classified Neal Huntington as the dumbest GM on the planet. I thought that was way over the top. To hear him called a genius is over the top, too. But Huntington is a hard worker and a good baseball man. He is somewhat hamstrung by working with a low payroll so he has to hit on just about every move. He does miss some, but he's had more hits than misses. He doesn't have the luxury of going out and spending more money if he needs players. I think he and his staff have worked hard to get the Pirates to the point where they can contend for the playoffs, which is great for the fans of the team.
Macon Steeler: Hey Jerry, Field position is so important in football. Why do the Steelers seem to either strike out or are just plain unlucky when it comes to the punter position?
Jerry Micco: My guess is that there are only a handful of really good punters out there and you hope to score one and not spend too much of your cap space on him. Steelers seem unable to find one that will work. I really can't put a finger on it.
James_Pittsburgh: Brandon Morrow could be the Pirates next reclamation project. He has a 5.93 ERA this season. His career 9.39 K/9 rate make him an excellent candidate for the Pirates and Ray Searage.
Jerry Micco: I leave that type of expert analysis to you, James, but you lay out the exact type of player they look for in the offseason. And you are right, they have a tremendous success rate with those types of guys.
Mark: Hey Jerry, I believe the Steelers will struggle early due to the inexperience of defense but can still go .500 through the first half of the season. Then, I look for them to go 6-2 the second half. Your thoughts
Jerry Micco: I think this year's schedule is more favorable than last year's schedule. I always wait until my chat just before the opener to predict their record, so that's when I'll make my final call. I do think they'll do no worse than 8-8, so I'll say that much. Note I did not say they'd do better than 8-8.
James_Pittsburgh: I am not always right. But I predicted Vance Worley as a guy to watch. My current Pirate to watch is Andy Oliver. If he can keep his walks down, he will be an excellent reliever. I think he will get a shot in September and spring training. Oh, and it looks like I was wrong about Josh Harrison. If I was the Pirates GM, I would have replaced Josh Harrison on the bench.
Jerry Micco: I can recall you saying Worley was a guy they should look at for the upcoming season. I think a lot of folks, myself included, thought of Harrison as no more than a super sub. But he has come on so strong and played so well that they have to put him in the lineup. And he's displaced their best power hitter, who in reality had somewhat displaced himself with his play this season. But make no mistake: guys like Worley and Harrison have been big reasons the Pirates are currently in the thick of the playoff race.
Bob Robertson: I'm a Gaby fan, can you explain how this team may have 3 potential first basemen if Pedro goes there?
Jerry Micco: I, too, am a Gaby Sanchez fan. I think when the team came out of the gate with Travis Ishikawa getting the majority of the ABs before trading for Ike Davis, that hurt Sanchez's offense. He's played so little that he has never gotten into a rhythm. That said, he'll hardly play now unless teams keep throwing lefties at the Bucs. And I still think he's the best fielding first baseman among the three by far.
Mark: Other than Harrison's play, would you say Mercer's defense is the most pleasant surprise of the season? Or, is it the pitching of Volquez?
Jerry Micco: Yes, Mercer has really steadied himself at SS, though be nice if Barmes comes back to spell him occasionally. No question Volquez has been the surprise of the 2014 season. Would anyone have honestly said he'd be the first starter to 10 wins this season? I doubt it.
The Chief: Jerry, hope all is well been a while. What in your opinionhas to happen for the Pirates to win the NL Central ?
Jerry Micco: Hi Chief, great to see you again! All good on this end. As I always say, the starting pitching has to continue to hold up and keep them in games. I think the bullpen will be OK and the hitting once Cutch, Walker and Alvarez come back will be enough. But the starters have to give them 6/7 solid innings most nights. If not, the 'pen will fall apart and the hitting won't be enough to win games for them.
Delton Hall: With their emphasis on enforcing pass interference, illegal contact and defensive holding this season how do you see the Steelers faring on this, positiveley with fast small WR's like AB and Dri Archer or poorly with our horrible DB's?
Jerry Micco: It'll cut both ways. Guys like Brown and Archer will have an advantage, as will Wheaton. But don't discount bigger guys like Martavis Bryant and Justin Brown, who can use their bodies to ward off smaller CBs. It's tough playing CB in today's NFL. The rules pretty much prevent you from touching WRs from beyond 5 yards. You have to be very athletic and fast to play the position, and even then, things sort of work against you.
Mark: I like the poll question but don't believe it's feasible at this point. Six man rotations may be viable in MLB but wouldn't rosters have to expand by at least one to allow enough in the bullpen?
Jerry Micco: You would go short in the bullpen with six relievers, but since Cole will go on a fourth rehab start sometime next week, it may be the end of next week until he actually get a start in the majors. And rosters can be expanded on Sept. 1, so you could go short for a week or so if needed.
Tony: How big of a factor do you think Walker's back troubles are when front office considers long-term deal. He has missed time at least the last two seasons because of his back
Jerry Micco: Certainly a factor. He has lost time from that injury in the last three seasons, I believe. And while I think signing Walker to some sort of extension is important, he is 29 and has 2 years left of arbitration. If the Pirates think the back is not going to get better, then they likely won't extend him because it would not be a good investment. Which is too bad, because he's got a good bat and is a middle infielder. He's a popular player, too.
The Chief: Your biggest surprise out of Steeler Camp to date.
Jerry Micco: I've got a few: Dri Archer; Sean Spence; Daniel McCullers and Justin Brown.
doyle37: I've read or heard where Locke is the odd man out when Cole returns, why not Morton ? he just doesn't seem to have it this year...too erratic.
Jerry Micco: I think Locke has options left and Morton does not. Besides, Morton really can do things as a starter even though he seems to have the one bad inning per game. Earlier in the year, he seemed to be a hard-luck guy.
The Chief: Very sad to see the downward spiral of Tiger Wood's career. It looks like he cannot stay healthy. He will 39 when he tees it up at Augusta; have we seen the last of him?
Jerry Micco: If he can shut it down, and I'd not pick him for the Ryder Cup, and get healthy, I still think he can play well enough to win a couple more majors. You saw last year, before the injuries, he won six tournaments. He still can win, but not with his back. He must be thinking he can't win past 40. Mickelson has won 2 majors past 40 and nearly won a third at Valhalla.
James_Pittsburgh: The Pirates recently promoted Adrian Sampson to Triple A. The Pirates really have some great pitching prospects. Kingham, Glasnow, Adrian Sampson, and Taillon. Jameson Taillon has almost become an after thought.
Jerry Micco: That's what Tommy John will do to you. But he'll be back on the radar by next spring as he starts a throwing program. He'll be stronger once that surgery takes hold if the sample size of the other TJ surgery pitchers is correct. And you're right, the Pirates are loaded in pitching.
Mark: No one more fun to watch than Josh Harrison. Is his play more a matter of getting playing time (like all bench players say), or will we see him work back to his mean metrics? I say the former and he's proven to be worthy of starting long term in MLB.
Jerry Micco: Some guys just take longer to develop. I think he's just playing very well this year. You do see times when he slumps, like all players, but then he gets hot again and you can't get him out. If he can keep consistent and hit around .300, he'll be a starter for years.
James_Pittsburgh: Can Justin Brown take the number two receiving job from Wheaton? I know it is a long shot.
Jerry Micco: For right now, Wheaton is the No. 2 guy and Brown is the guy they want for the slot position, which is what Cotchery played last year. Doesn't mean, however, that they are married to Wheaton as the No. 2. Still a battle there that Brown could win.
James_Pittsburgh: It is a shame that the Pirates don't have any position players to help out now or the start of 2014. I assume Ike Davis will be DFAd and replaced by a more versatile backup in the offseason. I don't see Andrew Lambo taking that spot.
Jerry Micco: If they can find a free agent for Davis, I'd assume they'll go that route. He just hasn't found any consistency at the plate. But before they do that, they may just hang on to him. I believe they have a couple of years of contract control on him. And Lambo may just wind up being a guy without a spot. He's back in the OF at Indy and the OF is crowded in Pittsburgh.
Drew_Pittsburgh: Jerry, realistically what are the chances we sign Russell Martin this offseason...I'll tell you he is the player I enjoy most on this roster and he brings so much to the team. I know we have a plan with Tony Sanchez, but having Martin and Molina in the same division makes for great competitive baseball. Bring back Martin!
Jerry Micco: I think the chances are slim, but I think most Pirates fans would agree with you that the team should try to re-sign Martin to at least a 2-year deal. I know Sanchez is the long-term guy, but Martin, to me, is vital to their success. You may have to pay him in the $12 million/year range, but that may be worth it. He brings an awful lot to the party with his defense, how he handles the pitchers and he's got a pretty nice bat, too.
Mark: I was wondering about six man rotations as the norm in MLB, beyond this season and not after roster increases in Sept. Do you believe we'll see that from some innovative manager or, is it not possible with roster levels as required during the regular season?
Jerry Micco: I don't think you'll see that as the norm, though with how careful managers are with pitchers I wonder why we don't. I think that unless they increase rosters by a player or two you won't see that done.
Tony Sacca: Does Christian Hackenberg regress this year without the QB guru Bill O'Brien? To me this kid could win a Heisman.
Jerry Micco: Hackenberg is a terrific young QB at Penn State. He'll miss Robinson, but has some other weapons to get the ball to in the Lions offense. That said, the OL isn't as good as last year's so he may be scrambling around a bit. I think he has a shot at being one of the best QBs in the nation, maybe not this year, but in the next year or so, depending on how long he stays in Happy Valley.
Mark: Will Rory win 10 majors in his career?
Jerry Micco: With the way he's playing now, I don't think there's any question he'll win that many. Big hitter so he shortens even the biggest courses and he makes few mistakes.
Turbovic: I can't help but think Troy is still the key to the success (or lack of) for the Steelers defense. He must stay healthy. Agree?
Jerry Micco: He's an important part of the Steelers defense, but you have to wonder what he can bring this season. He's not even playing that much in practice. The more disconcerting thing is that Shamarko Thomas, the guy drafted to replace him, can't get on the field.
Mark: Rumor was the Sox wanted Marte and one of top pitching prospects for Lester's two month rental. Do you believe fans would support NH in making that deal?
Jerry Micco: I don't know that the Pirates could win a World Series by just getting Lester. Maybe the A's can, so it was worth it to them to give up a great talent like Cespides. I was stunned they did so. You hate to see a talent like Marte, who I think still had a big upside, go for a rental. I'd not have made that deal.
Guest: Say this Steeler team goes 7-9 and misses the playoffs again will Kevin Colbert's job finally be in jeopardy?
Jerry Micco: I don't think anyone in Steelers HQ will be happy if the team goes 7-9 in 2014. Whether it means the general manager is given the boot is a bit of a stretch. But it would not be a very good feeling for him, I'd imagine.
James_Pittsburgh: Jerry, if Pedro plays first in 2015. The Pirates cannot keep three first baseman. Most likely Ike Davis or Gaby Sanchez will be replaced with a versatile backup. I suspect Gaby Sanchez will stay and play against lefties.
Jerry Micco: If Pedro plays first. He may return to third, as odd as that sounds. But under that scenario, then yes, you'd probably DFA Davis.
DormontyDawson: "Tony Sanchez is the long term guy"? Say it ain't so!
Jerry Micco: The Pirates have a few good catchers in the organization, but he's the one who is ready to go in AAA.
Drew_Pittsburgh: The fact that Hurdle sat Watson for two games straight while we watched a game get away in the 8th indicates to me that with the roster expanding on 9/1 we will load the roster with bullpen pitchers seeing that the bullpen guys on the team now have been abused the first half of the season with lousy starting pitching and lots of innings by the relievers, your thoughts?
Jerry Micco: That's usually what happens after 9/1, you pad your bullpen. But you don't necessarily use those guys as your closers, etc. You still go to guys who can get you outs. You'll still see Hughes, Wilson, Watson and Melancon once the starters go out. Now if the starters get shelled early, you'll see the Cumpton's and Sadler's of the world come in.
The Chief: I really don't believe Sanchez is the long term guy. Yes, he is a catcher and that position takes some time, but Tony has shown signs of being a Major League catcher! Martin is this Pirate teams glue and the checkbook needs to be opened for him!
Jerry Micco: Well, the problem is other teams like say, the Dodgers, may open it up more because they can. And Martin will be in high demand as a free agent. The Pirates can only go so high, then they have to move on.
Guest: Did Lefty get 'jobbed' by the PGA officials on the way the PGA played the 18th hole?
Jerry Micco: I don't think he was happy with how they played things on 18 on Sunday, but publicly took the high road. It was a miscommunication more than anything. Phil and Fowler thought that Rory's 2-some was going to hit tee shots and then Phil's and Fowler would play out the hole. But that, as you know, didn't happen. I think Phil wanted to put some pressure on Rory to have to at least par, which he did. But I know he wasn't happy being rushed there. I have to believe, though, that all the players wanted to get the tournament finished if possible.
Mark: Russell Martin will be looking for at least a four year deal---and he'll get it from someone. If you are NH, do you sign him for four years in the $12 mil range?
Jerry Micco: I think the Pirates will balk at 4 years. They may go as high as 3 and $12 million, but that, to me, would be their limit.
James_Pittsburgh: Jerry, some speculate that Elias Diaz has passed Tony Sanchez. I would not be so sure that Tony Sanchez is the Pirates long term plan. Elias Diaz will move to Triple A in 2015 and could be ready to be at least the backup at the start of the 2016 season if he continues to progress in Triple A next year. He is hitting .325 at Altoona and is a better defensive catcher than Sanchez.
Jerry Micco: I've not seen much of Diaz, but as I said earlier, other organization guys are very good at the position, and he is certainly one. And it could be as the Pirates enter the offseason, guys like Sanchez become trade chips to get starting pitching, etc. When you have assets, you use them.
The Chief: Jerry, do you think we are the cusp of seeing one of golf's all time rivalries in McIlroy vs Fowler(top 5 finishes in all of this years Major)?
Jerry Micco: Could be. They are the same age and play a similar game. Rory's got the edge now, but Fowler is so close to winning a major that he could flip that around as early as Augusta in 2015.
Mark: Hard to disagree that Rory wins 10 majors but remember that most were even more certain that Tiger would pass Jack. Stuff happens...
Jerry Micco: Oh, no question. One can never be certain of what lies ahead. But based on how well his game has developed and likely will continue to develop, he's on that kind of pace. Of course, you can never account for injury or if other players step up and challenge him. Guys like Jordan Spieth, for instance.
Guest: The Steelers MVP this season will be.....?
Jerry Micco: Gosh, too early to say. I always say that's likely to be No. 7. Still the best player on the team.
TDW: What's more important...the Steelers offense being as wide open no huddle as possible or playing to manage the clock to help keep our defense rested or off the field?
Jerry Micco: It's a league where you need to score points. Open the offense up and score and if you get a late lead, then sit on the ball and hope the offensive line and running game can control the ball.
Rex: More wins PSU or PITT?
Jerry Micco: I think they will tie, both with 8.
James_Pittsburgh: If Pedro stays at third, what happens to Josh Harrison? (Assuming he continues to knock the cover off the ball) Maybe Josh Harrison to second and Neil Walker to platoon with Gaby Sanchez at first.
Jerry Micco: That's very possible if the Pirates want to preserve Walker's back and maybe limit him some on games. Walker could play first.
Guest: Does McCullers make the team?
Jerry Micco: I'd say as of right now, yes he does. But there's still a few weeks before the final roster is set.
Jerry Micco: OK folks, I need to run to get some other things done. Great chat today, and I appreciate all of you taking the time to meet with me. Sorry I had to leave some questions on the cutting room floor, but just ran out of time. NOTE: I'll not be here next week as I'm taking a week of vacation, getting ready to send my son back to college. I'll return on Aug. 27. Until then, have a terrific couple of weeks! Follow me on Twitter: @PG_JerryMicco
First Published August 13, 2014 12:00 AM