Bob Smizik: Pitt where it belongs ... on the bubble


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Nobody asked me, but ...

• Pitt is officially on the bubble, according to Jerry Palm of CBSSports.com. Based on how it’s playing, Pitt could lose Saturday at Clemson and go 1-1 in the ACC Tournament, a run that would further jeopardize, if not end, its chances. As Palm writes, Pitt is 0-6 against 1-25 teams; 1-0 vs. 26-50; 4-2 vs. 51-100; 10-0 vs. 101-200 and 7-0 vs. 201 and above. This could be one year where Pitt’s penchant for pre-season pushovers comes back to punish it.

• Most interesting development thus far in spring training involves Jordy Mercer. He is THE shortstop, according to reports. If, for example, Neil Walker needs a day off, Clint Barmes will play second and Mercer will stay at shortstop. The Pirates are doing this although few would deny that Barmes is the better shortstop. ''We’re pushing Jordy forward this year,’’ said manager Clint Hurdle.

• The first domino -- placing the transition tag on Jason Worilds -- has fallen for the Steelers. Now that Worilds has agreed to a $9.754 million one-year deal the Steelers can continue with the process of revamping their roster and getting their salary cap into a position where they can become players, of sorts, in free agency. Next move? The release of LaMarr Woodley or Ike Taylor.

• Let me clarify a point I might have improperly stated yesterday. I’m all for deadline deals. What I’m opposed to is the thinking that it’s OK to open the season with a weakness because that weakness can be fixed at the deadline.

• Allen Muir of SI.com on the Penguins and their pursuit of Vancouver center Ryan Kesler: ''I get why the Pens are so high on Kesler – the grit, the consistency, the goal scoring, the idea of going three stars deep at center – but this game [vs. Chicago Saturday] reinforced the notion that they’d be better served investing in an upgrade on the blue line. That defense won’t stand up to even a reasonably competent offense in a seven-game series the way it’s constructed right now.’’

• Dilson Herrera, who went to the Mets in the Marlon Byrd deal last August, is the Mets 11th-ranked prospect, according to MLB.com.

•Yet another example of how the price of doing business in MLB is escalating at a near-frightening rate: Justin Masterson, 53-63 lifetime with a 4.03 ERA, signed a one-year deal with small-market Cleveland for $9.8 million. Masterson, 14-10 with a 3.45 ERA last year, has made $19.3 million in his three years of arbitration.

• Following his spectacular showing at the NFL Combine, Pitt’s Aaron Donald is ranked as the 13th best player in the NFL draft by Todd McShay, up from 26th, and 21st by Mel Kiper, previously unranked in his top 25. Both ESPN.com experts expect Donald to be a mid-first-round pick.

• Tyrone Haughton, a 6-foot-9 junior college center (Iowa Western CC), reportedly is headed to Pitt. He’s a shot blocker/rebounder but with limited offensive skills. Still, he easily could be their starting center next season -- by default.

• The Pirates, as well as the Brewers, are said to be looking at Boston Red Sox left-handed hitting first baseman Mike Carp, who had a .904 OPS in 190 at bats against right-handed pitching last year. With the Red Sox, Carp is blocked at first base by Mike Napoli and at DH by David Ortiz. In 605 career at bats, Carp, 27, has a .779 OPS against RHP.

• Ian Kinsler wishing that the Texas Rangers, the team that traded him to Detroit, ''go 0-162’’ has the early lead in the stupidest statement of the MLB season and the most likely to be regretted.

• The mistake of early-season excitement: Some people had Pitt winning the ACC and Lamar Patterson as conference Player-of-the-Year.

• Worth a read: Chris Dokish did some deep research, which shows that considering its disadvantages -- metro population, other pro teams in town, size of school -- Pitt’s home football attendance isn’t nearly as bad as many think.

• Los Angeles Kings coach Darryl Sutter on the impact of the Olympics: ''It’s ridiculous, the schedule. We all love our players going to the Olympics and, quite honest, the players who don’t go like that break that they get. But it’s ridiculous. It’s almost unfair to the players, what they have to go through. We started with 23 in 46 games. Everybody was playing 20-something games in 40-something days. It’s not realistic to think that you’re going to be able to get the most out of them every night.’’

• Signature basketball wins this season for some local teams: Penn State 2; Duquesne 1; Pitt 0.


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