Bob Smizik: Selecting Shazier not so stunning

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Nobody asked me, but...

• On second thought, the Steelers stunning selection of outside linebacker Ryan Shazier wasn’t so stunning after all since they plan on playing him at inside linebacker -- where the team has a distinct need. Judging from this comment by Mike Tomlin -- “What we needed was a defensive playmaker and he fits the bill in that regard” -- it sounds like Shazier has a chance to start this season.

• It is early in the playoffs with still a second-round series to be clinched. But the Penguins have the look of the slumbering giant coming to life. All of a sudden the prospect of having to play the Boston Bruins (or the Canadiens) in the conference final isn’t so daunting.

• By bypassing cornerback Darqueze Dennard, the Steelers indicated just how high they are on Shazier and how badly they needed a playmaker inside. Vince Williams, who started at ILB beside Lawrence Timmons last year, is not that guy.

• It’s a small sample size to be sure, but the Pirates .809 OPS for May is second best in the National League. Despite recent strong starts from Charlie Morton and Gerrit Cole, the pitching staff is 14th this month in ERA, 12th in BAA and 10th in WHIP.

• Time to cancel the coronation of Stetson Allie as the Pirates next first baseman. The failed pitcher turned slugger has cooled considerably after a strong start at Class AA Altoona. He is batting .139 (5-for-36) in May with 18 strikeout in 42 plate appearances.

• Tim Benz, sports director for Pittsburgh Clear Channel and before that the host of the WXDX Morning Show, is leaving Pittsburgh for the midday slot with WEEI in Boston.

• The slimmest of chances the Penguins had of re-signing Jussi Jokinen is evaporating in the wake of his outstanding postseason. Jokinen is playing for a Cup and his next contract.

• The changing game: In 2000, there were three MLB pitchers with ERAs under 3.00 -- Pedro Martinez, Kevin Brown and Randy Johnson. Among those not under 3.00 were Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Roger Clemens. Last year there were 14 pitchers under 3.00. As of yesterday, there were 39 starters with an ERA under 3.00.

• In two rehab appearances at Class AAA, Cincinnati closer Aroldis Chapman has pitched one inning and allowed seven hits and eight earned runs while walking two and striking out two.

• Advanced statistics are coming to the NHL, but here’s one that’s not likely going to make it. According to Statistical Sports Consulting’s 2013-14 Total Hockey Ratings, Sidney Crosby is the 162nd best player in the NHL. Ranked 1-4: Ryan Sutter, Chris Kunitz, Jaromir Jagr, Matt Niskanen.

• When not batting in the No. 1 spot this season, Starling Marte is 13-for-34 (.382) with two doubles, a triple and a home run. Granted, there might not be anyone else to bat first, but nor is there anyone better to bat fifth, between left-handed hitter Pedro Alvarez and Ike Davis, than Marte.

• Davis’ batting line this season against right-handed pitching: .286/.408/.444 -- .852.

• It has been suggested that the St. Louis Cardinals are operating in the same ‘thrifty’ manner as the Pirates by not recalling prize prospect Oscar Taveras while the team is struggling offensively. The situations might be similar, but they’re not the same. The Pirates need a right fielder and Gregory Polanco fits that role. The Cardinals need a center fielder and Taveras is not a good one. He can’t play in left field where Matt Holliday is entrenched or right field where Allen Craig, the team’s No. 4 hitter last season, is the starter.

• In case you missed it, the Padres released Xavier Nady the other day. He had three home runs but a .135 batting average in 42 plate appearances.

• The Pirates are expected to add a position player to the roster today and according to published reports the candidates, with OPS (through Wednesday), are: third baseman Brent Morel (.591), first baseman Chris McGuiness (.754) and outfielders Jaff Decker (.650), Polanco (1.057) and Chris Dickerson (.847). Since Polanco won’t be called up, Dickerson is the obvious choice -- except he’s not on the 40-man roster. No one expects the Pirates to add the best available player. But second best would be nice.

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