Bob Smizik: Are Penguins regressing?

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Nobody asked me, but . . .

* Are the Penguins a better team today than they were last week? Possibly. But when they lose Matt Niskanen, Jussi Jokinen and Brooks Orpik to free agency, which is almost a certainty, they will be a lesser team. What’s most troubling is the Penguins don’t appear to have the cap room to significantly upgrade their roster through free agency.

* Considering how well the Pirates‘‍ starting rotation had been pitching, might it not have been a good idea to give Gerrit Cole a minor-league rehab start before activating him from the disabled list? Cole gave up five runs in the first two innings Saturday as the Pirates lost to the New York Mets, 5-3.

* The role of ESPN and its hold on the young male audience cannot be understated in the World Cup soccer boom.

* Catchers: The Pirates are 24-17 when Russell Martin starts, 8-12 when Chris Stewart starts and 9-10 when Tony Sanchez starts.

* Patrick Hornqvist, the Penguins’‍ newest top-six winger, never has scored 40 goals, as did James Neal, for whom he was traded Friday. But Hornqvist scored 30 with Nashville, which Neal never did in this pre-Penguins days. Neal’s number will decrease in Nashville and Hornqvist’s will increase, perhaps to 40, if he’s playing with Evgeni Malkin or Sidney Crosby.

* In his past seven starts, Gregory Polanco is 4-for-25. For the season, he is 3-for-23 against left-handed pitchers.

* Pirates first basemen are a combined 13th in the National League in home runs, 14th in RBIs and 13th in OPS. For those jumping all over Pedro Alvarez, Pirates third basemen, and this includes mostly Alvarez with a dash of Josh Harrison, are third in home runs, fourth in RBIs and fourth in OPS.

* Don’t know if this has been reported locally, but pitcher Wandy Rodriguez underwent knee surgery, according to Rodriguez told the site he had several offers when the Pirates released him but decided to get himself fully healthy for 2015. Rodriguez will earn $13 million this season, with $7.5 million of that being paid by the Pirates.

* Stolmy Pimentel lives! The seldom-used pitcher worked four innings in relief of Cole and allowed no runs and two hits while striking out seven. He remains a candidate for the 2015 starting rotation. It was Pimentel's first appearance in 10 days.

* The Pirates are 28-20 since May 5, a 95-win pace. During that stretch they’ve gained one-half game on the first-place Milwaukee Brewers.

* Down on the farm: Jose Tabata is 2-for-12 at Indianapolis since becoming the highest-paid man in minor-league ball. ... Matt Hague leads the International League with 54 RBIs. ... In three starts at Indianapolis, Nick Kingham has an 0.44 ERA and an 0.68 WHIP. ... Dilson Herrera, traded to the Mets in the Marlon Byrd deal, is batting .389 (14-for-36) since his promotion to Class AA. The Mets are giving Herrera, a second baseman with the Pirates, a look at shortstop.

First Published June 29, 2014 12:00 AM

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