Pirates Q&A with Dejan Kovacevic
Share with others:
Final Q&A of the spring, and I thought up some worst-of-the-spring awards to share. We shall call them the Garcias, in honor of the spring deity Freddy Garcia and to function as a reminder that not much down here really matters ...
Best player: Ronny Paulino by such a wide margin that there is no honorable mention. Forget his average, even if it ends up at .500. Wait until you see -- and hear -- the difference in how hard he is striking the ball.
Worst player: Certainly, the greatest disappointment was Tom Gorzelanny, though I happen to be of the mind that it will not last into the season. I talk to baseball people who insist his stuff is still there, even if the command is not.
Best moment: As every spring, it is when Bill Mazeroski takes the field for the first full-squad workouts. Brings out the gushing fan in all of us.
Best tactical move: Nothing bad can come from sending strong signals to Jose Castillo that what he was doing simply was not enough. Is it better than some others on the team? Sure, and I hear that argument a lot. But the player should be measured against his own potential, not that of others.
Worst tactical move: It is possible that the Pirates' continued insistence that Chris Duffy pound the ball into the ground will pay off, that he will fulfill their vision of what constitutes an ideal leadoff hitter. But it also is possible that his natural penchant for line drives would be plenty sufficient, as we saw late last season. One scout watching a minor-league game with me the other day expressed this view, with his voice plenty raised: "Leave the kid alone!"
Best ballpark: McKechnie Field. Sorry, homer-ish thing to write. I just have yet to see one elsewhere that better lives up to my childhood image of spring training. So simple, so quaint.
Best personnel move: Giving Brad Eldred a chance to make it as an outfielder. It was the sort of thinking outside the box that this franchise should try more often.
Worst personnel move: Cutting Eldred, if that is what the Pirates end up doing. He very much has earned a spot on this roster.
Most improved player: Juan Perez had nothing in common with the erratic version we saw briefly last season. His stuff looked electric.
Least improved player: Josh Sharpless clearly took a step backward with his fastball command, but there is time for him to straighten that out.
Best quote: I always value insights from former players, who are not restricted in what they say about the team, and I appreciated this observation from Mike Gonzalez about the Pirates when we talked a month ago: "The losing kills you, man. It really does. It beats you down. I understand now why Jason Kendall felt the way he did, the frustration he had at times. We were just losing and losing and losing."
Worst quote: Anything at all about that 37-35 second half. Go to our search engine, count up the results, and take your pick.
Best thing about Florida: The departure gates at the airport.
Worst thing about Florida: Oh, whatever. It's almost over. Let us move on to questions ...
Q: With Paulino having a ridiculous spring, is there any chance we will see him move up in the order this year?
Rob Utter of Shadyside, Pittsburgh
KOVACEVIC: If by move up, you mean to No. 5, the answer is yes. Maybe as early as Monday.
Jim Tracy said in the offseason that he would go with whoever was hotter, Paulino or Xavier Nady, in the No. 6 slot. Well, with Sanchez out, everyone should slide up one place, and no one anywhere is hotter than Paulino, so No. 5 seems logical.
Some have asked about Paulino hitting third in recent exhibitions. I have not heard anything -- yet -- that would indicate it should be taken too seriously.
Q: Dejan: You have mentioned a few times that Juan Perez is the left-hander in the bullpen in light of John Grabow's unavailability. I have not seen, however, your thoughts on what will happen to Perez once Grabow returns. Will that mean that another righty must be knocked from the pen?
Brad Bender of Philadelphia
KOVACEVIC: Not if Perez keeps pitching as he has. Remember, the Pirates carried three lefties all last season.
Plus, one neat aspect to what Perez has done this spring is that his changeup has been quite effective against right-handed hitters.
Q: If the Pirates were planning to go out of their way to not play Jose Castillo, why would they not have tried harder to include him in the Adam LaRoche trade? Now, he has little to no trade value, and if Freddy Sanchez becomes the injury risk they envisioned prior to last year, where does that leave them?
They just dealt the only good option they had to eventually take over, in Brent Lillibridge.
Robert Minger of Weirton, W.Va.
KOVACEVIC: The Pirates did try to trade Castillo over the winter, and they did so aggressively. Their version is that there were no takers, though I have heard of at least one American League team that was interested.
Atlanta never was interested. Not in the slightest. And this despite the Braves' need for a second baseman to replace Marcus Giles.
I agree with you, Robert, that Castillo has little trade value at the moment. But that also underscores once again my long-standing point that it is immensely illogical to trade -- or try to trade -- players at lowest possible value. It happens too often with the Pirates.
Better they should build up Castillo, let him get on a little run as they did last May, then try again.
I will disagree with you, though, about not having another shortstop prospect. Brian Bixler has some consistency issues at this stage -- as I saw again in a minor-league game yesterday morning at Pirate City -- but he showed this spring that he has major-league talent.
Q: Despite the fact that we've heard the term "seagulls" all our lives and can recall "A Flock of Seagulls" from the hair band of the '80s, the ornithologically-correct term is gulls.
Gulls do range up and down our coastlines, but several members of the gull family frequent lakes, rivers and even dumpsters near Burger King or McDonald's. It's true we have our closest encounters with gulls at the beach, so in most peoples' minds they're "sea" gulls. But many gulls frequent lakes, rivers and even dumpsters near Burger King or McDonald's! When temperatures force them southward from the Great Lakes in winter, certain gull species are more common in your area and ours (we have mostly ring-billed gulls in our area). But if you keep an eye out in the summertime you can see them in your area as well.
I wish you and the Pirates well as you migrate north. Good luck from your friends at Bird Watcher's Digest.
Andy Thompson of Marietta, Ohio
KOVACEVIC: Much appreciated, Andy.
But, if I can come right back at you, Flock of Seagulls was not a hair band. The musically-correct application for that category is Motley Crue, Poison, Whitesnake and the not-really-metal bands of that genre. Flock of Seagulls was purely new wave.
So there, Mr. Bird Expert.
Thing No. 22 that I miss about Pittsburgh: The cheese lady.
I do not know her real name, and I never want to. But she is one of the handful of incredibly well informed and passionate people who work behind the city's preeminent cheese counter at Pennsylvania Macaroni in the Strip. And she is personable, too, passing out string cheese to children and referring to just about everyone as "Dear Heart."
Until Monday, when we will have a live chat session from Houston on the afternoon of the opener -- 2 p.m. log-in time (remember questions may be submitted as early as 6 a.m.) -- in addition to the usual fare ...
First Published March 30, 2007 12:00 am