Hot Stove: Cedeno's lapses a central concern
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As the Pirates travel to Indianapolis, where Major League Baseball's Winter Meetings begin tomorrow morning, their primary positional concern -- though not the only one -- is finding a shortstop to "push" Ronny Cedeno, as general manager Neal Huntington put it recently.
Why the need for a push?
Perhaps that is best evident from field level ...
"It's just consistency," manager John Russell said this week from Bradenton, Fla. "Ronny has so many tools, as we saw, but he needs to maintain his concentration. You got the sense that he wasn't always locked in."
The numbers illustrate that at the plate and in the field: Cedeno batted .258 after coming to the Pirates in late July, with a promising five home runs and 21 RBIs, but he also displayed little poise in walking just nine times in 155 official at-bats. He made some superb plays in the field but also was charged with four errors and had other lapses that occassionally irked the pitching staff.
Even now, as Cedeno is playing winter ball in Venezuela, the good and bad show: He was just named that league's player of the week for four home runs in a five-game span and, overall, is batting .267 with five home runs in 26 games. At the same time, he has drawn one walk in 105 at-bats and committed eight errors.
Cedeno, who will turn 27 in February, is a bright individual with an undisputed work ethic, so the likely culprit, as Russell sees it, is his visible intensity.
What: Major League Baseball's Winter Meetings.
Where: Indiana Convention Center, Indianapolis.
Hall of Fame: Former Pirates manager Danny Murtaugh is among the candidates for induction by the Veterans Committee. The announcement will come at 10 a.m. tomorrow.
Rule 5 draft: The Pirates will pick No. 2 overall. The draft begins at 9 a.m. Thursday.
"It reminds me a little of Freddy earlier in his career," Russell said of former Pirates second baseman Freddy Sanchez. "We would encourage him not to take his at-bats into the field, and it took Freddy, really, I think, until this past year to get a lot better at that. Ronny has the ability. When he can learn to separate the two, I think you're going to see a really solid player."
• With the acquisition of Akinori Iwamura, who projects to be the Pirates' No. 2 hitter, Russell has considered moving Iwamura, a good on-base man, to leadoff and Andrew McCutchen, who showed promising power as a rookie, down to No. 3 ... but likely not yet. "I've thought about it, especially if Aki does a nice job. We'll see how it goes," Russell said. "But Cutch has been in the majors for three months, and he did awfully well for us at the top. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. All around baseball, you hear teams talk about how they want a leadoff hitter. Well, we've got some good options."
• Count left fielder Lastings Milledge among those who think McCutchen eventually will move down: "That kid is No. 3 all the way. With that pop? You're going to want those RBIs."
• The Pirates finished 2009 with 31 international signings. There actually were 43 players who took pen to paper, but a dozen of those were nullified because of age/identity issues as the result of increasingly stringent investigations by the team and/or MLB.
• Russell, on new infield instructor Carlos Garcia having to follow Perry Hill, perhaps the game's finest: "I'm excited about Carlos. He's a dynamic teacher, and he's done some great things for us in the minors. I've told Carlos he doesn't have to be Perry Hill. I don't want him to try to do that. He can just be himself. And I'll tell you this: If we didn't hire him, he's the kind of guy who could have gone somewhere else. People know about him."
• The Pirates are switching to artificial turf for one of their four main fields on the Pirate City complex in Bradenton. The motivation: The team's rookie-level Gulf Coast League affiliate lost nearly every game it had been scheduled to play in one week this past summer to heavy rain and inadequate drainage. The Pirates are paying for the switch.
• The hiring of Tyrone Brooks as director of baseball operations this week completes Huntington's staff. Unless one counts that perennial vacancy at assistant general manager. "We might be one of five or six teams in baseball who haven't had one, but we like the way our structure works," Huntington said.
• Among Baseball America's 10 players most likely to be taken in the Rule 5 draft Thursday -- the Pirates pick second -- is Chad Tracy, Jim Tracy's 24-year-old son and a power-hitting first baseman/outfielder who hit 26 home runs for Texas' Class AA affiliate last season.
• The Pirates' preliminary promotional schedule shows only one bobblehead giveaway, McCutchen on Aug. 6, as well as a Garrett Jones "action figure" May 22. There will be three separated SkyBlasts, as was the case last season, and a 50th anniversary celebration of the 1960 championship in late June.
• Seventy-three days until pitchers and catchers report.