On the Pirates: The lefty left out
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Not long after the Pirates' new management took over late last summer, two key players were identified as targets for long-term contracts: Freddy Sanchez and Matt Capps.
Before long, Adam LaRoche, then Ian Snell were added.
Notice anyone missing?
How about the young pitcher who led the staff with 14 victories last season?
Well, it turns out the Pirates did internally discuss Tom Gorzelanny along with those other players, but the matter never got very far for two reasons:
Foremost was that Gorzelanny has less than two years of major-league service time, so he will not be eligible for salary arbitration until after the 2009 season. That means the team can pay him close to minimum wage until then and has little incentive to lock him up now.
Some teams are locking up players that early, notably the Colorado Rockies with phenom shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, but that is the exception.
Second, the Pirates want to see more.
Although Gorzelanny enjoyed a breakout 2007 in terms of performance and durability with 32 starts, the feeling of management and the coaching staff is that he has the talent to become a premier pitcher in the National League. And they project that for the immediate future, not down the road, which means they could be reading quite a bit into his results this year.
Surely, the subject will be revisited next winter.
After two years of sending Kent Tekulve around the country to file scouting reports on upcoming opponents, the Pirates are back to relying on video for advance scouting.
General manager Neal Huntington explained that he and manager John Russell discussed early in the offseason whether Russell felt he needed human eyes on the opponent. They agreed, Huntington said, that a video breakdown -- spliced before each series by assistant video coordinator Adam Lewkowicz -- was preferred.
"We feel we can get what we need this way," Huntington said.
There still will be some human involvement, Huntington added, noting that his seven special asssistants -- already on the road watching other teams for potential trades -- can advise about game strategy as well.
Dave Littlefield, Huntington's predecessor, was the subject of some public criticism for relying solely on video before hiring Tekulve as his advance scout in January 2006. Tekulve would fill out extensive, reports that were on former manager Jim Tracy's desk before each series, and Tracy would read them thoroughly, often crediting Tekulve after games.
Tekulve is now a studio analyst on FSN broadcasts.
Part of the Pirates' continuing effort to connect to their winning history was evident to PNC Park patrons this week, from the five World Series medallions below the press box to the new Hall of Fame club.
But the most elegant new displays might be those out of the public view.
The players' clubhouse was repainted in black and gold, mostly the latter color to brighten the atmosphere from the previous blue. The new carpet includes the giant "P" emblazoned at the room's center. Above the stalls are markings for the franchise's championships and retired numbers.
In the hallway just outside are pictures of greats such as Honus Wagner and Roberto Clemente, interspersed with images of current players. On a nearby wall is the team's internal slogan -- "Pride. Passion. Pittsburgh Pirates" -- painted in large letters.
And, above the steps that lead to the dugout, is a sign framing this Clemente quote: "When I put on my uniform, I feel I am the proudest man on Earth." Some players have begun touching it before games.
"We want our players to know they're part of a first-class organization, as well as one that has a great history and tradition," team president Frank Coonelly said.
The Pirates were one of 10 teams that had a scout watching Georgia high school shortstop Tim Beckham during a March 30 game near Atlanta.
That hardly qualifies as a surprise, given that Beckham is widely considered the best five-tool talent available in the June draft and the Pirates have the No. 2 overall pick. They can be expected to watch just about every game he plays and gather every shred of information available. And the same applies for a wide array of other prospects with a chance to be selected that high.
Still, a couple of things could be read into this:
One, the Pirates clearly are not shying away from at least looking at the potential best player, as opposed to focusing elsewhere because of cost.
Two, Beckham is not a pitcher.
First Published April 13, 2008 12:00 am