Pirates Notebook: Bootcheck, Ascanio refurbish taxed bullpen
In the minutes after the relievers permitted the last of their eight runs yielded Thursday night in a frustrating, 12-inning, 11-6 loss to Arizona, the Pirates tried to refurbish that bullpen with a veteran and a starter.
The veteran is Chris Bootcheck, signed in the offseason for the role but sent from spring training to Class AAA Indianapolis ... until early yesterday morning. He pitched 77 games over five previous seasons with the Angels.
"That's why I'm here," Bootcheck said of filling any big league need after serving as Indianapolis' closer, where he had 20 saves to go with a 3-2 record, 3.38 ERA and seven walks to go with 55 strikeouts.
"The thing you like about him, he's been around a little bit, so we'll have a little bit of so-called veteran presence in our bullpen," said manager John Russell, whose bullpen has allowed 22 runs in 25 relief innings since the John Grabow trade. "He's a guy who's pretty resilient, you can use him in a lot of ways. So he has the opportunity to fit pretty nicely into our bullpen right now."
The starter is Jose Ascanio, acquired in the Grabow/Tom Gorzelanny trade with the Cubs. He allowed two runs in six innings in his lone start at Indianapolis five days earlier, and the Pirates needed a rested, ready arm for their overtaxed bullpen.
"I'm ready for anything," said Ascanio, who has pitched in 33 major league games the past three seasons. "I'm trying to help the team, I know the bullpen's been struggling the last five games."
Russell added: "We debated calling him up, because we were very interested in him continuing to start. But where we are in our bullpen right now, we needed some innings. We'll keep him here, see how it works with the thought in our mind that we'd still like to see this guy as a starter. Maybe in September get him an occasional start."
Donnie Veal, the bullpen's lone remaining left-hander after the trades of Grabow and Sean Burnett, was shut down and placed on the 15-day disabled list because of a sprained left index finger and replaced by Bootcheck. Steven Jackson, who gave up five runs in the losing 12th Thursday, was returned to Indianapolis.
Tall, Texan left-handers Zack Dodson, the Pirates' fourth-round choice originally committed to Baylor, and Colton Cain, their eighth-round pick previously headed for the University of Texas, signed yesterday and will head for Pirate City today to begin their professional careers in the Gulf Coast League and then Instructional League.
Cain came at a $1.25 million price and Dodson for $600,000, Baseball America reported. Yet they fit into the Pirates' spread-the-wealth strategy that -- after 20 draftees total and eight of their first nine selections are under contract -- still leaves eighth-rounder Zack Von Rosenberg unsigned among their highly rated high school picks commanding above-slot deals.
Von Rosenberg said last night that he and the Pirates are in daily discussions with barely a week remaining before the deadline. The Pirates have spent roughly $7.8 million of their $10 million draft allotment.
Pirates management hoped to get these players to the minors sooner, but Major League Baseball delayed the process of approving such above-slot contracts.
"Whatever innings I get in, it'll be better than nothing," Dodson said of a Bradenton team with three weeks left to play.
"Oh, it was awful," the stout Cain said of the wait. "But I'm probably as ready as I can be."
Starter Kevin Hart and a club spokesman apologized, citing "miscommunication" as the reasons why neither Hart nor Jackson were available for comment after the loss Thursday.
Jackson believed he didn't have to conduct interviews, and Hart believed media members already had left the clubhouse for the night when instead they were interviewing Russell.
First Published August 8, 2009 12:03 am