Pirates Notebook: Bullpen, catcher decisions loom
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MIAMI -- Reliever Donnie Veal, the Pirates' Rule 5 draft pick, must be recalled Wednesday from Class AAA Indianapolis, as per the terms of Rule 5, and general manager Neal Huntington yesterday confirmed that Veal will, in fact, rejoin the team in Houston on that date.
So, who will be sent from a bullpen that has performed mostly well of late?
Not Matt Capps and John Grabow, obviously, but the rest is up in the air.
Newcomer Joel Hanrahan is the only one struggling, but management wants him to work with pitching coach Joe Kerrigan on two glaring shortcomings: One is that he needs to pitch inside more. Two is that he is too reliant on his slider rather than his blazing, naturally moving fastball.
Jesse Chavez, Evan Meek and groundball specialist Steven Jackson all have been solid, with Jackson putting up two more zeroes yesterday. Jeff Karstens has been hit a bit lately, and management has left open the thought that he could return to starting at some point. But there is no indication he would go to Indianapolis to do that.
All five have options.
Whatever the corresponding move, the recall of Veal seems sure to weaken the bullpen: He had a 4.26 ERA, six strikeouts and 10 walks in five mopup appearances for the Pirates before his groin was strained May 31. He has a 3.55 ERA, 11 strikeouts and 12 walks in eight appearances for Indianapolis.
Huntington acknowledged when Veal went on the disabled list that the placement was "aggressive" and that the Pirates mostly wanted him to see some action. But Rule 5 requires such a player to rejoin the parent club within 30 days of resuming play.
Another decision Huntington faces: What to do when Ryan Doumit returns behind the plate?
The most likely scenario is that one of the current catchers, Jason Jaramillo or Robinzon Diaz, will go back to Indianapolis, with Diaz the far more probable choice because of his defense.
The team also is weighing keeping Diaz as a spare part -- he has limited infield and outfield experience in his background -- because he has batted .283 with 17 RBIs in 29 games.
If Diaz stays, one of two extra outfielders, Steve Pearce or Jeff Salazar, would be demoted.
• Ian Snell continued to dominate with Indianapolis, pitching a seven-inning complete game yesterday against Louisville. He struck out six and allowed five hits and a walk, throwing 65 of 98 pitches for strikes. He has yet to allow an earned run in 14 innings.
• Doumit joined Indianapolis and went 0 for 2, catching Snell's first five innings. Doumit is now 0 for 9 in his rehabilitation stint, including the two games in the Gulf Coast League.
• At the midpoint, the Pirates ranked third in the National League with a .267 batting average at the midpoint, their highest since 2004, but third-to-last with 55 home runs. Their 4.26 ERA ranked seventh, dramatically better than the league-worst 5.10 a year ago.
First Published July 6, 2009 12:00 am