Pirates Notebook: Lynchburg 'microcosm' of plan
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P.J. Forbes, energetic manager of the Pirates' Class A affiliate in Lynchburg, Va., could barely contain his enthusiasm at discussing his Hillcats' Carolina League championship, clinched Thursday with an 8-7 victory against Salem.
His reaction right after Ronald Uviedo earned the save with the final out: He brought together his staff, pitching coach Wally Whitehurst and coach Dave Howard, for a group hug.
"A little bit of disbelief, a little bit of relief, and a lot of pride," Forbes said last night, driving back to his Kansas home. "These guys had done something pretty special."
It was not until beginning the long drive yesterday, as he recalled, that he realized how special.
"Honestly, what's been on my mind all day is that we've talked about building the franchise like this, and it all came together in Lynchburg. That's what the Pirates' fans should look at, how our team was put together: It came from the draft, from trades, from Latin America, a little of everything. People in Pittsburgh have heard Frank Coonelly and Neal Huntington talk about building a championship-caliber organization, and I think our team was kind of a microcosm of what they're trying to do."
From the 2008 draft came third baseman Pedro Alvarez, whose first-half output with the Hillcats was the primary reason they qualified for the playoffs, as well as infielders Chase D'Arnaud, Jordy Mercer and Matt Hague. Acquired in recent trades were infielder Josh Harrison and pitchers Bryan Morris, Jeff Locke and Nate Adcock. From Latin America were outfielder Jose de los Santos, whose unlikely home run won Game 2 of the three-game sweep, as well as relievers Ramon Aguero and Uviedo.
Perhaps the most encouraging individual story belonged to Morris, the main acquisition in the Jason Bay trade: He was coming off a regular season in which he pitched poorly -- 4-9, 5.57 ERA -- and was suspended for berating an umpire, but he was chosen to pitch the decisive fifth game of the semifinal and came through with 6 2/3 innings and three runs to prevail.
"It says a lot about the kid," Forbes said. "And the most important thing was that he went through 6 2/3 on 68 pitches, and 50 were fastballs. We tried all season to stress the importance of fastball command if you want to start in the big leagues. That game was as big as they come at this level, and he stepped up."
Pirates manager John Russell did not specify whether today might mark Ross Ohlendorf's last start but acknowledged, "He's close," in terms of inning count.
Ohlendorf currently is at 169 2/3, and the team had aimed to keep him in the 160-170 range, so it seems likely that going deep today would bring the finish line.
• Second baseman Delwyn Young was out again because of lower back tightness that flared up with the flight home from Los Angeles. He took batting practice the past two days and said he should be back this week.
• Third baseman Andy LaRoche was a late scratch because he was sick. Neil Walker took his place.
• Russell, on the statuses of pitching coach Joe Kerrigan and infield instructor Perry Hill: "There's not a lot I can say, but I'd love to have them both back."
• It might have been noteworthy that, in discussing the Pirates' plans for Young this winter, Russell said the team would like to send him to Hill two or three times for individualized instruction at second base.
First Published September 19, 2009 12:00 am