Pirates Notebook: No limit for Maholm yet
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ST. LOUIS -- There is no plan to shut down Paul Maholm in 2008.
The Pirates' management has been discussing a road map for the starting pitchers for the rest of the season -- mostly general manager Neal Huntington, manager John Russell and pitching coach Jeff Andrews -- and the subject of Maholm's inning count has come up because he is on pace to blow away his previous career-high workload: He has pitched 168 innings, and his previous high, set last year, was 177 2/3.
"Not right now," Russell said yesterday when asked about if there is any hard ceiling for Maholm. "He just needs to be prepared to do what he's doing. We're not going to stop him. There will be a point when, if it gets too deep into the season, we'll reevaluate it."
INDIANAPOLIS (62-70) lost at Charlotte, 5-4, in 11 innings. RHP Jimmy Barthmaier (3-1, 3.42) allowed two runs and seven hits in 5 1/3 innings. RHP Evan Meek (2.75) allowed one run and three hits in 1 1/3 innings of relief. 3B Neil Walker (.239) went 2 for 5 with two RBIs and a steal. CF Andrew McCutchen (.278) went 1 for 1.
ALTOONA (59-72) lost to Portland, 4-3. RHP Derek Hankins (1-10, 4.88) allowed two runs and five hits in four-plus innings. CF Jose Tabata (.265) went 1 for 3 with a walk.
LYNCHBURG (51-77) won at Frederick, 11-5. RHP Mike Crotta (9-9, 4.82) allowed two runs and seven hits in six innings. LF Jared Keel (.234) hit his 16th home run, a two-run shot, and went 2 for 4 with a double and three RBIs. 2B Matt Cavagnaro (.500) went 4 for 5 with two doubles and three RBIs. SS Jose De Los Santos (.227) went 3 for 6 with a double.
HICKORY (48-81) lost at Lexington, 2-1. LHP Mike Felix (4-6, 5.56) pitched five scoreless innings and allowed two hits. 3B Matt Hague (.319) went 2 for 4.
STATE COLLEGE (11-45) was off.
BRADENTON (33-17) beat the Red Sox, 4-1. LHP Tyler Cox (2-3, 1.79) allowed one run and three hits in four innings. 3B Jarek Cunningham (.321) hit his fourth home run and went 1 for 2 with two walks.
The widely accepted standard is that a young pitcher -- usually defined as 25 or younger -- should not exceed his previous career high by more than 30 innings. Last year, for example, Tom Gorzelanny topped his by 40 1/3, and his 2008 has been virtually lost.
There are several reasons why Maholm does not fit the profile:
• He is 26.
• He pitched 176 innings in 2006, roughly the same as last year, so there was no dramatic increase there.
• He is fully healthy, unlike last year, when lower back pain shelved him for most of September.
• Almost all of his best pitching has come since the end of May, and it has been remarkably consistent and efficient with pitch counts, even from inning to inning. That puts less stress on a pitcher's arm.
On the other side, the Pirates have nothing but irrelevant games left in terms of the standings and would have no logical reason to push Maholm, their best pitcher by far this season and a valuable part of their future, beyond a certain threshold.
Only this is certain ...
"I want to pitch," Maholm said. "I'm preparing the same way I do every day, ready to make all of my starts."
And how many might that be?
"Seven," he replied without hesitation.
Closer Matt Capps made his final rehabilitation appearance last night for Class AA Altoona -- a scoreless inning, with a walk and strikeout against visiting Portland -- and will stay there today for a side session.
He will fly to Milwaukee to join the Pirates tomorrow.
Awful as the Pirates' short-season affiliate in State College has been, the team on the rung just below it, Bradenton is 33-17, by far the best record in the 16-team Gulf Coast League.
Like State College, Bradenton is stocked with draft picks, the key difference being that the high school players mostly go to Bradenton and another difference being that more Latin American newcomers were assigned there. State College was given college draft picks, and most of the rest were extended spring types not good enough for previous summer action.
"What we've got in Bradenton is a lot of new players," director of player development Kyle Stark said. "You've got to be excited about what's happening there, not only for what it will mean to our lower-level teams but also what it could mean in the future."
Three players standing out in management's eyes:
• Third baseman Jarek Cunningham hit his fourth home run yesterday and is batting .321. He was the Pirates' 18th-round draft pick and one of those above-slot signings to keep him from attending Arizona State University.
• Right-handed starter Gabriel Alvarado, a Latin American signing, is 4-2 with a 3.43 ERA and, though others have better numbers, the Pirates like the fluidity and consistency of his delivery, as well as pitching feel.
• Right-handed reliever Brent Klinger, the 21st-round pick, has a 0.71 ERA, 12 strikeouts and three walks in 12 2/3 innings, mostly the result of a power arm.
• First-round draft pick Pedro Alvarez still had not taken his physical as of yesterday, as the team and player try to work out details.
• Left fielder Brandon Moss made a surprising return to the lineup after missing just two days to that ugly-looking sprained left ankle. Even he was surprised: "Wow," he said upon seeing his name on the lineup card yesterday afternoon.
• Center fielder Nate McLouth was out a second game because of illness.
• Starter Ian Snell allowed that he was affected in the early going by some mental weight: "It was just the expectations that were thrown on me, being the ace, being the one who faces the other team's ace. People expected a lot of me, and I don't think that's easy on a young pitcher. But when you've got nagging injuries and things come up, it's kind of hard. All I told myself was to finish the season strong."
First Published August 21, 2008 12:00 am