Pirates Notebook: What if rotation had competition?
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HOUSTON -- It is classic hindsight, of course, but perhaps the question should be asked: How different might the Pirates' 2008 season have gone if management had conducted a broader competition for the starting rotation?
As it was, Ian Snell, Tom Gorzelanny, Paul Maholm, Matt Morris and Zach Duke entered spring training as the undisputed quintet, and the only real reinforcement was Phil Dumatrait, who had one brief, failed stint with Cincinnati the previous year. The rest of the depth consisted of minor league journeymen John Van Benschoten, Bryan Bullington, Ty Taubenheim and Jason Davis.
INDIANAPOLIS (49-56) beat Charlotte, 3-1. LHP Corey Hamman (1-1, 3.45) allowed one run and four hits in 6 1/3 innings. He struck out one, walked four. RHP Evan Meek (2.86) pitched 2 2/3 innings of scoreless relief for his second save. He struck out four, walked none and threw 23 of 35 pitches for strikes. DH Neil Walker (.235) went 2 for 4 with a double and an RBI. CF Andrew McCutchen (.281) and 1B Steve Pearce (.260) each went 0 for 2 with two walks.
ALTOONA (46-57) beat Akron, 6-3. RHP Luis Munoz (1-4, 7.34) allowed three runs and eight hits in seven innings. RF Brad Corley (.289) went 3 for 4 with three doubles. 2B Angel Gonzalez (.412) went 3 for 4.
LYNCHBURG (46-57) beat Wilmington, 9-3, in a rain-shortened, five-inning game. RHP Brad Lincoln (1-1, 8.00), in his second high Class A start, allowed three runs and six hits in five innings. He struck out three, walked none. LF Jared Keel (.212) hit his 11th and 12th home runs and went 2 for 3 with five RBIs.
HICKORY (41-62) lost to Delmarva, 3-0, extending its losing streak to nine. RHP Matt McSwain (3-4, 2.03) allowed one run and four hits in five innings. He struck out six, walked two. DH Matt Hague (.333) went 1 for 3.
STATE COLLEGE (8-25 lost at Lowell, 4-3. RHP Wilson Ortiz (0-2, 3.63) allowed one run and four hits in 3 1/3 innings. SS Silvio Pena (.296) went 3 for 5 with an RBI.
BRADENTON (16-11 beat the Reds, 9-4. RHP Gabriel Alvardo (2-1, 4.50) allowed two runs and seven hits in five innings. 2B Adenson Chourio (.326) went 3 for 4 with a walk and an RBI.
That hardly looked sturdy enough at the time to withstand injuries or performance dips, and that obviously has proven to be the case: The Pirates' starting pitching is among the worst in franchise history, with a cumulative 5.76 ERA.
What if, say, there had been two or three comparable pitchers brought into camp for a push?
"It's hard to say," general manager Neal Huntington said. "Obviously, we overestimated the starting pitching, based on what's happened since then. The main thing is that we haven't gotten what we expected from Snell or Gorzelanny. If you go back to that time, most teams would have felt pretty good about those two, with how they pitched in 2007. But they took a step back and, no question, it's hurt us."
What about the rest?
"Duke and Maholm have been about what we expected. We thought we'd get some veteran innings out of Matt, and that didn't happen. But we also saw Phil do pretty well before he was hurt and, again."
Bottom line, Huntington reiterated, is that the Pirates need far better depth.
"We believe in these pitchers and what they can do, and we still think it can be a good group. But there's no question we need to keep adding."
Doumit to the right
Just last year, there were internal whispers that Ryan Doumit should drop switch-hitting and bat exclusively from the left side, so great was the disparity in power: 20 of 21 career home runs came from that side.
This season, Doumit has hit four of his 12 home runs from the right side, and he has batted .309, not far from his overall average.
"That just goes back to how he showed up for spring training," manager John Russell said. "Simple as that. How showed up ready to be the best he can be."
Hague shines at Hickory
The Pirates assigned only one prospect to Class A Hickory shortly after the draft, ninth-round third baseman Matt Hague, and he has handled it exceedingly well: He is batting .333 with five home runs and 12 RBIs in 25 games.
Hague, 22, played at Oklahoma State University, as well as some summer ball with wooden bats, so management projected the adjustment would be easier.
But this easy?
"Matt's track record made us feel comfortable pushing him to Hickory, and he has not disappointed," director of player development Kyle Stark said. "Our scouts did a great job of identifying that, and Matt has done a great job."
The Pirates are not necessarily seeking volume in prospects but quality, a team source said. If one elite prospect prospect were offered for one of their two prime commodities -- outfielder Xavier Nady or reliever Damaso Marte -- they would accept. The problem: Those are not the types of offers being made.
• With Hurricane Dolly missing Houston to the south, the Pirates had no travel issue. All that hit the area near the ballpark were some slightly heavy winds and very light rain.
• Gorzelanny's next start for Indianapolis will come tomorrow. He is expected to go longer than three innings, as he did in his first two starts.
• The Pirates announced they have increased the discount on their Giant Eagle Advantage Card nights -- every Tuesday home game -- from $4 to $5.
First Published July 24, 2008 12:00 am