Posted on: September 17, 2010 7:02 pm
Edited on: September 17, 2010 7:25 pm

Strong interest in former D-Backs pick

Remember Barret Loux?

Loux was the sixth overall pick in June's draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks. Loux, a right-hander out of Texas A&M, failed his physical and the Diamondbacks decided not to sign him. Instead, Arizona was awarded compensatory draft picks in 2011 and Loux was given free agency.

Anyway, Loux worked out for "about 15" teams in College Station, Texas, on Friday. Among the teams there was Loux's hometown Astros.

"The fact there were 15 teams there today and the fact some clubs didn't sign their first-round [picks] showed there was some interest," Astros director of scouting Bobby Heck told MLB.com . "The fact we have somewhere [shows] our interest is sincere. We'll do our work on it. You have to have balance, not only the evaluation process, but because of the medical circumstances [team medical director] Dr. [David] Lintner becomes part of our process as well as we gauge where we can or can't go on this."

Loux was 11-2 with a  2.83 ERA for the Aggies last season and is currently in school finishing up his degree. According to Heck, Loux and his people aren't in a  rush, they just what something "in place later in the fall and know where their landing place is for spring training."

UPDATE: MLB.com's Brian McTaggart lists the other teams there -- the Dodgers, Twins, Marlins, Reds, Yankees, Pirates, A's, Brewers, Mets, Angels, Blue Jays and Royals.

-- C. Trent Rosecrans

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Posted on: September 17, 2010 12:04 pm

Ex-Pirate says players don't care about winning

D.J. Carrasco Ex-Pirates reliever D.J. Carrasco thinks he knows what is ailing the Pirates.

"The guys don't take it seriously enough that they're losing all the time," Carrasco said as his new team, the Diamondbacks, prepare to take on the Pirates for the first time since Pittsburgh sent Carrasco, since-released infielder Bobby Crosby and outfielder Ryan Church to Arizona for catcher Chris Snyder and minor-league infielder Pedro Ciriaco.

"You would think there's a lot of negative energy from losing all the time," Carrasco continued to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette .

But that wasn't the case.

The Pirates are in the midst of their 18th straight losing season and are on pace to have the worst of these losing seasons with a 48-98 record currently, "good" for a .329 winning percentage. The next-lowest win percentage is 2001's .383, followed by 2009's .385 -- so things are getting worse, not better.

"That's something that needs to be worked on internally from the players themselves, to have a pride issue of getting beat up every day," Carrasco added. "It didn't seem like that. I'm sure the staff cares big-time, but it didn't seem the players cared as much as the staff."

Unfortunately, there are no quotes on how Carrasco perceives his new team, as a culture of winning was also brought into question for Arizona. There were reports that players were too complacent with losing, which led to GM Josh Byrnes and manager A.J. Hinch's dismissal. Replacing Hinch is the fiery, iconic Kirk Gibson while the interim general manager, Jerry DiPoto, cited Joe Saunders' aptitude for winning as what made him desirable in the Dan Haren trade.

There's no secret that the Pirates are struggling and manager John Russell along with general manager Neal Huntington are in danger of losing their jobs. However, the Bucs have an intriguing young offense blossoming and made two high-profile amateur draft signings in pitchers Jameson Taillon and Stetson Allie, portending good things down the road.

Pittsburgh may be on its 18th straight losing season -- and yes, perhaps the psyche of the players may come into account -- but the end of that
ignominious streak is looming.

-- Evan Brunell

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Category: MLB
Posted on: September 13, 2010 8:58 pm

Meek to receive saves down stretch

Joel Hanrahan There's a closer controversy brewing in Pittsburgh, as Evan Meek will start receiving some opportunities down the stretch as the Bucs evaluate the composition of their 2011 roster.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that incumbent Joel Hanrahan (pictured) will continue to receive saves, but it's anyone's guess who claims the job next year.

Starting the competition now allows the team to make a more informed decision on who is best as closer given spring training is near-impossible to evaluate closer readiness. For one, being a closer is all about pressure -- something spring training has in short supply. In addition, closers rarely see save situations in games until the final week -- and when it comes time for those, they are usually facing minor leaguers.

 “It’s a good question, and it’s something I’ve thought about,” manager John Russell said. “We’ll talk about it this winter, because it is difficult to compete in spring training in that role.”

Hanrahan, 28, has a 3.59 ERA on the year, whiffing 88 in 62 2/3 innings and walking just 21. Hanrahan boasts a 96-mph average fastball which would give him an edge over most anyone in a closer's competition -- except Meek is no slouch himself with the heater, averaging 95.1 mph. Meek has a 1.99 ERA in 72 1/3 innings, but only has 60 strikeouts and 27 walks.

That strikeout difference is a big reason why Hanrahan likely has the inside road on the closer's gig, but no decisions will be made until Opening Day 2011.

-- Evan Brunell

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Category: MLB
Posted on: September 9, 2010 8:34 pm

Duke may not be a Pirate next year

Zach Duke On Wednesday night, Zach Duke got blasted to the tune of four runs, not making it out of the second inning after allowing eight of 11 batters to reach.

That continued a long line of terrible starts Duke has put forth in 2010, and it may cost him his job.

As the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports , "indications are powerful" that the lefty will be non-tendered over the winter in advance of his third and final arbitration year. Duke has a 5.47 ERA in 25 starts over 138 1/3 innings. While his BB/9 ratio is a respectable 2.9, he doesn't whiff enough batters (5.5 K/9) and limit hits to be an effective major-league starter.

Duke is making $4.3 million in arbitration and would certainly receive a raise based on antiquated measurements of baseball performance that arbitrators judge by.

Duke burst on the scene in 2005 as a 22-year-old by posting a 1.81 ERA in 84 2/3 innings, making 14 starts. Since then, however, he simply hasn't been a viable starting pitcher save 2009 when he posted a 4.07 ERA in 32 starts over 213 innings and seemed to finally be realizing his promise until 2010's setback.

Unlike the baffling choice to let Matt Capps go last offseason, this non-tender by the Bucs would certainly be warranted. However, Pittsburgh isn't exactly teeming with ready replacements, so don't be surprised to see Duke return on a lower base salary and give up plenty more hits yet again in 2011 for the Pirates.

-- Evan Brunell

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Category: MLB
Posted on: September 7, 2010 8:16 pm

Pirates to keep Burres in rotation

Brian Burres The Pirates have opted to keep Brian Burres in the rotation following his strong start against the Braves on Monday, reports MLB.com's Jennifer Langosch .

Burres hurled six innings of one-run ball, limiting Atlanta to just five hits without allowing a walk and striking out three. The 29-year-old was making his first start since May 29, a four-run stinker that saw him sent to the minors.

He returned to pitch out of the bullpen August 28 but made the emergency start Monday after incumbent Jeff Karstens was scratched with shoulder pain. Karstens is "slowly" recovering, according to Langosch, but if he returns to action before the 2010 closes, it will likely be out of the bullpen. The 27-year-old Karstens has a 4.88 ERA in 121 2/3 innings, starting 19 games and coming out of the 'pen for seven games. He only strikes out 5.3 batters per nine, but pairs that ratio with a 2.0 BB/9 mark, solid enough marks to make him a viable back-of-the-rotation starter.

Burres has a 5.75 ERA on the year in eight starts and seven relief appearances. His career numbers are worse, with a 6.03 ERA in 316 2/3 innings, walking almost as much (4.2 BB/9) as he strikes out (5.4 K/9).

Even though Burres may stick in the rotation the rest of the way, it's hard to imagine him making the 2011 squad as he is at this point, a fungible journeyman. If he can piece together a few strong starts down the stretch, that may be enough to get him a look at spring training as a possible swingman, but not much more.

Of course, Burres is also a lefty, so that automatically guarantees him countless more opportunities to stick with a major-league club.

-- Evan Brunell

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Category: MLB
Posted on: September 3, 2010 10:52 am
Edited on: September 3, 2010 12:23 pm

Pirates president unhappy with team

Paul Maholm There could be a regime change in Pittsburgh, as a projected 109-loss season stares the Pirates in the face.

"I have been extremely disappointed in the team's performance,'' president Frank Coonelly told Bob Nightengale of USA Today. "We are evaluating every aspect of our operation in order to determine how we can get the club moving in the right direction immediately."

That includes assessing the work of GM Neal Huntington and manager John Russell, two with contracts through 2011.

The Pirates certainly expected a losing season in 2010, but not one that could be the team's worst since 1953, when the team went 50-104 for a .325 winning percentage. Pittsburgh is currently at 44-89 with a .331 winning percentage.

The team has an intriguing future ahead, with Andrew McCutchen manning center field, Jose Tabata in left and power-hitter Pedro Alvarez at the hot corner. Second baseman Neil Walker has also turned heads, but their decrepit offense still ranks near-last in the majors, thanks to the incoming rookies adjusting to big-league ball and some disappointing seasons by young veterans such as Garrett Jones and Lastings Milledge.

The pitching, on the other hand... is just as bad as the hitting. When a 4.07 ERA is the lowest of any starting pitcher with at least 11 starts, you know you're in trouble. No. a 4.07 ERA isn't terrible for Ross Ohlendorf, but it shouldn't be the best on the team. Speaking of the minimum 11 starts, Charlie Morton has exactly that number of starts with an unsightly 10.03 ERA attached to it. Nice.

"While we have made tremendous progress executing a sound plan to overhaul a broken system and return this once-proud franchise to its tradition of winning baseball, we have only one benchmark by which we measure ourselves and that is wins and losses at the Major League level," Coonelly adds. "By that benchmark, we have badly underachieved."

This is where things diverge between Coonelly and common sense. The last several seasons have featured a mass exodus of quality players -- players like Jason Bay, Xavier Nady, Freddy Sanchez, Adam LaRoche, Nate McLouth, Jack Wilson, Tom Gorzelanny, Matt Capps and Nyjer Morgan. (Although, at this point, Morgan may be addition by subtraction ). 

No, these players weren't enough to get the Bucs to .500, but they certainly didn't exactly hurt the goal of .500 either. To dump all these players and replace them with fringe major-league veterans plus a bevy of prospects doesn't instantly translate to wins. A large number of these prospects either didn't pan out or are still in the minors, which was expected. Those that have reached the majors yet haven't produced instant results, but despite the sheer talent of NL rookies who have entered the bigs this year, rookies tend to have a learning curve. Is it any surprise, then, that the young major-leaguers have underperformed who they are replacing?

No, not really. So additional losses shouldn't have been a surprise. It's only when you go from a 95-loss team to a 105-plus loss team that it really crystallizes just how awful a team is.

"Our sole focus is determining why that is the case and making the decisions necessary to achieve our goal of giving Pirate fans winning baseball again as quickly as possible. '

As for the fates of Huntington and Russell, their culpability is less than clear. Huntington has done a fine job at building up a stable of prospects but also making a few curious moves. The Jason Bay mega-deal was a failure, as Brandon Moss nor Andy LaRoche have helped the team, while Bryan Morris is 23 and stuck in Double-A. Yes, Morris still has a chance to help, but even if he cracks the bigs as a solid starter or reliever one day, the return for Bay remains poor. In addition, the head-scratching move to dump Matt Capps in the offseason has completely blown up in Huntington's face as has the odd trade of Gorzelanny to the Cubs.

So no, Huntington hasn't been perfect. But he hasn't been awful, either. He has cobbled together strong drafts since joining Pittsburgh in October 2007 and is in the process of infusing the team with exciting young players. Other than Ohlendorf and Tabata, however, no external acquisition has worked out yet.

The judgment for Russell is less certain, and it seems all but a done deal that his head will roll after the season. After all, the manager is always the first to go. Huntington will likely get one more year to prove himself, but that's all he'll get -- so you may see a more aggressive general manager making moves in the winter.

-- Evan Brunell

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Posted on: September 2, 2010 6:28 pm

Cubs' Gorzelanny to miss start

Tom Gorzelanny
Cubs left-hander Tom Gorzelanny, who left during the third inning of his start Thursday when Pittsburgh's Jose Tabata lined a ball off his right hand, has a small fracture and will miss at least one start, says the Chicago Tribune.

A CT scan showed a small, incomplete hairline fracture beneath the nail of his pinky finger. Of more immediate concern is the swelling of his palm, which will determine when he can get back to pitching.

Carlos Silva, who has been on a rehab assignment after a heart procedure, could be ready to be called up and take Gorzelanny's next start.

-- David Andriesen

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Posted on: August 26, 2010 2:35 pm

Miami wants to reopen stadium deal

Incensed by leaked documents showing that the Marlins were making a profit at the same time they were crying poverty to get public money for a new ballpark, the mayor of Miami is looking into whether the city can revisit an agreement to build a $100 million parking garage for the team.

According to the Miami Herald, mayor Tomas Regalado wants the city -- the parking garage is its primary contribution to the $642 million project -- to reap 100 percent of advertising revenue from signs in the garage. The current deal calls for the team and city to split the money.

"If the answer is in the negative, what recourse do we have to expose those who misinformed the commission and public during a public hearing?'' Regalado asked City Attorney Julie Bru.

Thus far, the only repercussions from the release of private financial reports for six teams -- the Marlins, Rays, Rangers, Mariners, Angels and Pirates -- have been in public relations. If the Marlins, who as a private business had no legal obligation to open their books, suffer a financial loss as a result, you have to think they'd have a compelling basis for a lawsuit against whoever was responsible for leaking the documents. Apparently Major League Baseball is looking at an unnamed insurance carrier as the possible source of the leak.

-- David Andriesen

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Category: MLB
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