The Pirates currently have five of their own first-round draft picks on their active roster, but the fact that there are still cracks in the foundation after 19 consecutive losing seasons is evidenced by the fact that they've already added two waiver claims in the season's first month: Brandon Wood (from the Angels) and Xavier Paul (from the Dodgers).
Of those two, Wood is the guy whose reputation arrived in the game long before he ever did.
A ballyhooed first-round pick in 2003, Wood was supposed to be the Angels' Next Great Thing after producing one of the greatest offensive seasons in the history of minor-league baseball at Class A Rancho Cucamonga in 2005 when he batted .321 with 43 homers, 115 RBI, 51 doubles, 109 runs scored and a .672 slugging percentage.
Now? He's picking up the pieces of his career in Pittsburgh.
"It's been a crazy time, leaving my wife with an apartment and dog [in Southern California] and saying, 'See you in Pittsburgh when you can get here,'" Wood says. "Then she showed up and we leave on a trip."
Wood was the Angels' opening day third baseman last year but batted just .146 with four homers and 14 RBI in 81 games and wound up dispatched back to Triple-A Salt Lake. When he started slowly this year (.143 in six games), the Angels finally designated him for assignment on April 20, and Pittsburgh snatched him off of waivers two days later.
"Baseball-wise, this is a great opportunity for me," says Wood, who has made three starts at shortstop and one at third with the Bucs. "I wasn’t' going to go up again with the Angels. I had reached my point after not doing well in the first month-and-a-half to start the season last year.
"It wasn't pretty. They're in a situation where they have to win. There's so much pressure on a big organization like the Angels."
Clearly, Wood had reached the change-of-scenery-is-best part of his career. While there's always pressure in the bigs, maybe he'll handle it and hit for a team still in the shadows. At least, maybe enough to finally get a firm footing in the majors.
"This left me a clean chalkboard to start with," Wood says. "Clint [Hurdle, Pirates manager] said, 'Don't worry about the first month.'"
The first month has always been bitter to him in every taste of the majors in Anaheim ('07, '08 and '09 as well before his big chance in '10). Maybe with this move, he can change that.
"We've talked a little, and I'm going to get my at-bats, be it at third base, shortstop, first base, second base or even coming off the bench to hit," Wood says. "I'm good for it all."
Meanwhile, wife Lindsey and their pooch -- a seven-year-old blind Pug with diabetes named Elvis -- have found a place to live back in Pittsburgh.
Maybe it'll be the start of a successful new chapter -- both for Wood, and for the Pirates.