Tag:Pittsburgh Pirates
Posted on: May 3, 2011 7:04 pm
 

Pirates looking to put good Wood to talent search

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.

Posted on: May 2, 2011 11:14 pm
Edited on: May 2, 2011 11:37 pm
 

Baseball, history re-connect a decade after 9/11

SAN DIEGO -- Last time baseball came this close to Osama bin Laden, it went dark for a week while the United States shook off the horror and the world regained its breath, both slowly staggering forward after 9/11.

I was in Dodger Stadium on the night baseball returned in September, 2001, and the raw emotion still resonates from a night that did what baseball does when it is at its best: It brought communities together. Coaxed smiles. Provided, for a couple of hours, a shelter from the storm.

Monday night, 24 hours after bin Laden's death, you could trace a line drive straight back to that horror and tragedy.

In Pittsburgh's clubhouse here, three ballgames played out silently on the televisions in the background before batting practice. But the television with the sound up was tuned to CNN and its news coverage. Pitcher Chris Resop talked with a teammate about Homeland Security.

Over in San Diego's clubhouse, pitcher Mat Latos hung a navy blue "USA" basketball jersey in front of his locker. For the first time on a non-Sunday, the Padres were wearing their camouflage jerseys honoring the military.

"We never take it lightly," Padres closer Heath Bell said. "But it means a little more tonight."

The game might exist in its own corner of the world, but so much of that corner is woven into the rest of life the way a baseball is stitched together by its seams. And so there was no stepping away Monday, no tuning out. Not that anyone wanted to.

Several clubs offered various forms of free tickets to games. As the Padres offered two free tickets to any active or retired military member for Monday night's game, infielder Orlando Hudson was lobbying to take that several steps forward.

"I think there should be free tickets all around the game of baseball," Hudson said. "And free tickets to the playoff games, basketball games and hockey games."

Emotions came from every angle, probably much like you encountered on a Monday unlike any we've had in a long, long time.

"I just think everybody feels like they have the pride of the United States in them today," said Bell, the Padres closer and son of a U.S. Marine. "But I don't think it should be a day of celebration.

"I don't think killing a guy is a reason to celebrate, because I don't think we should stoop to their level. After 9/11, they were jumping up and down. I don't want us to be doing the same thing. ... I'm totally behind my country, but it's hard. Half of me wanted to kill the dude, and the other half of me thinks killing is wrong.

"I was proud when I heard we gave him a proper burial. I think it was a class act by the United States.

The Pirates earlier in the day visited the Navy SEAL training base on Coronado Island, just minutes from the team hotel and Petco Park. It was a tour planned long before Sunday's historic day, and it reinforces the fact that baseball -- all sports -- is not an island unto itself.

Pittsburgh trainer Brad Henderson has been bringing small groups of Pirates to the Navy base for the past several years, since a former minor-league trainer in the Pirates' system left and went to work as a trainer for the Navy SEALS (which stands for the Navy Sea, Air and Land teams).

There is a man on base named John McTighe, who serves as a special assistant at the Navy Special Warfare Command center -- where all of the Navy SEALS report to run through their early training -- and he is a native of the Pittsburgh area. He sets up the tours when the Pirates come to town. Sometimes the players are able to shoot the Navy's guns. Monday, they went out on boats.

Anyway, a couple of years ago, McTighe invited Henderson to write letters to the other major league clubs, and now many take the same tour the Pirates do when they come to San Diego.

"It's a treat for us," Henderson said.

It's not just a one-way street. In gratitude, the Pirates -- and other clubs -- leave behind autographs and memorabilia to be auctioned off. Last year, Henderson said, these baseball items helped the Navy SEALS raise some $90,000 for the families of fallen soldiers.

With adrenalin still in the stratosphere on both sides as news tidbits continued to rocket around the globe, the feeling as Pittsburgh visited Monday was unlike any in the past.

"There was a sense of accomplishment in the air," Henderson said. "This is what those guys do. They go and look for the bad guys.

"They weren't patting themselves on the back. They completed their task, and now they've moving forward."

Shanksville, Pa., where Flight 93 crashed on that horrific day after the heroic "Let's roll" passengers overtook the hijackers, is about an hour east of Pittsburgh

"It was fun for us, knowing we were standing in the same spot where all the Navy SEALS stood," Henderson said. "Knowing that this is where they all started, including the group that got bin Laden."

Knowing that, he said, was pretty darned special.

 

Posted on: April 8, 2011 12:36 pm
Edited on: April 8, 2011 12:52 pm
 

Giants look to keep pitching sharp year later

The season following their 2005 World Series triumph, the pitching-strong White Sox were flat.

The season following his World Series MVP appearance, Philadelphia's Cole Hamels was flat.

There's no question that an extra month's pitching in October, with intense pressure riding on every pitch, sometimes grinds down even the best rotations.

And as the world champion Giants head toward their home opener Friday following a tough (2-3) opening trip, they're determined that their most precious asset -- their starting pitching -- will remain their strength.

Tim Lincecum, with a second consecutive impressive start in Wednesday's 8-4 pummeling of the Padres (13 strikeouts and no walks over seven innings), already is strong out of the gate. As for the overall rotation, while the Giants aren't taking any drastic measures, they've been subtly watching things all spring.

"We didn't push [the starters] once the games started in terms of pitch count," Giants pitching coach Dave Righetti said. "We kept it to a minimum."

Specifically, Righetti said, the Giants monitored their pitchers when runners were on base this spring and throwing from a stretch was required. They also kept Lincecum to 22 2/3 spring innings and Jonathan Sanchez to 20. Madison Bumgarner and Barry Zito each worked 27 1/3, while Matt Cain, who was slowed by a sore elbow early in camp, worked just 13 1/3 Cactus League innings.

"We're all in the business. We've been in it our whole life," Righetti said. "We understand that pitching that extra month is a grind. The effects, when the effects are going to happen, we'll see. You can't avoid it."

One thing the Giants are doing now is to stay on a five-man rotation in the early part of the season even with five days off within the season's first 31 days. Instead of skipping the No. 5 starter -- Bumgarner in this case -- San Francisco is opting for an extra day's rest for Lincecum, Sanchez, Cain and Zito.

Plus, there might be another benefit to that later, too.

"If there are any effects, you'll see it toward the end of the year, not now," manager Bruce Bochy said. "We'll keep a watchful eye.

"That's one reason we put Bumgarner in the fifth spot. We felt if we needed to give him a break, it would be easier to do from there.

"We'll monitor where we're at during the season, and who may need a break."

Though they are heading into the unknown this season in that they've never defended a World Series title since moving to San Francisco in 1958, the one thing the Giants hope they are certain of is how to handle pitching.

"Arms are precious," Righetti said. "You've got to watch every practice, every day. That doesn't change."

Likes: The Pirates donating leftover food from concession stands to local shelters and soup kitchens to feed the hungry. Best idea of the season, and I hope other teams follow. ... Day baseball in April. ... Home openers. ... If you're not checking out our Eye on Baseball blog several times a day, you're missing out. ... The Lincoln Lawyer. Very enjoyable flick.

Dislikes: Tough break for the Twins, losing second baseman Tsuyoshi Nishioki to a fractured left fibula.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"You can't have any pudding
"If you don't eat your meat
"How can you have any pudding
"If you don't eat your meat?"

-- Pink Floyd, Another Brick in the Wall

Posted on: December 8, 2010 7:12 pm
 

Twins talking Hardy with O's, Pirates

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- With one shortstop off the board after Tampa Bay agreed to send Jason Bartlett to San Diego for a couple of pitchers, the Twins continued Wednesday night to shop J.J. Hardy.

The Twins are talking with both the Baltimore Orioles and Pittsburgh Pirates on Hardy in a deal that sources said could happen by the end of the day Wednesday. Both the O's, who acquired third baseman Mark Reynolds from Arizona earlier this week, and the Pirates have been scouring the market for a shortstop.

Hardy, who batted .268 with six homers and 38 RBIs in 101 games for the Twins in 2010, became expendable when Minnesota won negotiating rights to Japanese free agent shortstop Tsuyoshi Nishioka. The Twins are expected to sign the middle infielder to a three-year deal worth between $9 and $12 million soon.

The Twins are looking for pitchers in return for Hardy and, according to the Baltimore Sun, would receive a couple of minor-league pitchers from the Orioles in return for Hardy. A wrist injury knocked Hardy out for nearly two months last season. He earned $5.1 million in 2010 and, arbitration-eligible, will earn more in 2011.

Posted on: December 8, 2010 5:16 pm
Edited on: December 8, 2010 6:12 pm
 

Shortstops on the move? Hardy, Bartlett dangled

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Indications are that at least one shortstop will be dealt by night's end as the Minnesota Twins continue shopping J.J. Hardy and the Tampa Bay Rays work toward moving Jason Bartlett multiple sources tell CBSSports.com.

The Twins are talking with both the Baltimore Orioles and Pittsburgh Pirates on Hardy in a deal that sources said could happen by the end of the day Wednesday. Both the O's, who acquired third baseman Mark Reynolds from Arizona earlier this week, and the Pirates have been scouring the market for a shortstop.

Hardy, who batted .268 with six homers and 38 RBIs in 101 games for the Twins in 2010, became expendable when Minnesota won negotiating rights to Japanese free agent shortstop Tsuyoshi Nishioka. The Twins are expected to sign the middle infielder to a three-year deal worth between $9 and $12 million soon.

The Twins are looking for pitchers in return for Hardy and, according to the Baltimore Sun, would receive a couple of minor-league pitchers from the Orioles in return for Hardy. A wrist injury knocked Hardy out for nearly two months last season. He earned $5.1 million in 2010 and, arbitration-eligible, will earn more in 2011.

Bartlett, 31, is coming off of a very disappointing season and, as the Rays look to cut payroll, will give way to Reid Brignac at shortstop in 2011. Bartlett earned $4 million in 2010 and is due more through arbitration in 2011. He batted .254 with four homers and 57 RBIs in 2010, his third full season in Tampa Bay after the Rays acquired him, along with right-hander Matt Garza, from the Twins in the Delmon Young trade.

Talks between the Orioles and Rays for Bartlett have run alternately hot and cold this week. Tampa Bay is looking for relief pitchers to patch a bullpen decimated by free agency this winter.

The Pirates and San Diego have been talking to the Rays as well. The Padres desperately need middle infielders and they have surplus relief pitching that Tampa Bay is requiring.

Posted on: December 3, 2010 2:10 pm
 

Love Letters: Readers on broadcasters

Few people get into the hearts of baseball fans the way broadcasters do. I wrote a Thanksgiving column about this, and primarily about the passing of legends Dave Niehaus (Seattle), Harry Kalas (Philadelphia) and Ernie Harwell (Detroit), and about the heart scare with Bob Uecker (Milwaukee), and the reaction follows.

Before we get to that, though, Cubs play-by-play man Pat Hughes, as a labor of love, has spent his past five offseasons producing CD audio tributes to several legendary broadcasters. The latest CD features Niehaus. Others available feature Uecker, Kalas, Marty Brennaman, Jack Buck, Harry Caray, Bob Prince and Red Barber. They're great items, and if you're interested, you can get more information here.

And now, on the sad day that we learned of Ron Santo's passing, here are a few readers telling their own tales following Giving thanks for the great voices in baseball. ...

FROM: Jeremy D.

Scott,

Great article, especially this time not only for the giving of thanks, but [for writing this while next season] is still a ways away. I am 33 and have been a Phillies fan for most of those years. Harry, as we call him around here in south-central PA, still holds the most memorable call in my many years as an avid sports fan: Mike Schmidt's 500th home run. When he passed away last spring, I, as many others were, was devastated. It was like losing a close, long-time friend. I have spent more time listening to Harry than I've spent listening to many of the friends and relatives I know personally. I still love to hear Vin Scully call a game, as well as Jon Miller on the radio, and Marty Brenneman. Some of the newer guys have promise, but Scully's voice flat-out IS summer. Thanks again for the pleasant cold-November-day read.

One more great thing about these broadcasters that come into our lives: Unlike certain relatives, they don't show up uninvited for the holidays!

FROM:
Jim W.

Thank you for that great story on the voices of summer. I moved to Seattle in 1993 and I will always remember Edgar's double and Griffey scoring from first to beat the Yankees in the 1995 Divisional Series. It was the year after the strike, and Dave's call is the reason I love baseball again.

The great ones can do that for us, can't they?

FROM: Rob

Great article! XM radio is the best thing to happen to baseball and the MLB app is great with the ability to hear both radio feeds.

Love XM. What a perk it is to be able to sit on my back patio on a Saturday in the summer, Cheez-Its within reach, clicking around the satellite radio dial listening to broadcasts from each city.

FROM:
Keith B.

I think you are right on with your column about the great baseball announcers. I became a big fan in the summer of 1962 listening to Harry Caray, Vin Scully and Ernie Harwell. I lived in Rapid City, SD. After dark I could pick up the various stations that carried MLB games. Sometimes it was not very clear but I could hear enough to know what was going on. My great grandfather & I would listen to Vin Scully on KFI out of Los Angeles. Happy Thanksgiving.

South Dakota, Michigan (where I'm from) ... one great thing about the Midwest is the flatlands allow strong radio signals to carry unimpeded for hundreds of miles. I could listen to the Tigers, Reds, Indians, White Sox, Cubs. ...

FROM:
Dan L.

Dear Scott,

As a fellow broadcaster and Michigander, I was blessed as well to grow up listening to the National Treasure that was Ernie Harwell. I was lucky enough to do a 20-minute interview with him on my radio show a couple years ago and felt like I had lived some of the moments that Ernie described to me from an era that I was not even alive during. He just helped make you feel part of something special, and through the sharing of his experiences throughout his amazing career, I kept thinking to myself just how lucky we are to have had Ernie be a part of our lives and us a part of his. I think CBS is very lucky to have you writing for them and I would love to stay in touch and have you on my show in the future. Keep up the great work!

Very kind. Thanks.

Posted on: July 30, 2010 4:42 pm
Edited on: July 30, 2010 9:07 pm
 

Pirates fielding inquiries on Paul Maholm

One day after adding veteran infielder Miguel Tejada, the first-place Padres are on a mission to add a starting pitcher and they're talking with the Pirates about acquiring left-hander Paul Maholm, a source with knowledge of the talks confirmed to CBSSports.com.

A handful of other clubs in search of pitching, including the Dodgers and Mets, are believed to be engaging the Pirates in talks as well. No deal appears close -- early Thursday evening, one source with knowledge of the talks described the Pirates-Padres conversations as "mild", while a second source described them as "less than mild."

The Padres lead the majors in pitching and are casting a wide net for another starter because they are concerned about running short during the stretch run. Youngsters Mat Latos and Wade LeBlanc each will be closing in on his career-high in professional innings pitched by September, and the Padres are watching that closely.

In a threadbare starting pitching market, Maholm is 6-9 with a 4.52 ERA in 21 starts for the Pirates this season, with 62 strikeouts and 45 walks in 125 1/3 innings.

One attractive facet of acquiring Maholm: He's signed through 2011, with a club option for 2012. He's due the pro-rated portion of his $4.5 million salary the rest of this summer and $5.75 million in 2011. The club option for 2012 is $9.75 million, or a $750,000 buyout.

As for the Pirates, one source with knowledge of their thinking says they are "not necessarily trading players to get young prospect back." In other words, the source said, their mission isn't to simply dump salary for three or four prospects. The Bucs are said to be looking for a major-league ready player in return -- either a player currently in the majors, or a high-level prospect. 

Posted on: July 29, 2010 5:08 pm
Edited on: July 29, 2010 7:01 pm
 

Toronto's Downs hot property & other trade notes

Toronto was the focal point of last year's trade deadline, then-Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi was the point man and ace Roy Halladay was the bait.

A year later, Cliff Lee, Dan Haren and Roy Oswalt having been traded and Saturday's 4 p.m. EDT non-waivers trade deadline bearing down?

Toronto again is a focal point, first-year GM Alex Anthopoulos is the point man and reliever Scott Downs is getting as much action as anybody on the market.

Now Downs might not pack as much marquee punch as Halladay, but this year's trade market isn't exactly heavyweight, either.

And given the overwhelming bullpen needs of the majority of contenders this summer. ...

"He might be the best guy out there," the general manager of one club with interest in Downs says. "He's owed just a little more than $1 million, he's left-handed, he can close, he can set up. ..."

Among other clubs, the Blue Jays have fielded inquiries about Downs from the Yankees, Red Sox, Twins, Mets, Dodgers, Rockies, Giants, Reds and Phillies over the past several days.

Clubs also are watching Jays relievers Kevin Gregg and Jason Frasor.

-- The Nationals are holding out hope of signing slugger Adam Dunn to a contract extension between now and Saturday's trade deadline, which is why talks remain slow between them and other clubs like the White Sox, Yankees and Giants. If contract talks don't progress, trade talks are expected to.

-- The Dodgers, who obtained outfielder Scott Podsednik from Kansas City on Wednesday, still want to acquire a starting pitcher and worked hard to try and pry Roy Oswalt from Houston until the Phillies finally finished the deal. The Dodgers were given indications that Oswalt would have waived his no-trade clause to go there.

-- The Dodgers have scouted the Cubs' Ted Lilly but are lukewarm on him, particularly given that they'd get only about 10 starts for the roughly $4 million he's still owed. They also have had a scout sitting on Pittsburgh's Paul Maholm, who was blasted by the Rockies in Coors Field on Thursday (five earned runs, seven hits, 4 2/3 innings). The Pirates have not indicated yet whether they intend to move Maholm.

-- GM Ned Colletti thinks the chances of the Dodgers acquiring pitching help might be better in August given the slim pickings right now. Plus, Dodgers under Colletti have made several of their key moves in August. Last year, they added pitchers Vicente Padilla and Jon Garland, infielder Ronnie Belliard and pinch-hitter Jim Thome in August. Two years ago, they added Greg Maddux in August.

-- The Twins and Mets also continue to engage the Cubs regarding Lilly.

-- The sinking Rockies want to move starter Aaron Cook, according to one source, but there has not been much interest.

-- Philadelphia scouted Rockies starter Jorge De La Rosa as a fallback in case Roy Oswalt did not work out.

-- The Angels, who are just about DOA right now, had been working toward a deal for the Cubs' Derrek Lee for several weeks before Lee nixed it. Angels outfielder Torii Hunter had dinner with Lee in Chicago on June 18 after that afternoon's game that doubled as a recruiting session. Lee must be one of the few people in baseball who can't be charmed by Hunter.

-- Multiple clubs have asked Milwaukee about veteran outfielder Jim Edmonds, but Edmonds has told the Brewers he does not want to go anywhere. He particularly would make sense for San Francisco, which is looking for an outfielder who can improve the offense.

-- This shoulder stiffness that sent Washington's Stephen Strasburg to the disabled list on Thursday is something completely new. His college coach, Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, said at Petco Park on Wednesday night that Strasburg never had a shoulder or arm problem in three seasons at San Diego State. Not even something minor. "None. Zero. Nothing," Gwynn said.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com