Bill Brink: Here we go...
Spike Crain: With Pedro unable to hit low-and-outside, and Tabata unable to hit Inside pitches, do they get special Batting practice for these pitches? Maybe from one of our actual pitchers?
Bill Brink: Teams do give instruction on those types of things, via hitting off a tee and taking soft toss to focus on the changes to the swings needed to hit those types of pitches. For those two, though, they need to take those lessons to the plate with them in games and apply them so as to fix their holes. It's tough to fix with batting practice alone, as is anything, really.
Jeff: What kind of bat could Huntington realistically get for Joel Hanrahan?
Bill Brink: Depends on when he deals him, and to whom. Should, say, Red Sox GM Ben Cherington decide down the road that his team is a legitimate contender in the AL and needs a closer, the Pirates could get a major leaguer in return.
That's the key. The Pirates have said they are past the talent acquisition phase and into the major league success phase of their plan, so if they do trade for players, they will likely be those who can contribute right now or prospects in the upper levels of the minors.
The other thing to consider is Hanrahan hasn't been his lights-out self so far. They will likely wait until he puts a good month together when his value is highest if they choose to deal him.
Adam Hydzu: How ugly can the Alvarez season get before they send him down? hitting under .160?
Bill Brink: I don't think it's a number. If he reaches a point where Hurdle and Huntington feel he is not making progress, or regressing, at the plate, they will send him down. Right now, they're willing to sacrifice a roster spot and production in order to get him going because they feel his development is crucial to the franchise and needs to take place at the major league level. When that's not happening is when you could see him sent down. Both Hurdle and Huntington have said that success does not necessarily mean numbers, so if they see better at-bats from him they will keep him up.
Guest: Teams say they want to have their best players on the 25 so what is the reasoning in sending Hughes down instead of Meek? Meek has 2 options so that can't be the reason. Hughes was pitching better.
Bill Brink: Hughes had pitched two extended outings and was not available for two days, Hurdle said. They framed it as a move that impacted the next week or two rather than a long-term evaluation of who was better. I expect Hughes to be back soon.
Dock: Can you see the Bucs trading Bedard to the Red Sox in the near future? He may be the greatest 0-4 pitcher in MLB history
Bill Brink: He, like Hanrahan, could be another midseason departure. He's a free agent at the end of the year, so contenders who lose a starter will be interested. The new CBA eliminated draft pick compensation for losing a free agent you acquire midseason, which may cool the market a little bit, but for a team where that doesn't matter, there will be interest, likely from a few teams. Depending on the health of Karstens and Correia, though, they may opt to keep him so they have five viable starters at any given time.
Gus: How long of a rope does Greg Ritchie get?
Bill Brink: Here are the two sides of the Ritchie argument: The team isn't hitting, and the team struggled to do so at times last year as well. The other side: Hurdle, as a former hitting coach, has a hand in the process, and as much as Ritchie instructs the batters, they have to go out and execute.
That being said, if the offensive struggles continue -- and they could, though likely not to this degree, the PIrates may go in a different direction after the season.
JoeBucco: Any chance the Fort keeps showing solid improvement at the plate, does he take more and more AB's from Barajas? Or is his success being considered because of his part time status? Plus, it would make the offseason signing of Barajas appear like a bit of a bust, hard for a GM to admit. Can the Fort overcome all of those perceptions?
Bill Brink: Barajas' offensive problems will have to continue for a longer period of time before McKenry starts to steal playing time. Barajas is older, but has a track record of success that indicates, at the very least, he won't hit under .200 much longer. His work with the pitching staff and defense will also keep him there. McKenry's offense has gotten better, though, and he may earn two starts a week instead of one down the road.
JoeBucco: Clint's confidence level in Hanrahan right now? Strong, or keep an eye on him. With Resop warming up the other night while Hanrahan had control issues, seems like he could be on a short(er) leash. Cruz seems like a capable closer if needed.
Bill Brink: Clint is confident in Hanrahan. No issues there. He told us on Sunday that Resop warming had to do with that immediate situation, and I'm inclined to believe he has not lost confidence in him overall. Hanrahan had the hamstring issue and was working on a harder slider this year, so I would imagine it comes together for him in the next month or so.
Guest: Am i being overly optimistic in thinking Barmes and Barajas have to start hitting much better soon?
Bill Brink: Track record and the increase of the sample size would indicate they will. Barajas' batting average on balls in play is .115, Barmes' BABIP is .094. Part of that results from a lot of weak contact, but those numbers will go up. Barmes hit .242/.303/.398 the last three seasons, Barajas .231/.275/.424. Not fantastic, but better, and closer to their career numbers, than their current sluggish starts.
There comes a point where a small sample size becomes a large enough sample size to wonder if there hasn't been a huge dropoff, but we're not there yet.
Guest: Hitting this ugly Who's the next guy up on the farm. Grossman?
Bill Brink: Robbie Grossman is currently in Altoona for the first time, so he still has some progression before he reaches Pittsburgh. Matt Hague could make his way back, though he hasn't hit well in Indy since being sent down. The most likely addition will be a pitcher. Hurdle mentioned Daniel Moskos and Doug Slaten, two lefties, as possibilities, though Huntington said Brad Lincoln will stay in the bullpen for now.
Butch: Instead of Clint Barmes why didn't the Pirates grab Jack Wilson from the Braves?
Bill Brink: Barmes' defensive credentials and relationship with Hurdle from their days with the Rockies were important factors.
Hunter: Of the great starts from the starting pitchers who has the best chance of keeping their ERA down in the range where it currently stands?
Bill Brink: Bedard. He has good stuff, always has, it's just been a matter of health. If he stays healthy, his off-speed stuff will keep hitters off balance. Doesn't matter that his fastball tops out at 91 if he has a 15-mph difference between that and his changeup.
RCBUCS: Three pitchers and a guy we sent down to the minors are hitting better than Barmes and Barajas. What are they doing to change their pathetic start at the plate?
Bill Brink: As veterans, Barajas and Barmes know that trying to change something based on 15 games will only compound the problem. They know what they need to do to be successful at the plate, which they have been before. Now, it's about either rediscovering that or continuing to use that approach until the results improve.
Barmes did tell us in LA that he worked with Ritchie before the game on relaxing and taking the pressure, mentally, off his at-bats, and that helped.
Pablo: 30 runs scored thru 15 games. Have you seen anything that makes you think they could score, say, 60 runs in the next 15 games (which would be roughly league average)?
Bill Brink: Yes. 1. They've hit enough balls really hard but right at people to score more runs if those outs fall in for hits. 2. They face a considerably easier slew of pitchers in May -- Astros, Marlins, Mets, Cubs -- than they did in April.
My story today talks a little bit about the quality of pitching they've faced.
JAL: Has Correia ever spoken about why he thinks he pitched so poorly at PNC last season and whether he can do better this season? Also, he will be a free agent so could be moved.
Bill Brink: I talked to him about it in spring training and he attributed it mostly to random variation. I'm paraphrasing, but he summed it up with "I don't see how that could ever happen again." While that may not take into account who he faced, how he was feeling that day, the opposing lineup construction, etc., I took that to mean he didn't worry about it, and I can see it getting better this year if he's healthy.
Stargell Star: Serious question. Will Matt Kemp have more HR's by the All Star break than the whole Pirates team?
Bill Brink: Matt Kemp hits a homer once every seven at-bats this season. The Pirates hit one once every 69 at-bats. I don't think so, but I think it'll be closer than you think, and that fact alone says it all.
Spike Crain: What's the mood in the club house, at present? Do the players seem to think they are closing in on a better year, or are they starting see things as "more of the same"?
Bill Brink: The mood thus far is good. They see this as a frustrating aberration that they are working hard to correct. As Barmes told me the other day, again paraphrasing, 'We're not hitting and we're 6-9. I'm excited to see what we do once we get it together.'
Guest: If you're an opposing Manager wouldn't you just pitch around or walk Cutch every time he comes to the plate?
Bill Brink: Yes ... unless Presley is on base. When he comes up with no one on and one or two outs, I would imagine seeing more and more unintentional intentional walks.
Guest: Since we have trouble getting hits - why not bunt more than we do?
Bill Brink: A good deal of bunting depends on the defense. It's a game theory problem. The Pirates aren't hitting, so opposing third basemen expect them to bunt, so they play in, so the Pirates can't bunt as often. You've seen it fairly frequently -- a squeeze in SF, Barmes in the sixth in a one-run game (and in the two hole) -- but it gives up an out, and the Pirates need all of those they can get.
Hunter: I haven't totally started to panic yet... but if the Pirates don't hit this week against some pitchers that aren't quite as good as they've seen the first two week... should I start running around in the streets like a maniac?
Bill Brink: I'm all for running around the streets like a maniac regardless of the occasion, or the state of the Pirates' lineup, but the concern should grow in proportion with the sample size. The longer they struggle to score runs, the more concerning it will be.
Those of you going to the game tonight, bundle up, it's too cold for April 24.
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