A month or two ago I was nervous. The Pirates bullpen looked to be in shambles after a horrendous year in 2009.
There were injuries and youngsters that set the club back. It seemed that when the offense got the job done, a lead was blown thanks to a shaky bullpen.
Not to mention four of the mainstays in the bullpen were traded during the year. It was no secret that it was definitely an area of discussion that needed to be strongly discussed.
The offf season of 2009 gave Pirate fans mixed feelings. While acquiring Akinori Iwamura from the Rays, Pittsburgh also sent one of our best relievers, Jesse Chavez to Tampa Bay.
The Matt Capps situation was also ugly. Capps had a bad year, but I did not feel it was warrented to non-tender the guy after a one dismal year. But anywho, you cannot change the past.
Since that moment the Bucs have added a considerable number of relief pitchers.
Brian Bass, Vinnie Chulk and Jack Taschner were anything but groundbreaking but nonthesless a nice quantity to start re-building the pen.
Then things started to bulk up.
Javier Lopez, the lefty veteran, gives the Bucs a presence. He has been with the Red Sox and Rockies over the past five years and has had solid stints at each stop. It was not a good year for Lopez in Boston last season. He was injured for a bulk of the time while only pitching in 14 games. However, while we dumped Capps because of a bad year we picked up another guy who had a bad year. Lopez is a cheaper option and very well could bounce back quickly.
Brendan Donnelly joined the mix recently. He is 38 and also will be a veteran to accompany Lopez in a relatively young bullpen. He is well-seasoned and well mediocre. However, he is indeed the epitome of a journey man. Pitching for 18 different professional organization since being drafted by the White Sox in 1992, he is surely not short on experience. I’m hoping he can overpower hitters and be a viable long inning guy.
The American League leader in innings pitched is now a Pirate. D.J. Carrasco joins the pe as a fresh face. He looks to be building a solid career and should be welcomed full heartedly in Pittsburgh. Various Whote Sox blogs reportedly were very sad to see him go.
The Grandaddy of them All. Sorry Rose Bowl, just stole that from a very exciting bowl game and I apoligize for that because I am a devout college football fan. And if the Rose Bowl committee knew I made that reference to Octavio Dotel they may sue me. I was happy to see us pursue this aging veteran. To actually sign him to a one year deal sent shockwaves through Pittsburgh. Yes his best years are behind him but he still has gas left in the tank. He is said to be the frontrunner for the closer position even after not being the closer for the White Sox last year. He made 6 million last year, but will probably make less in Pittsburgh.
In closing, it looks like the Pirates have completed their off season spending spree. Maybe. The pieces are there with the rebuilt and even stronger bullpen. The bench is filling out and viable talent. There will still be a rat race for the final spots in the starting rotation and that is where Ben Sheets comes in.
It was reported that the Pirates had representatives watching Sheets’ throwing session earlier this week. It was been well documented that the Pirates are not in the full hunt for Sheets mostly because of monetary reasons. He is asking for 10 million a year which may scare even the top teams away after his injury problems. However, the Pirates may be willing to spend a pretty penny to make a splash before Spring Training begins. Just like the MLB did to the Marlins a few weeks ago, the Pirates may be investigated in terms of their revenue sharing allocation. By spending some last second cash on an available free agent, a starting pitcher ideally, it may cause an MLB turnoff and bypass the investigation.In the end, it may be the thing for the organization to be under the microscope and right the ship so to speak.
photo credits: bygoshitslangosch.mlblogs.com (2), fullpitchcount.com (2), whitesoxblog
Who is Bixler? You ask. Well for one, he is an ex-Pirate and new member of the Cleveland Indians. Brian-his first name, has been dubbed one of the worst Buccos in the storied history of the Pittsburgh Baseball Club.
Bixler was swapped with Jesus Brito. Brito was a member of the Mahoning Valley Scrappers, my hometown minor league team back in my city of Youngstown, OH. The Scrappers are a Single A affiliate of the Indians. I have been to a handful of Scrappers games this past year and greatly recall seeing Brito play. My ears perked up whenever he was announced, partially because his name sounds oddly similiar to a Mexican food dish, Burrito.
Brito, pictured to the right, is an intriguing fellow. He is just 22 and has spent two seasons in the Tribe’s farm system. Last season the Dominican Republic native batted .322 for Mahoning Valley, that is the fifth highest batting average among all minor leaguers for last season. Also interesting is that Jesus was born on Christmas Day, December 25th. I mean what else are you going to name a baby born on Christmas Day?
Even though he is light years from making the big league roster he definitely has shown potential to be a solid player. He has the ability to hit and get on base. His development will be crucial to his success.
Going back to my original statement, that Bixler is often regarded as one of the worst Pirate players in history. Honestly, it is true. In 68 major league games, the Sandusky, OH native owns just a .178 career batting average. Mario Mendoza, be happy. Bixler was often sought as the future shortstop to take over for Jack Wilson. Bixler never even came close to sniffing the dirt off Wilson’s cleats. . 475 OPS, .237 SLG, only 6 extra base hits and 62 strikeouts in 152 at bats are not major league numbers at all.
The fanfare from the trade of Bixler has resounded across online media since the trade was announced yesterday.
There has been some colorful comments left on the official facebook fan page of the Pirates. Usually littered with comments trashing the team left and right, fans came out of the wood work to express gratitude that Bixler will never don the black and gold again. Here is a sample of what has been posted:
- “I liked bixler, until he forgot how to hit a baseball. Happy trails.”
- “The Indians now have the worst player in baseball in their organization.”
- “Bixler made Sammy Khalifa and Rey Quinones look pretty good”
- “Thank goodness Bixler is gone!”
Pretty harsh huh? I can’t disagree though, it is well warranted. Bixler had every opprtunity to succeed and was handed opportunities to play. He failed, miserably, and rightfully showed he is not ready for a major league position.
My good friend, Jon Anderson from mceffect.com may have stated the best goodbye message to Bixler in his facebook status this morning.
Jon said: “woke up, remembered the Pirates traded Bixler yesterday… I think it’s going to be a good day.”
I got a good laugh out of that and will have to check on him later to see if his day went well.(Chances are, it did!)
This may have been the most landmark off-season deal the Bucs have made thus far. Yes they have added Bobby Crosby, Ryan Church and Akinori Iwamura. And the bullpen pieces are faling together. They signed veteran Brendan Donnelly to a one year deal and inked American League innings pitched leader DJ Carrasco. There are also talks of picking up the aging Octavio Dotel.
But this move brough Pirate fans together. The joy and happiness of seeing Bixler leave Pittsburgh gave something we have not had in quite sometime, hope. This is perhaps my favorite comment I have come across regarding the issue:
“Do you feel that? I haven’t felt it in a long time. You know what it is? Optimism. I like this club. I like where they are heading. In Neal We Trust!”
Optimism my friends, it is a good thing to have.
photo credits: mlb.com, milb.com, tcd.ie