Apr 22, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher A.J. Burnett (34) delivers to the plate during the second inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh Pirates Report: Walking the plank for the first time

This will be my first in a weekly series of ruminations about the Pittsburgh Pirates, and the week in review. It’s going to cover the things I found to be good, bad or ugly during the course of the week.

This column is not intended to offend anyone and is strictly the opinion of yours truly. Agree to disagree if you like, and by all means, I welcome comments to “stir the pot,” so to speak. Without you the reader, I’m just a guy putting these words on a page. So let me know your thoughts on these, or any future topics you may wish to hear about. With that being said, it’s time to “Walk the Plank”…

  • Lets’ lead off at an appropriate place, with Pirates’ leadoff hitter, and what I believe to be the Pirates’ “Next Big Thing” Starling Marte.  The kid is leading all of the MLB in first inning hits. He currently also leads the team in batting average. While the power has not shown up yet this year, we know it’s there and only a matter of time before it is unleashed.
  • Marte has one of the best arms for an outfielder in baseball, period. Yes, he still needs to learn that he can’t throw everyone out and that he needs to be able get the ball to the right place when throwing it to the infield. He still needs work on his plate discipline, but my thoughts are he’s always going to be a free swinger. If he can corral it just a bit…Look out!
  • Marte is still just a baby in baseball years. To watch him run, whether it’s out of the box, or swiping a base, is a thing of beauty. He is most definitely a five-tool player. If all five tools connect, he could not only be the leadoff hitter the Pirates have been missing for years, he could become an All-Star numerous times over. It’s going to be fun as hell to watch.
  • My wonderful wife (God love her) was not a baseball fan before we started dating. So what do I do? I take her along the wonderful road that has been the Pittsburgh Pirates for the last 20 years. At least the last three years for her anyhow. While watching the opening game at St. Louis, she watched the Jonathan Sanchez debacle (more on that later) and after seeing him get tossed for hitting a batter, then saw a warning issued to both benches. Three hit batters  (Marte twice being the target) and three PIRATE ejections later, she asked me the simple question” Honey, why are they not throwing out any of the St. Louis players for hitting our guys?” I had nothing. My only response was “I honestly don’t know baby, but I hope we give A.J. an 18-0 lead by the second inning tomorrow so he can stick it right in someone’s ear hole.”  That’s all I had for her.
  • Because the Pittsburgh Kid plays the game the way it’s supposed to be played, the Pirates lost him for at least the next week due to being cleated trying to break up a double play, which resulted in stitches in his hand. Here’s wishing him a speedy recovery.
  • As the temperature has finally been rising, so is “El Toro.” When he gets on one of his steaks, it’s fun to watch. Here is to hoping the” streakiness” turns to more consistency this year. That would be a key piece of the Pirates turning it around.  Speaking of hot hitters, it’s nice to see Gaby Sanchez off to a good start. If he continues on the track he is on, it could be a great year for “Yabba Gabba Gonzo.”
  • Now, I want to get back to Sanchez. Has Clint Hurdle finally seen enough to know that he just is not currently a quality major league pitcher? I sure as hell hope so. Each of his starts has gotten more pain full to watch. I mean, someone else has earned a shot at this point, right? Even though he is appealing his six-game suspension, I believe we have seen the last of him in the Burgh for a long time if not for good.
  • Which leads me to Francisco Liriano. In his last start, he stuck out eight and walked none. Hmmm… it might not be a bad idea to give him a shot at Sanchez’s spot in the rotation. He is scheduled to throw another minor league game, but let him throw a simulated game and bring him up. He couldn’t do much worse. Could he? .
  • Speaking of rehabbing pitchers, Charlie Morton was described by teammate Jameson Taillon as being a “Filthy Animal” after has his sinker clocked at 96 mph in his last start. His fastball was clocked in the mid-90’s as well. You can never have too much good pitching, so here’s to hoping Charles is back in a Pirate uniform very soon.
  • I wish people would stop panicking about Andrew McCutchen. Is he off to a slow start? Yes. Do I think he is pressing too much? Yes. I am not going to drink the Kool-Aid and go off the deep end though. It’s early everyone. Cutch will get on track and all will be well. Do I expect him to do as well as last year, or even better? No. I do see him putting up numbers by the end of the year that are worthy of his talent. Think about it Bucco fans, would you rather have Cutch hitting .330 in the early part of the year? Or would you rather him on a tear in August and September? I would rather the latter.
  • I could not be happier with Russell Martin’s bat coming around. He has handled the Pitching staff very well and now that there is some pop coming out of his bat, it’s like gravy.
  • Burnett has not had his best stuff since losing the chance at a no-hitter  against the Cardinals last week, but being the warrior he is, he kept things close in Philadelphia, and his teammates picked him up when he was down 2-0 in the seventh yesterday. I love watching this guy pitch.
  • And last, but most certainly not least, I wanted to take a look at how the Pirates top two prospects fared in their last starts. Gerrit Cole was very solid in lasting seven innings; he fanned five, allowing just three hits and one run. Taillon was tagged with a loss, but pitched solidly through six innings. He finished with allowing five hits and two walks allowed. He also struck out seven hitters. Hang on Pirates fans, the kids are coming. It’s not a matter of if, just when.

See you next week, Bucco Fans!

Tags: A.J. Burnett Charlie Morton Gerrit Cole Pittsburgh Pirates Starling Marte

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